I was extremely nervous for our first critique day. There are a couple of real live Art People in this class. Coming in, I thought I’d be able to avoid being compared to Art People in a 100-level summer school class, but that was only because I’d forgotten how quickly this course tends to fill up during the semester. Even though I’ve been working to take my efforts seriously as an artist, there is still a level on which I don’t consider myself an Art Person or even a potential Art Person. That kind of mental work is much easier when I can be alone with my projects, or focus in on my own work in a group. I was afraid that any comparisons would out me as a pretender. Professor Ruby spent a bit of time discussing those fears with us, and I was a little relieved to realize that everyone had some concerns. Some of us shied away from drawing when we first started trying to do realistic drawings and didn’t understand how to do them, and others were encouraged to develop very high standards for their work because of early talent.
Looking at a series of drawings of the same chair done with the same technique brought out more similarities than differences. Yes, we all composed our drawings a little differently, and our lines varied in thickness and quality, but they were all clearly the same chair. In the initial drawing, there was much more variance, even though most of the class drew the chairs from the classroom. Julia drew one of the metal chairs from outside the student center, and I drew my puffy armchair. I almost wish I had drawn a class chair—it would throw the advances in my technique over the past week into sharper relief.) Some detailed elements from the initial drawings of classroom chairs didn’t make the transition to the string technique chair drawings, and I find that fascinating. For example, Celeste created a colorful background for her chair, and Ruby (my classmate, not to be confused with the professor) created some painstaking woodgrain.
In class, we discussed the differences between Ruby and Julia’s lines. Ruby’s chair has more of a dark bold line, while Julia’s is lighter and precise. We personified the lines—Ruby’s lines would be loud, bold, and brash, while Julia’s would be more reserved, but quietly confident and insistent. It was fascinating to look at other classmates’ lines in all of the projects we’ve worked on and realize how consistent they were.
What do my lines communicate about me? I realized that my lines are very similar to the way I talk—they start off more subtle and quiet, but become bolder and more confident as they go. I also think you can tell that I jumped into drawing the whole thing early on, and revised it almost completely more than once, getting closer in my approximations each time. In art as in life, I’d rather go back and change things than hesitate to do them…though, some of my later corrections (some made in the 45 minutes before class) to the chair were done with lines that look almost meek. I’m especially looking at the faint lines in the skirt of my chair; they don’t seem to fit with the rest of my lines.
As for the organic drawings, it was very interesting for me to see how everyone dealt with leaves, which was mostly by choosing subjects without leaves, or subjects where the leaves would not be the focus. I had struggled badly with them in the initial drawing and wanted to improve, so they were the focus of my potted plant drawing. I enjoyed the way Moza and Julia drew their flower petals and leaves with such intense focus. The smooth forms of their drawings were beautiful.
I came back to the studio at night to take some photos I’d missed. I found the circle of chairs at night strangely comforting. This was a helpful critique focused on growing, and I value that.