Friday, February 3, 2012

" Lessons the art student and the artist must learn" -Flashback Friday #5

Pastel Painting called "Bird Wall" and in the process of painting this, I learned a very important lesson.

When studying with Daniel Greene in his large classes, art students felt a great deal of pressure on the first day of each two week period as it was the day to call off your name and or number (in a sort of lottery) in order to choose your easel . If you were fortunate enough to have a last name at the beginning or end of the alphabet, you were more apt to have a better selection of spaces or easels to choose from. There was a morning model for 3 hours and an afternoon model for 3 hours. Two different models  for 14 days total in the same pose. So basically two paintings of figure or portrait would be completed in two weeks. In my opinion, it was really necessary for an art student to have at least 2 weeks of study.

Some hot shots would come into the class so intent on working fast and showing what they could do already that they missed the point of the study. It was to take time, study what you were looking at and who you were looking at and to take each step of the proportioning, composing, drawing the likeness, massing in the darks, middle tones and lights and building up the warm and cool and ochre colors finishing this process somewhere around the 14th day on each art work. I was relieved that my commitment was for an entire season and I could take my time and learn as much as I could in the time given and the expertise of my teacher.

When your name would be called off to go and select your easel for this two week period of time, there would be so much anxiety about picking the most artistic position of the model and the best view possible. Yes, I was one of those who always had such a tenseness about choosing the right spot for the best painting possible! I learned so many lessons that first summer with this process. Shamelessly I will share with you two lessons learned by me.

One fine Monday morning about 45 anxious art students gathering in the third floor Gloucester Studio for the morning lottery and with all of them carrying boxes of pastels, oil painting boxes, canvas', brushes and pastel paper and boards, I noticed that almost all of the easels were taken by the time my name was called out . I was so upset and thoroughly convinced myself that I could not find one more spot in that studio that would suffice for me to succeed in the making of a painting. So I quietly took a vacant easel along the side of a wall and put it completely opposite of the entire class of 45 people.

I found a dead pheasant hanging on a wall in the place and thought to myself, poor me I will just paint a dead bird and Dan might notice I did not secure a good place in class.  I was upset, and felt badly about my position but I took out my pastels and set up my supplies for my drawing. The more I studied that pheasant the more that I saw. I saw it's shadows (all three of them) on the wall and also the warm and cool color differences within each of them. I put in the lines of the wood work on the wall and the wing span of the bird  so delicately flaring out in the air. By the third day, Dan finally walked over to me all alone working with my back to the rest of the class and I expected him to say something about my choice and ask me why? Instead, he calmly approached me with his methodical and orderly comments about the accuracy of my drawing and my ability to see and put down the triple shadows there and continued right down the line giving me a thorough and informative critique of my work. I had forgotten all about the easel I did not get in class for the posed model. I found beauty and life in something completely different and expressed it with discipline and skill and a good composition. Dan taught me lessons in art and in life over and over again and I learned so much about my attitudes and prejudgements and frustrations.

In those days, learning a lesson just once was never enough for me. I needed  to learn it 2, 3, 4, or even 5 times before it really made an impression on me.

Here is another time I was totally crushed to find myself without what I thought was a good view of our model. Here we had a full length nude model and I was given a totally back view of the model almost completely in shadow with hardly a glimpse of her face! I thought, How bad could this get? I begrudgingly set myself up at my easel with the uninspiring view of the model and began to draw and proportion out the figure from head to toe. Needless to say after the third day, studying my subject intensely I saw things I had never seen or observed before. I saw such an array of warm and cool colors within the dark shadows, I carefully drew her hands and feet with loving care and their delicacy put me into a state of mind beyond belief. I continued each day with enthusiasm and inspiration that grew from nothing.

To add to this story was the fact that my 12 or 13 yr old son Aaron was with me for that month of study and I signed him up for a "whale watching class" at the Gloucester's Whale Museum just a few blocks away from the studio. I tried to keep my son busy while I was working to keep him out of trouble and learning something. He went to the museum each day for two weeks and the finale was a real boat trip out in the ocean to see the whales!

One day at lunch time, he came to the studio to meet me and have lunch together and our figure model I had been working on each day emerged from the model's stand wearing nothing but her birthday suit and guess what? Our model was my son's whale watching teacher from the museum!! He didn't know what to say, I didn't know what to say but "Hi. I am Aaron's mother"

Aaron's trip on the high seas with my good camera to capture the whales jumping out of the waters turned out to be a sickening experience for him as he was very sea sick during his final exam at Whale Watching School!

This pastel figure painting was accepted into a national juried exhibition in upstate New York around 1980 and it never returned from the exhibition. It was stolen!

Anyone ever see this painting? If so please let me know. I would love it back.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness, Claudia! Someone STOLE your prize-winning painting! Unbelievable! Did Aaron's whale watching teacher blush when she saw him? I suppose it wasn't funny to them, but it is to me! :-)