Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thinking through Art: How Prior Knowledge Paralyzes

4th Figure Drawing Class.

We warmed up with 10 gesture drawings. In one minute, I must capture the outline of the model. It is especially challenging when the model knows multiple unusual ways to contort himself/herself. I struggle to capture the essence of the gesture. The bodily muscles exert themselves in peculiar ways that I find difficult to sketch rapidly. Today, I  also have to learn how to use new tools -- it is Conte Pencils instead of the familiar charcoal pencil or vine to quickly build the "armature" that my teacher requires. I try, probably not very successfully. 

He tells me not to use just lines but to use the conte pencil as a tool to show "mass." He walks around again and offers more feedback.

"Don't draw something from what you previously perceived a human figure to look like. You need to capture the impulse." He tells me not to draw something that looks like a human figure and then try to make little changes to it to fit what the model looks like before me. Aha 1.

"Do you mean to capture the essence? The emotion?" I ask. "Do you want us to emote through our drawing?"

He stops the class to address my questions. "I know this sounds abstract. Have you all seen the Raft of the Medusa?" We shake our heads. We google for it on our mobile phones, which we are typically not allowed to use in the class. We found the painting by GĂ©ricault. "What emotions does the painting convey?" Danger, shipwreck, fear ...? 

"Try to capture feelings like these in your drawings. Like what GĂ©ricault did." [Not his exact words] On the side, the model says quietly, "It is not about likeness." Figure drawing is not about replicating likeness, but about capturing an impulse.

I feel like I have a bad drawing day, but in learning psychology terms, no matter how bad a day it is, I learn how our prior knowledge causes rigid thinking. Art teaches me to let go and to unlearn so that I can have new ideas. Aha (over and over again!) 2.

"Use your imagination. Look at what is before you, not what you think it should look like." Am I looking? Paying attention?

In a previous class, we had to draw with a paper covering what we were actually drawing. I love figure drawing.

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