Sunday, March 11, 2012

Breaking Through


My life drawing class (drawing the human body) is a challenge. I have the ability to find the outline of a shape and render it. I am not so good at values. I don't see them easily, I don’t readily grasp whether the white wall in shadow is actually a darker value than the brown blanket in the light. And by the time I decide which is the lighter value and which is the darker value, I forget what goes where. Using the side of the charcoal or my fingers and oil paint, I place shapes up against shapes letting the differences in value tones imply where one shape begins and the other one ends. Things don't begin and end in a sharp line, do they? In physical reality the line between this and that on a microscopic level has give and take. So I am letting my drawings be their awkward and stinky selves as I learn to see in shades of grey.

Drawing this way is like learning a new language, I mangle the values, I mangle the figure, the drawing is nearly gibberish. I am reminded of learning Spanish in high school. Correction, of learning to take Spanish tests in high school. I aced the tests and I was so efficient at studying for them that I had learned almost nothing in four years of accelerated Spanish classes. My senior year I had a new teacher. Mrs Roach wanted us to actually learn the language instead of the tests. At first I had no idea what she was talking about, then after awhile I got it. Mrs Roach wanted us to actually try, to make mistakes, to head for a life larger than this weeks' vocabulary test.

I realize I slowly took that lesson to heart. I still don’t know much Spanish and I am still a little ashamed of myself for not seeing the forest for the trees on that one till it was too late, but boy, I have made a life habit of allowing myself to roam in the land of mistaken, awkward and unsure. It has helped me to feel more at home with uncertain outcomes, in other words, everywhere.

Figure via oils and fingers

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