Realizations I’ve come to over the past week:

I started my last referenced drawing — a bust by Jean-Francois Millet — but then I ate dinner.  Then I got tired and cold and went to lie down for an hour and warm up.  I have either been drawing, at the computer, or eating, all day.  It’s kind of tiresome.

However, I’ve realized a few things over the last several days:

  1. The meditation table (about 1.5′ off the floor) is not a great place at which to draw, even though it’s warm.  Nor is the zafu a great place to sit while you’re trying to draw.  You get back problems.  You’re not 22 anymore.
  2. Strong natural light helps get maximum contrast with black-and-white images.
  3. Be aware of reflected light creeping in at the edges of your photos!
  4. When I actually dedicate myself to it, I can get a lot done, in less time than I imagine.
  5. My stamina for drawing is a bit shorter than I bet on.
  6. Don’t be afraid of using a full range of values (white, up to and past 6B for black).  But be careful of going too dark too fast, especially with markers, you overconfident fool.
  7. Be aware of whether you’re drawing on the front or back of a page, and don’t do two drawings in graphite or charcoal on facing pages. (d’oh!)  Interleaves are nice.
  8. It’s really OK to buy a really good sketch pad for really nice drawings.  Really.
  9. Google Images kind of bites where it comes to searching for anatomically-correct drawings of busts.
  10. I am pretty sure at this moment (it may change) that I want to take Modern Art History in Summer session, instead of InDesign.

I’m getting a sense of where Art History has come from since the Renaissance.  To get into the evolution of Classical through Renaissance through Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary Art (and all the little subdivisions of art movements that fall in along the way) would be a bit much here, but as a note to myself, I’m seeing the connections now — particularly where we diverge from “Old Masters” into Modern Art.  This is the place where the “Old Masters” had perfected verisimilitude of life to the point that there was no further place to develop to other than abstraction.

Taking Modern Art History would help me contextualize my own place in the art world and expand my horizons as to what type of art I can and/or want to do.  After finishing Modern Art History, I will probably be able to continue my studies in Art History (particularly Renaissance, Postmodern, and Contemporary) at my library and at the museums, on my own.  It will just help to have some context so that when I see Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, I know that he’s an entirely different artist from Titian, and didn’t even live in the same era.  You know.  Context helps.

I started out this week thinking that I would have a lot of work.  And it is a lot of work (though it still falls in the 2 hours of homework per week range — I just have something like 7 weeks total to catch up on, meaning at least 2 hours a day).  But right now I’m looking at it as something like a taste of what my workload might be like if I actually became a producing artist.  Of course, if I did do that, I would be working a lot more than I am, and I probably wouldn’t be copying so much (which is a learning thing) as investing time in my own projects.  But it’s still work.

People talk about art being “fun,” but it’s a lot easier to consider it such when you consider it an enjoyable no-pressure avocation on the side of what you do to stay alive.  Or when it’s one of your electives, while you pursue your degree in Biochemistry.

I am not sure, but when I start taking this seriously, and before I get into my “flow” state, it isn’t fun; it’s scary.  It’s “fun” when I can let go of my expectations of myself.  It was “fun” when I was making characters out of thumbprints with an Ed Emberley book, and watercolor goldfish that somehow turned out alright.  (Probably from all those hours I spent staring at my goldfish.)  It’s “fun” when I’m not trying.

It was fun, before I was aware of my skill.  Before I became aware that if I practiced enough — but only if I practiced enough — I might be able to make a living at the adult version of messing around with things like pencils and colors.  (I don’t think that at the time, I’d met a version of a charcoal block…probably chalk was the closest thing to it.)

I still have an affinity for this, don’t get me wrong, but this is hard.  I have never met anyone who has told me it is easy (and if they did, they would probably be lying).

My problem is that I seem to have some kind of natural capability for this — even though it’s hard, for some reason I can do it — and so my expectations of myself are pretty consistently high.  This causes anxiety as to whether I’ll meet them.  Then when I do meet them, I’m not entirely sure how I did it, and that sets off the “scary” meter again — because it makes me wonder if I was given this talent for a reason (thus activating the “does a higher power/order exist” tangent and the “do I have a life mission” tangent), and if I’m doing the right thing with my life (by trying to make a living before trying to be an artist).  (When I don’t meet them, I’m relatively OK.)

Of course, though, Clement Greenberg isn’t really here to encourage me to live on the edge of capitalist society and just do my art…(like I would really want to live in the subway [that’s a Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring reference.  Great artists, really poor, homeless].)

But then, I enjoy writing, and I once had a professor tell me that “writing is not supposed to be fun,” as I was laughing about what I was writing down in my essay.  (I have since forgotten the joke.)  To me it was funny, and it was easy; I am guessing that when she wrote, she was concerned about being judged for it…?  I’m not sure.  Why would writing be a somber occasion at all occasions?  That doesn’t make sense.  Unless, that is, it was hard for her, and she was used to being berated for her mistakes…?

Don’t know.  Can’t tell.  Moving on…unless there was some lesson in here for me as regards art, like:  don’t be so hard on yourself.  Even famous artists like Diego Rivera drew disjointed hands, you say?  Certainly.  That doesn’t mean I want to draw disjointed hands…

At least, now, I have some sense of the value range my prof likely wants to see for that Water piece.  I can tell from the photo that it isn’t as high-contrast as it needs to be, even though, of course, it is (or will be) full of mist.  I need to find my black point (probably in the severe foreground) and my white point, and work around those.  I may also need to erase out some of the ocean.  We’ll see if it’s even possible…

Gah.  And then, Easter’s coming up.  I may have to stay at home and work (which might not be a bad thing).  I do have six more days to complete the rest of this — I just hope I can continue to do my best.


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Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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