Friday, May 14, 2010

everyone can draw -- and glue things on paper

I've been busy lately on an Art Spree: I'm taking two art classes (a mixed media class and "Everyone Can Draw") and sitting in on a third (a life drawing class, with live nude models). This has been taking up most of my time and energy, aside from the children, and it's been fabulous.

Moving from discipline to discipline at the arts studio, I've been surprised to see how different the people are who gravitate to different kinds of art. Last year I devoted myself to sculpting in clay, and my ceramics classes were a mixed bag. Before I even started my first class, the instructor called me to try to talk me out of my spot in the class, as I'd accidentally taken a slot that she'd rather give to one of her long-term students. I declined to give up my class slot, and it shouldn't have been a surprise to me that I was, as I put it, the red-headed stepchild of that class, since I was clearly a brash interloper who seized someone else's rightful place.

The instructor wasn't particularly interested in instructing me; she spent considerable time each class bragging about developments in her own career. She was interested in functional art, while I was drawn to making little statues of animals. It's clear (if I immodestly say so myself) I have a certain gift for making charming little clay figures which have personality, but I didn't learn a damn thing about how to glaze them. Even my classmates were moved to compliment some of my pieces a lot. "You nailed that, you really nailed it," they said about a little rabbit. "Look at how his neck turns!" Sadly my best sculpture, a little wildcat, was shattered by a heavy crystal frame falling on it.

The typical person in my ceramics class was a wealthy, retiree from Marin. They had a clique which had strengthened over the years spent making pots together, and many of them weren't eager to welcome anyone in. When I was working with porcelain clay on the work surface reserved for white clay only, several classmates came up to mistakenly scold me that I shouldn't be there.... all of them having witlessly failed to notice that I was working with pure, white porcelain just like I was supposed to. I snapped and said to one of them, "I've been doing this for nine months; when are you going to stop treating me like a newcomer?" This prompted another senior citizen ceramicist to apologize to me, in private, for the rudeness of the rest of the class.

The ceramicists' rudeness wasn't limited to newcomers. One of the core members of the class regularly committed one of etiquette's greatest faux pases: discussing a social event in front of others who are not invited. She held an annual Oscar party, to which only one of the classmates was invited, but she spent months discussing her menu in front of the rest of us. (This woman also nearly ran me over with her minivan, which she illegally drove through Golden Gate Park at a high speed when she was dropping off alcoholic drinks at our last class. She was also fond of discussing in class how she maintained a legal residence in Texas so she could avoid the California income tax).

While the aging ceramicists can be a rough group to breach, collage enthusiasts tend to be warm, friendly, and admiring of each other's work. My current collage class is composed entirely of women, who are all lookers, of various ages. (I would strongly recommend any single heterosexual man or lesbian woman who likes artsy women to take a mixed media class. The pickings are excellent, my friends). Two are French women, who are as thin and chic and emotionally complicated looking as all the cliches we hold of Frenchwomen. Their accents are as sexy as their intricate, form-fitting clothes. The Americans are beautiful and sweet and earnest, and everyone has the loveliest manners you could wish for, all finding something to admire in everyone's work. And my God, these women do good work. When we were assigned the homework of making an autobiographical collage, I thought the pieces a couple of my classmates brought in were worthy of hanging in a gallery. We passed our pieces around and discussed each one, and pretty much everyone was glowing with a love of art and each other's work.

I've taken several classes with my collage teacher, whom I like very much, and it's paying off. I am a slow learner at collage, and the techniques she taught me last year are now (at least some of them) something I can deploy on my own. My classmates often admire my work, but I tell them it's only because this is my third class. "But you have an eye for this," one kindly persisted.

And then there's the introductory drawing class. This class brought out a big split in generations, with a sizable number of retirees but also quite a few twenty-somethings, with your redoubtable correspondent representing the middle-aged. As predicted by our instructor, quite a few students dropped out, but those who remain are delightfully humorous and charming, as well as hard-working. By this point in the class, there's a feeling of industry -- industry which pays off. Each week our drawings are better, clearly better. And four of us have been sitting in on the life drawing class, and together we have developed the ability to calmly watch a naked lady contort herself and get a reasonably accurate rendition of her down on paper. Sitting together in a group on one side of the class, we don't really stand out too much from the highly accomplished artists we are joining. One of those artists made friendly conversation with me one day, inquiring, "What medium are you working in today?"

"Oh, I thought just pencil," I said breezily. At least I had an artists' pencils package, twelve pencils sorted by hardness, all sans eraser, rather than a regular old yellow #2 pencil, but I didn't feel much more sophisticated than a child.

The drawing instructor can find something praiseworthy in every one's drawings, and she takes such happiness in seeing us progress. She remarked to me after a life drawing class, when we were aahing over a fellow beginner's beautifully proportioned nude, that at this point in her career, she's never going to make a giant leap of progress, and it's such a joy to see it in us, the beginning students. If you were to look at the pictures some of us drew at the first class and what we are drawing now, you would never think it was the same person's work, done only a few weeks apart.

It's been fun, fun, fun, people, and my art has been improving steadily. On the other hand, there's plenty of work to do. Lola continually gawks, saying, "Why would you take a CLASS with HOMEWORK?" Both children can be sucked into my homework at times. They made lovely color wheels when I was doing a lesson on color theory. Lola even wrote on a class assignment that she loved her Mommy because her mommy is "loving and spoiling" and that her favorite things to do with Mommy were "foster kittens, play with cats, and make collages."


Anonymous said...
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Silliyak said...

I think the most important thing is that you are taking time for yourself, and getting some validation of your worthiness. The ceramics class is clueless as to what they're missing..Ha HA on them!

hughman said...

i took several ceramics classes in art school and the clay people can be kind of snobby. if you aren't "throwing" or something dramatic, they can be elitist. but it also sounds like the people with real talent appreciate you more which is a credit to your abilities. also, yay kitty raising!

Missy said...

I am so envious of you! I would love to see a photo of one of your little animals.

Joyce said...

Yeah. ya made me cry with that last thing about Lola. I'm all misted up over here. waaaah. Loving and spoiling!

Captcha word: erslows.

Joyce said...

BTW I am one of those people to whom drawing does NOT come naturally -- and I am always completely dazzled by people who can. It's like magic, for the non-drawing-inclined.

capta: parelysi