Thursday, July 20, 2006

Back when drawing was cool...

Check out this story in the Times:

An Exhibition About Drawing Conjures a Time When Amateurs Roamed the Earth by MICHAEL KIMMELMAN


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a good story. As an artist and drawing professor, interested in such general interest stories.
But from what I gather, many art professors have commented that today's students are more visually oriented because of technology, etc.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read a similar article a couple years ago that had a different slant (or one which is minimized in this dialectic). The idea that a lady in the past was expected to dabble in many things - a little painting, a little music (maybe two instruments + singing), social dance, tennis, poetry (composition and discussion), etc. Modern society praises perfection (the perfect body, the perfect art, the perfect music) and created a perfectionist society, the counter-effect being that there is no point in dabbling since one can't hope to reach perfection if they don't begin at age 8. And so we lose first-hand experience in lieu of living vicariously through experts (is this as fullfilling?)

However, is it a little... nostolgic? century-centric?... to assume that dabbling in music, poetry, and drawing are more fullfilling than dabbling in video games-- that critiquing literature is of greater value than critiquing cinema and for that matter that independant film has more to offer than popular? Whose to say you are more likely to walk away with a newer understanding of the human condition after seeing "SmokeSignals" than "Resident Evil"? Speaking of, has anyone seen the detroit film "The Passenger" by native Jamie Sonderman which is making it's way through the independant film circuits currently... and winning!?

As for the article, I remember clearly the day that art was pulled from the curriculum at my elementary school and how devestating that was to me. Thank god they didn't close the Library. I wonder what it would take to make them close the football field?

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey M, good points. The article is a good one and raises some questions. But I would be careful to jump to a feminist veiwpoint that this was part of perfecting women or society. And I don't think you have to start something at 8 to achieve "perfection" in anything. I wish some people would start drawing (again) when they are in their 40's or 70's.

After reading the article this morning I desperately searced on the web for an intersting article I had read 8 months back about an "artist test" which was standard in the 1800's. The challenge was to rise in technical skill to the point that you could copy a series of 150 litho images to "perfection". Before you all snort you should have read the list of artists whom had taken this course, passed and then went so far as to recommend it! They were an intricate series of master drawings and some of the artists included Vincent Van Gogh, Matisse and Diego Rivera..!

I hear what you were saying about art class being pulled. My schools did not have art, music, gym or hot lunch. My luck came up when my laid off father of three years took a job offer in Kansas and I went to what at the time was the best school system in the country. What a contrast!! Left the neighborhood in Lincoln Park and the future of deliquency and death that snatched up a few of my friends. Art is great.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon - Feminist? Did I sound feminist? (in reality, I am the counter-feminist, so that's kinda funny). I think both men and women labor under the pressure of the "perfect body".

Your school didn't have gym. Lucky! We had art until 2nd grade when the art teacher retired and they decided that a science lab would be a better use of the space. Not that the art we had was all that great: in 2nd grade we came to class and were told to put our pencils away because we'd be using crayons to draw rainbows. After about 30 mins of coloring, we were asked to draw shamrocks underneath the rainbows. I thought that that was a difficult shape to draw (at - what - 8yrs?) so I tried it first with my pencil. The teacher saw me, took me by the arm, ridiculed me in front of the class for not following instructions, and made me sit in the corner. Very traumatizing, and the end of my forrays into the visual arts. Whenever we had art scheduled I pretended to be sick and tried to stay home.

So it just goes to show you that I suppose even if they don't pull art from the schools like any subject it can be taught poorly. I haven't read the article you mentioned anon, but I have heard of the 1800's "test". I thought the claims that Van Gogh, Matisse, et all had recommended it were the companies' propoganda and faked? I could be wrong. Kinda like those pamphlets that come in the mail saying "if you can draw this dog, you could be an artist... send away NOW for your free kit!"

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

M, Yes I assumed a feminist view point because I had read your first paragraph. But I am glad to know that you have a balanced view point. As I was driving today with some of your dialogue running through I had revisited an experience of mine which ends up being incredibly similar to what you just mentioned. About the teacher grabbing your arm and putting the shame on you.. Yes I agree anything can be taught poorly especially when brute force is always hovering.

Interestingly enough my experience also comes from the second
grade with instructor ( ironically she was named ) Ms. Kiss. Our Art lesson I guess you could say, was to color with crayons a ditto. The design was of a Japanese lantern. I remember coloring it with extreme relaxation of aesthetic and letting myself just go wild with the crayons. At some point I asked to use the restroom. When I came back I noticed a shift in the class energy and everyone was looking at me. As I walked up to my desk there I saw it had been turned over and everything was scattered across the floor. Ms. Kiss was standing there with my lantern coloring held up high for all to see. She said the mess of coloring matched the mess in my desk. Then she made me go about slowly turning my hulking steel desk over and putting everything back in neatly while everyone watched.

My first highschool art teacher Mrs. Gustafuson retired ( 4 months )after my first year began. She was a true art teacher. She identified six of us kids whom she thought had a chance at recieving scholarship for saturday classes at CCS in Detroit.
Most of us recieved scholarship and those that did'nt were able to get their parents to pay anyway.
As a group she took us up to Detroit from Woodhaven. She was so excited, her love for detroit was immense and penetrated us. She told us about her late husband whom was a detroit poet.

Us kids took the four or five week class and were enthralled. Somewhat by the teacher ( whom seemed not to have much of a gift for working with kids either ) but mostly by the environment. Once a few of us skipped out and made our way to the DIA for an awesome excursion as 13 year olds. Another time we caught glimpse of Richard K's bare butt while looking up through the glass space! Then CCS was dark and dingy sprawling with writings and drawings all over the place! What a revelation! She was a teacher whom really made positive waves in such a short time.

The Art Instructor that I had for the rest of highschool was quite a contrast. A soccer coach with commercial art education. An ex-hippie whom mostly introduced us to classic rock, air-brushing, contemporary r+b and the somewhat jaded reality of the world. The day Andy Wharhol died he said "they killed him"..

I have to stop now. I'll see if I can find that article on the master plates. It is amazing how most people are just enamoured by the act of drawing...

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"She was so excited, her love for detroit was immense and penetrated us. She told us about her late husband whom was a detroit poet. "

Anon, your teacher's husband must have been Jim Gustafson, who was indeed a wonderful poet and also art writer. As a young art student, then member of the Cass Corridor community, I met Jim at Alvin's Finer Delicatessen and Twilight Bar. He was magical, immense, twinkling, talented, friendly. He was a bear of a man who always had a kind word. When I 'grew up', as it were, as an artist, Jim did an article on me and my work. Sad sad day for our community when he passed away. Check out Stephen Goodfellow's Tribe site on Jim....

On the original would be great if more citizens 'dabbled' in the arts a la the examples given. I put off taking piano lessons until last year at the age of 50 because, well, really fear of failure and fear of looking silly. What an idiot I was. Taking these lessons has expanded my painting more than I could have known. No, I am not painting pictures of pianos, but understanding rhythms and patterns and mathematics as they relate to visual art, in a fresher way.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Charles Bargue’s Exercices au Fusain is the course that Van Gogh copied three times. The third time was just before his death in 1890. There are some interesting links if you search the course.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gilda, thanks for the connection. Checked out and saw some images of Jim.. great that you are learning through the piano now. Music supposedly forces the growth of new synapses in your brain. Music has been a great tool of learning,
regenerating and flushing for myself. Getting back to the drawing often helps me that way as well.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's so funny how diverse these blog discussions can be. Some angry and yelling, then this one all sweet and nostolgic. Thanks for the reciprication, Anon. What a weird coincidence (I remember teachers in elementary school tipping over kids' desks like that: never mine, but I always felt so bad for the kid and the humiliation!) It's great that your experience didn't turn you off of art, like mine did. Fortunately, as a High School Senior I opted out of math and took an experimental creative writing course. All the kids disliked the teacher except me, and they all dropped out except me, so for an entire year I had one-on-one instruction in Creative Writing. It was great! I learned about constructive criticism early which made me able to get more from my college writing classes than I think most of the other students did who were just learning to deal with criticism.

Some teachers can be wonderful, have wonderful impact on our lives. Others, impact in a different way. When I was applying to CCS I had to do the minimum of the drawing part of the portfolio (I was applying for design). My boyfriend was a CCS Senior and offered to help tutor me through the summer. What a disaster! All the maturity I have in dealing with writing workshops-- vanished! I was insecure and defensive and, well, reluctant to participate in my own tutoring. I was probably the worst student ever, and he was trying so hard to help me. He insisted (and I still disagree) that drawing is a learned skill that anyone can accomplish with practice. I blame all my bad art behavior on that 2nd grade teacher who made me sit in the corner for using pencil instead of crayon! :-)

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

M, thanks as well for the reciprocation its been good. When I am teaching drawing I try to jarr students from their pre-conceived notions and fears. Sometimes I do this by starting off the first day of class with a suprise model. Also I will often tell them this is a 15 minute pose then slowly extend the time to an hour or an hour and a half. I don't like to work with a class outline so everyday pretty much is by the seat of my pants as well. This has worked well for quite awhile now as the resulting air of freshness on the creative edge I think takes over the class..

Have seen some great results where people are almost bewildered by what they have created. Then the next problem is keeping that beginners mind going. Quite often in the human world when you reveal something beautiful it is next coveted... But the purpose of the class is served and the student is revealed to themselves as an artist.

The Josh White thread is interesting to me in this way as well. His show incorporates about 40 or so sketch books that you can read or flip through. They serve as surreal memoirs. The books are dated and often give a place of context such as a city or region
where the artist was. The drawings themselves are very loose and minimal. For many I am sure "my baby dog could do that" comes in their minds. But nonetheless as poetry / sketchbooks they were wonderful and revealing.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm always drawn to art that incorporates the book / poetry, but I'm just biased. From Ann's photos, I liked the orange one with an unassuming and unornamented white covered book slapped on. I thought that was really fun. The discussion was also engaging.

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They don't get rid of football fields since they are a major breeding ground for the armed forces. It is so sad to think of children fighting wars..

9:10 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Help !
While wrecking out a house I discovered pencil drawings that are signed by Stephen Goodfellow.
I ve found Stephens website and sent emails but no answer.
The example drawing is signed by Stephen Goodfellow.
Number 3 of 10
Date 1976
Titled "The End"
I was about to throw these away but thought I should try to find out more information first. Value ?
Please help.
Steve W.

3:47 PM  

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