Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year!

Claes Oldenburg carries Giant Toothpaste Tube, 1966
May your new year be filled with absurd, creative endeavors.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Holidays 2014

We went to the Lake Street Dive concert a couple weeks ago and since I've been listening to other songs of theirs recently.  I found this recording today and was thinking how appropriate it feels at this time of year.

I always envision the holidays as a time of quiet, at home with a fire and twinkly lights and hours that stretch.  In reality, there is a fire and twinkly lights but it is also the time of year I feel the most involved in other people's worlds.  It is a constant barrage of stories and discussion, and while that is nice, it is a different mental space than I usually occupy.  I feel like I can barely hear my own thoughts.  I am craving a day alone in my studio.  So yea, this song has that quiet, beautiful vibe of the holidays but also the sentiments of living among so many other people's lives.

Happy Holidays all.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Best of: Expressive Drawing

This class was my hardest to teach of the semester.  It was the first time I taught this exact curriculum although I have taught other advanced drawing classes.  It is the last 'core' class students need to jump into higher level studio classes and as the names suggests it is supposed to expose them to a variety of ways of drawing.  I organized the class units into formal sections like texture or light but then gave lectures on movements and contemporary artists that exemplify these.  I didn't do demos like I constantly do in Drawing I because I didn't want to suggest there was one way to do anything.  I also forced experimentation in process whether it be working from memory or making a collage etc.  Some students really took to the freedom and risk, others shrunk from it terrified.  I am still working out where the sweet spot between those is.  Below are some of the best examples to come out of it.  

Inspired by Vija Celmins and other artists working in a slow and steady build, this is a 12+ hour drawing of a sponge.

Drawing about texture and pattern, Josephine Halvorson was an artist we looked at...

From the unit on value and shape, I set up a really weird still life on the floor with floodlights and students sat campfire style around it and draw.  Then the still life was taken away and they had to make 3 studies that dramatically increase shape and value elements and create a second large drawing.  This is the final drawing.

Another example of the final drawing from value/shape series.

An example of a homework assignment.  This one accompanied the value/shape series in class.  Students had to go out at night and make a drawing that captures value/shape to convey a mood. (this one is of a parking garage)
Another night drawing

This was the unit on space and depth.  We discussed artists like Giotto, Piero Della Francesca, Cezanne, Bonnard, and the cubists (they had come up in earlier discussion and I wanted to make a case against students' sentiments).  The project required students to get multiple images from their own life in photo form as a reference and build a collage that considers spatial depth, altered or realistic by physically having depth by nature of the medium
.  This student went to Magic Gardens in Philadelphia and tried to create a collage that was simultaneously a flat, frontal face and a warped sense of maze like space.

This project was about point of view and memory.  Students went outside and made sketches from odd points of view.  By doing that they were committing to memory the most important aspects.  Then they came into the studio and made ink drawings on body size pages with brushes attached to 3 foot rods, no sketchbooks allowed.  (some were very distraught.  but I loved the outcome of this project, it was a turning point for some)

This is a 'study' from the midterm project.  Students had to choose an ordinary object (this one chose a pie) and make 12 studies that address what we had discussed up to that point -- time, texture, pattern, material, value, shape and space -- to create different types of content,

Then after making the 12 studies they had to make a big final midterm drawing.  (this person's object was a fake tree like my family used to have in the breakfast room)
The last quarter of the class dealt with the figure and color.  A lot of bad drawings were made but a lot of progress too.  This was a first assignment to use pastel in rendering an expressive photo of yourself.  Choose color that adds to the content, not just accurate to the photo and also, no single local color areas.  Something that helped was they did a 'master copy' of a drawing first, I brought in about 20 different options including Munch, Freud, Kirchner,Schiele.  It helped them understand color's expressive ability.

Here's an example of part 1 of the final.  Students had to choose one reference and make two vastly different drawings that convey different things.  Using form to show content.  This student never believed that intentionality in formal choices could mean anything because he always drew from pictures he had taken without intention.  This project he told me changed his mind.  This one was about the moment you stop in the craziness of city life and pause.  The other, which I really wish I had a picture of, was a line drawing of  the intersection from a distance and the frenetic energy of everything being equal and in motion.  

So all in all it was a pretty good semester, I definitely see things I need to change and clarify but it feels good to look back on what was produced in a couple of crazy months.  Sometimes in the middle I feel like everything sucks, but looking back I think it was okay.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Best of: Drawing I

I sort of see why a lot of teaching jobs want people with two years of experience.  This will be my fourth semester teaching this same class at the same school and I finally feel like I have the curriculum nearly just right.  

The anxiety of doing it on the fly the first few times has rewards, a lot of surprising drawings come about, seems like both terrible and fantastic.  But many of these students have never drawn from life before and some have never drawn at all.  So I needed to find the speed and types of assignments that work for them as a group.  And I think it created a really solid bunch of drawings this time.  Which is really what a foundation course should do right?  I felt for the first time like every single student came away with an understanding of drawing principles, some stronger than others but still, I'm confident they are all ready to move forward, and that was good.  

Now I think its time for me to up the crotchety, scary, tough thing.  When I started out I figured the best way to have understanding students was to be an understanding instructor and that worked.  But for 2015 I'm going for that equally liked but feared dynamic. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Best of: Figure Drawing

I have been a bit absent on here recently, it was final crits and so I couldn't do much else but deal with that for the past week plus.  Today is the end of the semester.  Phew.  Need to recharge.  

I taught figure drawing again and it was a small, nice class.  A mix of 200 and 400 level students, we started with line moved through anatomy, proportions, value, light, space, and other formal matters but also got a chance to discuss and make drawings about what it means to draw a figure whether they become a sitter or a body or a part of a narrative.  This was new since last semester and I think it really added to the drawings.  Below is an example from each of the units we covered.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday Pick: Dustin Metz

Half Night Still Life oil on canvas, 30x28in. 2014

Fiji Light Bottle, oil on canvas, 14x11in. 2013

Double Bottle Still Life, oil on canvas, 14x11in. 2014
 Really enjoy these paintings by LA based painter Dustin Metz.  They are part of the 'studio still lives' series on his website, where there are so many good things to look at.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

First Friday and Weekend Festivities

Ben Jones, Still Life, Oil on Canvas, 8.5 x 12 inches
This post contains my personal list of must-hit shows this holiday.  Tried and true secrets in the sea of mediocre craft bazaars this time of year.  

1.  The first show is not a holiday show per se, it has serious, career painters in it.  Lilies, Figs and Folly is a still life show curated by Bill Scott at Cerulean Gallery.  But it has a whimsical air to it that is nice this time of year and at least 35 pieces that could make a really beautiful gift.  Click that link  for prices and images, but even better come to the opening on Friday from 5-8pm! (Reading that back it sounds very commercial and lame, I think the language of black Friday has infiltrated my brain.  But really, why wait in an 8hr line to buy a tv when you can buy an original painting at a wine and cheese event?  Artists are so civilized.)  The painting above by Ben Jones, the one below by Claire Kincade and the one after by me, Giant Salad, are all going to be there.  

Claire Kincade, If I Had a Stage, Oil on Panel, 24 x 20

Giant Salad, 2014, Oil on Panel, 16 x 20

2.  This I should really not tell anyone else about.  PAFA's website has hidden it deep in its vault.  I always chalked that up to negligent IT but I'm starting to think it is purposeful placement.  Literally took me 10 minutes to find the page.  The holiday print sale (click link for said page) is happening on Friday from 5:30 - 8:30pm and its one of the best things going.  Students sell gorgeous original prints in the printmaking studios for dirt cheap because they are students and you get to take advantage of them and buy the best of the best.

3.  The University City Arts League, where I worked for many years, is having its annual craft show.  A favorite of mine with many west philly artists participating, high-quality ceramics and jewelry are always a sure thing.  They even have a swanky postcard this year:

4. The Clay Studio, a personal philly favorite for gifts for others and myself  is having a holiday sale on Friday and Saturday.  

5.  The Center for Creative Works in Ardmore, Pa is having a sale on Thursday from 4:30 - 7:30.  So yea, this is actually the first thing happening on my list...tomorrow!  In truth, I haven't been to the building before but I saw this show and loved a lot of what was being made there.