One of my gifts to Chris last summer was a couple of art classes at the local community college that we could take together in the fall. I wanted to encourage her to get back in to drawing because what I’ve seen of her art is pretty good, and I thought it would be a fun new thing for us to do to get us out of our routine.
I had taken a brief art class in middle school about twenty years ago (how’s that for revealing my age?) and I came out of it not really wanting any formal education in art. I remember feeling that the teacher was way too strict about an activity where there should not be any rules or restrictions. The paper should be a place where your creativity can simply run wild.
Like Chris, I enjoy drawing but I never take the time to do it. I felt like I was pretty good at recreating basic cartoons such as Garfield when I was a kid but I never really got into drawing something that came from my own imagination. These art classes would probably be a good opportunity to force me to try.
Our first art class was titled “Basic Drawing” and focused on a variety of drawing techniques and mediums. We used pencil, charcoal, Conté, and marker and generally it seemed like our focus was on value, negative space, and shading. Overall, the course was great for both of us. I had never used charcoal or Conté before and also had never attempted drawing anything besides cartoons. I was really out of my comfort zone but that’s what I like to do to myself, so I wasn’t totally out of my element either.
My first couple of drawings were pretty bad, but one that I ended up being particularly happy with was my self portrait. The technique we were focusing on here was drawing upside down. The professor took our pictures and had them developed in gray scale. I then flipped the picture upside down and did my best. The idea of flipping an image upside down when drawing it is to effectively break free of your left brain’s desire to simplify features into shapes. By breaking free of your left brain’s desires, you can capture a lot more detail and draw an image in much better proportions.
When I flipped this drawing over I was pretty amazed at how well one of my first charcoal drawings turned out. I actually recognized myself! I know in general I’m not so emotional-looking but the professor wanted us to be expressionless so we could focus on general facial features instead of getting caught up on little details like little wrinkles and dimples.
I’ll post a few more pieces in the coming weeks as time permits.
If you’re interested in learning more about the art classes that Chris and I took, they were evening workshops at Lansing Community College. The specific classes that we took were Basic Drawing (ARWS120, taught by Jim Ferguson) and Cartooning (ARWS224, taught by Den Preston). Both teachers were fantastic and I was really impressed with the half-semester workshop classes at LCC. I will definitely take more if time permits.