Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Juliette Aristides Drawing Workshop

Approx 19 x 22 inches, vine charcoal on paper

I'm back! After weeks of house buying, packing, moving and unpacking, this week long workshop has begun just at the right time to get me back in the groove of daily art-making. Good thing, because between our cat going up the chimney, the hired movers pulling a no-show the day of the move, and being constantly surrounded by the smell of corrugated cardboard (which I hate) I've had just about enough of moving house.

We are working on a week-long drawing of a model in a single pose at this workshop with Juliette Aristides, along with some smaller exercises. Today was Day 2, but I started over with better paper than what I'd started with yesterday. The drawing above is the result of about 5 hours work today.

The approach is inspired by a traditional classical 19th century atelier method of learning to draw. So we're starting with a very careful line drawing as a base, attempting to get all the proportions as accurate as possible.

This method feels completely foreign to me. I am used to attacking the page with fistfuls of charcoal and battling it into submission by scrubbing away with an erasure to find the form. By contrast, this method feels more like spearing a fly with a needle - tiny strands flung over and over, hoping to pin some accuracy to the page.

I am enjoying myself, though, and so far I am happy with the drawing. I am looking forward to starting on the shadow values tomorrow, I feel much more comfortable with value than with line.

Juliette is a calm and patient teacher, she she teaches regularly at an atelier up in Seattle and seems very comfortable with leading a class. I found out from her bio that she is exactly the same age as me, which is daunting to say the least. But I try not to dwell on how much time I have lost and focus on what I am capable of learning today. Well, I try not to dwell on lost time, at least.

Juliette was talking today about how it used to be the norm for an artist to spend ten to thirteen years in formal study before they attempted to make unique work. I wonder what my work would be like now if I had spent that much time in formal study?

Would I have more or less of an idea of what makes a work "unique"? I am not sure "unique" exists. The most slavish copy has some of the artists' hand in it. And most "unique" work looks only like a typical product of the times a mere decade later.

I have learned that what I make never follows any sort of intention, whether to be unique or not. I make what I make, I can only do what is interesting to me. I have no control over whether it is culturally valuable or not. The only thing I do have control over is whether I make something today or not. And even that is tenuous at best.