Friday, December 19, 2008

Speechless (then some art)

I don’t know that I’ve had much to say in the last couple of weeks. There has been nothing in my life, or the lives of those around me, that warrant any explanation. It has been status quo for a while now, with nothing out of the ordinary. Sure, we’ve had dance recitals, camping trips, Disneyland adventures and birthdays, but anyone who reads this nonsense was probably there and knows all that happened (or didn’t happen however the case may be).

So this leaves me with rants (I rarely rave, nobody wants to read a rave). Frankly, I haven’t any. Sure, the California government is screwing us once again. Sure, we’re going to have a socialist in the White House bent on redistributing my wealth. Sure, everyone is two paychecks away from the breadline and on the brink of financial ruin the likes of which the last three generations have never seen. And sure, China is slowly taking over the world one crappy kid’s toy at a time…

But you know all that.

That leaves me with personal rants (again, nobody wants to hear good news, right?). I just don’t have any, any I’d like to share that won’t make me look like a total jerk. On the other hand, I finished my art class with a resounding A; but that’s good news, right? I may post my last three drawings for your consideration, but since two out of the three are pretty good (in my unbiased opinion) I can’t really make too much fun of them. That just leaves me showing off, something I despise. I could tell you that work is going well. I’ve added a client, some new quasi-religious magazine that I’m writing green articles for (you know, eco-everything, recycle your urine, global warming, buy Chinese-made light bulbs, etc.), but I’m getting paid peanuts in the hopes that the magazine will become successful… I’m not holding my breath. It keeps me fresh.

I’m going to officially start work on my Opus Glendora book. For the last year, I’ve been collecting information, photographs, documents, etc., and now I’m going to spend one night a week at the library doing grassroots research, formulating an outline, page counts, layouts and style sheets for the final project. In January, I’ll have exactly two years to pull it together, and that may sound like a long time, it will go rather quickly as I try to fill a 250-page 12x12-inch coffee table book. Yes, my plans are grand, and they will, no doubt, change as the years go on, but I’ve got to get started on it. Of course, I’m still waiting for City blessing, but I’m not going to wait for it and it won’t stop me from doing it.

Bleck, like I said… I got nothing for you tonight. Sometimes you’re on, sometimes you’re not, but I just felt as though I hadn’t said anything in a while and you were getting bored clicking here and finding nothing new or interesting.

I hate to leave you with nothing.

Maybe I’ll post my last three art pictures instead. How dreary.

This first of the last three drawings is on par in difficulty as the collaged crayons I posted a couple of weeks ago. We had to take a photo of a group of things, and since I didn’t know what we’d do with the pictures, I ignorantly took difficult-to-reproduce pictures. The one that the instructor chose for me was a nice picture of a group of bolts piled on one of the granite rocks in my backyard (shown at the right). This picture, as well as 35 others were taken the first week of class with a promise that we'd use them later for future assignments. If I had known I was going to use it for this, I would have used something with flat sides.

For this drawing, we had to increase the photo’s ratio to fit on our drawing paper (18x24), sketch it out and then shade in the values of the photo using only straight lines. As the assignment was designed, the darker the area, the closer the lines would be, convincing the eye that there is less white space therefore less light in the image. The drawing itself took forever, only because I took a picture of something difficult and complicated and then I dragged my feet in doing it. The end result is thousands of lines in irreversible black Sharpie that resemble the various shades and shadows of a bunch of bolts.

Before you click on the drawing and get an upclose view, realize that the farther back you are, the better the drawing is supposed to look, better is the effect of the exercise. Nobody stands up close to Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" and wonders what the deal is with all the dots. It is a case of too close to the trees to see the forest, or in this case, too close to the lines to see the bolts.

With a failed attempt at a self-portrait behind me, we moved onto the next phase of self-portraits, this one involving a skewed version of a self portrait. We were required to bring in something reflective, like a spoon or a silver dish, something that wouldn’t give back a clean reflection (like would a mirror). I immediately chose a hubcap off of one of my Beetles, and because I have a half dozen or so in various places in the garage (ranging from pre-war to Rabbits), not necessarily on the cars themselves, they were readily available and fit the bill. Simply enough, we had to draw what we saw in the reflection… too bad I had to be in the drawing otherwise I would have been more pleased with the results.

In the drawing you can see the windows and walls behind me, the ceiling with its exposed beams. In front of me are my pencils in their case, my eraser and pad of paper (with the drawing that I’m doing IN the drawing that I’m working on). It was fun to do because you really couldn’t make a mistake as all of the elements are abstract and there were very few straight lines.

Intially, the final drawing didn't seem that difficult. We had three classes to work on it and nearly two weeks to finish before it was turned in on the last day of class, December 15. Again, we had to take a black and white picture of something that had a range of values, from complete black, through the range of grays and into white. At the last minute before class, I dragged a six-foot length of chain from the garage and took a picture of it on the patio cement (see right). I felt it was a pretty cool picture, nice and tight, well detailed, showing most all of the 64 links of the chain. Who knew that it would be my downfall.

We got to class and the assignment was announced that we would be doing pixel work, meaning that we would draw a pixilated version of our photographs. I was ambitious, thinking that I could do it easily enough. After all, we had nearly two weeks to finish it and I only had to color in an 24x18-inch piece of paper. How hard could it be?

The idea was that we would map out a grid of lines on the picture and the blank paper, one-half-inch on the picture would equal a full inch on the paper. After doing that, take each half-inch square on the picture and shade in the color value on the paper. If the square was white, do nothing, but if the square was black or a shade of gray, you’d have to shad in that square whatever the appropriate value was.

That’s all well and good, but what if the half-inch-square on the picture contained two shades? Or more? What then? Well, for those squares, they’d have to be broken down into quarter-inch squares… and some of those on my picture needed to be halved further into eighth-inch squares. For my particular photograph of the roughly 64 links of chain, there were certain details that needed to be tended to, namely the rounded edges of the links. Every link of chain has eight corners, which means I needed to contend with 512 corners, and each side of each link had three basic values, dark in the shadow, gray in the medium light and light gray in the full light. That means, that I needed a level of detail unlike anyone else in class, nearly 1,550 different areas of shading. When I finished making my grid down to the detail described above, I had 5,984 little squares on my paper that all needed attention; they all needed some shade of gray, as there were very few squares that were completely black or white.

I gained empathy from my fellow classmates and the instructor when I started work on it. At the end of the three-hour class, I had only shaded in roughly 300 of these 6,000 squares, and what resulted looked nothing like a length of chain. Furthermore, I would consistently get lost, having to plot my position from the photo to the picture was difficult, constantly counting squares to make sure I was on track.

At the end of the second class on this assignment (on December 8), making very little progress, I calculated that it would take me another 70 hours to finish. With my work meetings Tuesday night and all day Wednesday, Matthew’s birthday party on Saturday and Natalie’s dance recital on Sunday, I wouldn’t have that kind of time to finish it. Rather than disappoint myself and my instructor in turning in an incomplete assignment, I decided abandonment was my best option. I even asked, “Given that I got an A on every assignment in this class, what would my final grade be if I didn’t turn in the final? She wouldn’t answer me, but gave a smile that told me what my grade would have been. In the end, I didn’t want to take that route, to bow out on the easy road, so I found another picture and started over.

My search was for something relatively easy. Sure, I was going to get an A no matter what I did, so I didn’t want to kill myself pulling a drawing together. I found this picture of a P51, one of my favorite fighters from World War II (that and the P40). It still took about six hours to draw what you see here, and the reason it looks the way it does is because the whole drawing is made up nothing more than little squares. I didn’t actually “draw” anything, but instead shaded in square after square, about 1,000 of them for this drawing.

It turned out pretty cool, but I would have enjoyed it more if I was able to draw it conventionally. Either way, I got an A on the drawing, an A on all the drawings, and an A in the class. Since I send a Thank You note to every one of my instructors at the end of each course, she emailed back that I obviously aced the class.

I can’t say that for many of my other classmates, most of which didn’t even bother to turn in all the drawings. The guy I befriended that sat next to me, did a couple of his B drawings over again so he could assure himself an A, but the best artist in class—the one that continually blew everyone’s art out of the water (his pixel drawing looked like an actual photograph, it was disgusting)—hadn’t turned everything in by the last day. He probably got an A based solely on skill alone, but I would say that’s it. Everyone else was B or lower, I’m sure.

Again, this is one of those drawings that doesn't look good upclose. If/when you click on the larger version, it will look like a six-year old did it with a crayon, when in reality, each mark you see on the paper is either a little square all to itself, a much larger square no bigger than a half-inch or a series of squares connected together.

The last day of class we had a potluck and drew what is referred to as an “exquisite corpse.” When I saw it on the assignment sheet, I just assumed it was a fancy Latin-esque way of saying the class was over, i.e., beautiful death, nice ending, etc., but an exquisite corpse is a method of drawing that involves everyone in class. We each started drawing anything we wanted on a piece of paper and after a few minutes we rotated drawings, passing it to the right for the next person to add something. The intention was that by the time it made its way around the room and all 15 of us that were in class had a chance to add something, it would be a completed drawing. However, it only elucidated what level of twisted individuals make up a community college art class. So much so that I won’t show you the results. They didn’t make any sense to me, and since nobody was graded on the exorcise, nobody put too much effort into it. My best contribution to someone’s drawing was the addition of an outhouse under a tree with a panicked arm reaching out of the door for a roll of toilet paper just out of reach.

We ate, we drew, we left. My 4.0 is still strong. I am forcing myself to take the Winter semester off because of two reasons: 1) There are no classes I can take that I need that fit into my limited schedule; and 2) Winter and Summer are compact semesters, only lasting six weeks, which means that most classes would be three nights a week and that’s a lot of time away from the house.

In the meantime, I’ve got a book to start writing and researching. My alter life as an artist is now officially over.

1 comment:

Tris Mast said...

My kids and I have been doing "exquisite corpse" drawings for years, but I never knew it had a name. We set up cereal boxes in the middle of the kitchen table to block the view of what others are drawing as we pass 3 sheets of paper around. We also write the alphabet at the top of each page and circle the letter that will begin the word we want the next person to draw. If I circle the Z, the next guy has to draw a zebra, zipper, or ziggurat on the page. I actually started doing this to get my kids to practice writing the alphabet neatly, but they really enjoy it. They beg me to play. You should try this with your kids.


web site tracking
Sierra Trading Post