Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lincoln Makes the Grade

So, we’ve established that all you have to do to get an A in an art class is to try as best as you can. Even if you completely screw up the assignment, not pay attention to the directions and turn it in weeks later than you should, you will still get an A. If so, if that’s true, how is it that several people in my class are failing? Honest-to-God F grades in the grade book. I saw them myself, written in pen and snarling on the page next to people’s names.

We had a mid-term review, where we discussed our progress in the class and went over our grades. I’ve received an A on every project I turned in, which is all of them to date. I’m not sure why I’ve always earned an A, but I have, even though sometimes I don’t think I should have. The guy sitting next to me that I’ve befriended (he’s the one that text messages his girlfriend in Hawaii every 30 seconds) was surprised that I had received only As, whereas he had earned a couple of Bs and has, in my opinion, done comparable work. Then again, I’m no art instructor, so maybe not. While I was being shown my grade, I scanned down the list and noticed all of the other grades of my fellow classmates. There was only a handful of As (my text friend was one of them still) and the rest were grades lower than that, including the big F.

I don’t know who the F-earners were by name, but I could pick out the recipients in the room just by looking around. There’s a guy that sits near me that does near nothing the whole time; sure, he has his pad of paper out and his materials, but it sits and stares into the middle of the room for long periods of time. He’s failing. No question about it. That loud girl that talks too much and bugs most people (including the instructor she admitted last Wednesday) dropped the class because she was failing. It helps if you actually attend the class. I didn’t know you could drop this late in the semester, but the instructor was glad to get rid of her… and her five email-a-day habit. That’s too much time to spend on a student with too much emotional issues, the instructor told me before class and I’d have to agree. When I was in college the first time, we didn’t use email as a reliable source of communication, but I’m sure there should be some sort of rule that you don’t email the instructor any more that three times the whole semester…and don’t write a book. Make is short and sweet.

We had a few assignments in the past week that I would like to share, as I have done in the past. As well, please feel free to make as much fun of them as possible. I’m not an artist and I don’t plan to be; therefore, you are not obliged to compliment me in a ruse to encourage my education and career choice. However, of the whole group of all of my assignments, I’m fairly happy with most of these.

This first picture is just a run-of-the-mill flowers in a vase done with pencil. Nothing special. We were supposed to have four flowers in a vase, so I went to Albertson’s and bought a bouquet for the house, stole this collection of flowers and penciled them up in about a half-hour. It was done on the day it was due, as that was the only time I could allow to work on it, so the kids got out some paper too and gave it their best shot too. I’m not to thrilled with it, and I expected to get a lower grade, as it was quite clear to even me that I did a half-assed job on the assignment.

I walked around the room and looked at some others on the day it was due, and the resident Picasso in the room, the one that sets the artistic creative bar for all of us to try and reach drew a picture of dead flowers in a Starbucks cup. Not only did it have a poignant message that Starbucks coffee will kill you, but it looked like a black and white picture of actual flowers in an actual Starbucks cup, like you could reach out and take a drink of the flowery coffee-water. It was disgusting, and then put mine next to it, it looked like doodlings from the Ward E in the mental hospital. All of us psychos and schizos were glad she doesn’t grade on the curve.

On the other hand, total cost of this A was around nine dollars, but we got to enjoy the flowers all that week.

This next assignment was probably the most time consuming of them all so far. It was a multi-stage project that took me a couple of weeks to pull together, on top of which I was absent from class due to the hunting trip in early October, so I got a late start. We each had to take six pictures of six different items in a pile. I used Crayons, saw blades, bolts, wine corks, building blocks and Legos for the subjects of my pictures, and the instructor picked one of them for me to use (see below right). She picked the Crayons, the one I was hoping she wouldn’t have picked.

We were then supposed to paint three sheets of paper with different values of ink, going from stripes of light to dark, much like a graduated shade from one side of the paper to the other. Then, we each had to draw out our picture, increasing the scale from one inch on the photo to two-and-a-half inches on the paper. After drawing it out, I had to collage the Crayons using the inked paper. But that wasn’t so easy either, because I had to trace each section of the different shades on the Crayons on tracing paper first, cut that shape out, transfer the shape to the inked paper and then cut out that, finally gluing it to the main drawing. I’m tired just writing all of this.

Needless to say, I was two weeks late on the assignment, mostly because I dreaded to do it, but I still managed to pull out an A, despite the blatant violation of the syllabus that states a project will lose one grade for every day that it is late. I’m not sure why I was cut a break, but it probably has to do with the fact that I’m the same age as the instructor and she likes to commiserate with me before class (for all of you people out there who just raised a disapproving eyebrow, commiserate means to empathize). So, is it very good? No, it isn’t. I’m not pleased with the outcome of this project, and Kara put it best: “It sort of looks like Crayons.” Emphasis on the “sort of.”

The class before Halloween was rather a free-for-all. We were allowed to use any medium we wanted (even mixed, which is what I did), as long as we stayed as true to the subject as possible; meaning, she wanted it to be spooky, as Halloween appeared to be her favorite holiday, something that probably holds true for most artists. The instructor brought out a bunch of various items that were Halloween related (and some of us in the class brought some thing as well) and we were supposed to put them together in an interesting way. Some of the items were a full-sized medical-grade skeleton, some severed fingers, various pumpkins, some sort of witch, a bunch of maze (those were mine) and some Halloween knick-knacks. My first idea was to have the skeleton holding its own head in a very Hamlet-esque “Yorick, I knew him well” sort of way, but I thought I’d get dinged points if my drawing was too sparse with not enough on the page. After I abandoned the idea early on in the project, I shared it out loud when the instructor was asking people what ideas they had…and by the end of the class, someone had drawn that very thing. She liked it, of course, because it was minimalistic, which is being sparse and not having much on the page, but in an artistic way.

So instead, I cobbled various items on the table together to form this ghoulish mosaic of morbidity. Frankly, I was surprised that the skull came out so nice, and not to pat myself on the back too much, but I didn’t think I could do a face; albeit without skin, but it is still a face. I know, you’re asking yourself, “What’s with the giant eye?” Believe it or not, that’s a giant eye the instructor uses as an end table lamp in her house! That’s all year long, mind you. Above it is the shuck from one of my mazes I brought, and the skeleton’s arm and hand is resting on the eye. The pool of blood dripping off of the table ruined the drawing for me, and I knew it moments after I added the red, as it isn’t realistic looking at all. As long as you only look at the skull, you may like this one.

This next drawing was my favorite one to do. Again we were given free-reign to do whatever we wanted to do as long as our drawing showed some sort of perspective, depth to the picture, that the objects are coming from or going off into the distance. I remembered doing these sorts of drawings when I took an art class in the Sixth Grade, and I also remembered them being particularly fun. I chose a city view because I want to be an architect and I knew that I could do a good job with it as long as I could keep all of the lines straight. I especially enjoyed adding all of the details, the signs, little dumpsters behind the liquor store, the park on the corner. I got ridiculously tired of drawing windows so I wiped out a few city blocks and added the ocean on the left and the mountains on the right. The affect made for a nice little sea-side city and also forces your eye to follow the perspective to the end of the street in the distance. Notice I spelled “Bancroft” wrong. Silly me.

I was really worried about this next project. It was done in unforgivable ink and we could only use our fingers. Chuck Close pioneered this type of art back in the 70s, and you can Google him to get his story, which is quite remarkable…and I won’t show you any of his stuff here because it will make mine look like it was done by a third grader in detention. The idea is to use dabs of ink in different shades to produce a portrait. Like an ink-jet printer, the farther back you get, the better the image looks.

We were asked to bring in a portrait of someone, and I didn’t want to bring in one of my family for fear of butchering them so badly that they would be unrecognizable when I returned home, so instead I decided to bring in a picture of my favorite President (below right). Also, since class was on Election Day and I was pretty sure of who was going to win, I thought I’d paint a picture of the man that made it possible for Obama to even run for the office.

Don’t look too closely however, otherwise you may see my finger prints, but I was surprised that it turned out as good as it did, especially considering that once you put down ink on a page, that’s it, there’s no second chance to get it right. Note how nicely I was able to get the lapels of his coat to stand out, but see that I set his eyes too close together. For best results, get up and stand on the other side of the room, and it may start to look more like Lincoln and ironically less like abolitionist John Brown.

The end of the story is that I got an A, but all the while I was doing it, I was thinking of a quote that Lincoln said that seemed so appropriate: “If I were two-faced, why would I wear this one?” Abe, you card.


Yard Sale Princess said...

I was wondering where you started the Abe Lincoln portrait? Did you start with his eyes, nose or body? I like it!

Tris Mast said...

Kudos on doing so well in Art. I like the crayons; they are frame-worthy. Do I detect a possible career change?

Ryan or Kara said...

I started with the darkest part of him, his coat. In order to get a feel for the ink, I wanted to start some place that I could cover up with darker tint if I screwed it up.

And no, no career change for me. I don't think anyone would pay me for what I can produce.


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