Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bart, Bart… er, Bark, Bark

Tonight’s art class project was the most nerve wracking, as just the very act of beginning it set a tone of trepidation swirling through all of my fellow students. “Here I go,” “Wish me luck,” and my personal favorite epitaph of the night, “There’s no going back now,” were words spoken by almost everyone before starting.

There was no eraser, no do-over, and no second chance. If you made a mistake, you had to fix it creatively or live with the error. Of course, I’m referring to scratch sketching, the time honored tradition of not adding a material to a piece of paper to create a picture but the act of taking away material from the picture.

The paper is specially coated with India Ink and our job was to scratch away that layer of ink to expose the white paper below. In doing so, a picture would form. The subject matter was our pets, and even though we had a whole two days to obtain a picture of our pet—the instructor would have settled for a picture of any sort of living animal—there were five people who couldn’t bother themselves with finding an appropriate image. Instead, they had to scrounge through the magazine pile for something. Such deadbeats; why are artists such flakes? Do they not have the same purpose and outlook on society as the rest of us?

At any rate, snapping a shot of Elsa is as easy as snapping your fingers. As you can tell by the above photograph, she is quite photogenic and very happy to sit for me, provided nothing else is going on in her life that day. She sat and panted, panted and sat while I snapped away a half-dozen possible shots (I went with the last one, as I usually do, because it is always the shot that satisfies me enough to stop shooting pictures—and sometimes I nail that feeling on the first spring of the shutter).

As luck would have it, having a mostly black dog made my job that much easier, as there was little material to remove from the page, unlike a few of my classmates with the white dogs (the guy next to me had a ferret).

The hardest part of the whole project was the first few scratches. Our tools looked like miniature trowels, with a pointed part that sloped down to wider scoops on the sides for scraping. But where do you start. Before me was a black sheet of semi-shiny paper and a color picture of Elsa, with the idea that I have to make one look like the other.

The only thing you can do is just take the plunge, dive right in and hope you don’t screw it up. I started in the center, with Elsa’s left eye and scratched away everything else in relation to that one eye. The results were pretty cool, and once everyone got into it, the whole room was silent (it helped that the girl that doesn't shut up was, once again, absent) and enthralled by our work.

Frankly, I’m impressed with the results, surprised really, as if someone else had done it and not me. It actually looks like Elsa, which is the first step in producing art, that your projects look like the subject. Thought it isn't perfect, I'm especially pleased with her left eye, how it looks pensive and somewhat forlorn.

In projects past, I seemed to have always forgotten that important step...which is why I have eggs that look like balls.

The ironic part—or coincidental if you don’t believe in the currently accepted definition of irony, thank you Alanis Morissette for screwing that up—is that while I was pining over the picture of Elsa for three solid hours in class tonight, apparently she was running around the yard, tripped and twisted her ankle. She’s been limping around here all night, but after watching all the young pups melt the snow in the Iditarod on the Discovery Channel tonight, she seemed to pep up a bit.
After all, she’s only 50… and she has a nice portrait of her too.

1 comment:

Tris Mast said...

Nice job of scratching the dog. You're right, the eyes are very lifelike.


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