Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Heartlines

The Little Room Detail, Walter Anderson
"It's been my experience that people who have no experience or training are sometimes the best artists."- James Meade

Those are the words of my college painting and drawing instructor. He makes a valid point. School is about learning the formal aspects of art. Learn the formal aspects as well as you can so you don't even think about the formalities and just paint. Or as Meade put it, "transcribing the human soul".
I don't know as much about the formalities as I should or would like. Letting me speak through visual is difficult. I am fascinated by other people's journals and sketchbooks. They all have inherent qualities of the artist. For some reason, I've never felt like my sketches, paintings and drawings are a true representation of my soul. When I look back at my school sketchbooks, I notice a stiff, brittle drawings. The line quality is devoid of any real feeling.


Before college I painted and drew a lot. I have taken classes since I was 10 years old. I was very rigid in trying to make my drawings as realistic as possible. Almost all of my art projects were copied from photographs and magazines. Even though I tried to capture extreme realism. I hated copying from other sources. I wanted to make it up out of my head. My teachers had other ideas.


This all changed when I met Meade in figure drawing class. His philosophy was, if you are trying to copy something line by line take a picture of it and save your energy. I was thrilled. I could finally stop torturing myself, or so I thought. In class I tried so hard to make good art. I did well in my classes, but I did not realize how expressive my art could be until I worked in an art form I knew nothing about.

Until about four years about I had never worked in clay. As part of being an art education major I had to take two of all the major studio disciplines- two drawing, two painting, two sculpture, and two ceramics. My first year in school I took a ceramics class. I wasn't exactly happy about it. I firmly believed that I was a 2D artist. I was a painter and draftsperson, not a sculptor.
After about a week of classes this attitude changed. I was in love with clay. There were expressive qualities at my disposal I never had in the 2D world of drawing and painting. The push-pull, tactile quality of clay was unique because I could hold my creations in my hands. Nothing separated my touch from the work. I could literally control every part of it.


What was different between clay and my self-declared media is that I was new to it. I was free to experiment and had too because I had no idea what worked. By my second ceramics class that summer I had no fear. I tried every technique I could think of and I didn't care if something didn't work. Some pieces I made were very successful and others that crumbled in the kiln. For the first time I could show myself in what I made. I could finally tell stories and not be literal about it.

That is what I want from my paintings and drawings. I want to unlearn the need to be perfect. I want to make the messes and get ugly this summer. If something doesn't work out, who cares? I can always cut it up and make something that does. Meade told me one time that if I set my heart on every line I make I'll never make it. Now, I'm set to put my heart in the lines. 

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