Thursday, February 20, 2014

Through The Looking Glass and Thirteen Years Later

     Greetings all! Just posting yet another project I tackled over this past Holiday Season.  This post is, obviously, a retrospective post, as some of you may have already seen this drawing. 

     My really good friend and old SCAD Colleague, Pam, and I were talking one evening this past November. It was right around Thanksgiving, if my memory serves correctly, and sometimes that is a truly dodgy prospect. lol.

     Anyway... we were discussing, among many things (we were catching up really after ages of Phone tag) about how we miss certain things about being in school.  Particularly, working on drawing projects and having someone else (who has also worked on the same assignment) critique the finished drawings with.  I personally have felt, since I left good ole SCAD that I don't really try to set up drawing exercises for myself as much as I would do so in college and certainly not as frequent.  I was used to drawing in my illustration "style" and rarely broke that pattern to draw things, just as they are, to keep those good draftsmanship skills as sharp as the pencils I use to draw with.  On those few occasions I would attempt to do something other than a children's style illustration (usually a gift or something for a friend that is not an illustration), I found that my lack of practice was obvious and truly embarrassingly noticeable.  This is why I began my "Back 2 Basics" initiative.  To regularly assign, on a monthly and weekly basis, small drawing exercises that focus and build on particular drawing skills.  I wanted to set out to draw things like I used to do, just as I see them to the best of my ability.

     Since I began that initiative, I have found that it is almost like riding a bike. You never forget it, but your first few attempts to "get back on the horse" are amusing but practically functional, even humorous.  I found this to be the same with going out and sketching again. 

     I shared with Pam my paranoia of this sense that I was SO far removed from those days, that I might not be able to draw something quite the same way.  I felt relieved to know that I was not the only one that was experiencing this in some way as she had some similar thoughts since college.  Most of you all out there will not know this, but Pam and I used to be artistic partners in crime.  We used to dream up and in some cases execute and create works of art together.  We were Artistic Red Bull for each other, before Red Bull existed (this makes me feel a bit old).

     Sharing my friendship between Pam and I is relevant to this post in the way that it's subject is inspired by a semi-joint effort (one of our first) that we had done for a Drawing Class in our Freshman year at SCAD.  In a way, I want to say that in completing it, it sealed our friendship with each other and paved the beginning of the yellow brick road of our friendship with each other to this day. 

[Weston(left) and Dyson(right) Houses 
from the view of the walkway at Turner House]

     Keep in mind this was 13 years ago (1999.)  I was a freshman at college. It was my second quarter there (Winter Quarter.)  I felt so liberated, as I had never lived away from home or my parents EVER before this, and I admit, I enjoyed living away (even if with a roommate).  I lived in the dorms, but to those of you who are not familiar with how SCAD's Residence halls are set up, they are very much like living in a hotel room (many of the Halls are old converted hotel/motels) but without the carpet, furniture or comfortable beds.  It was a single bed for each occupant and a drafting table. 
We did each get our own private bathroom to share, which was a nice privilege to have, in terms of communal living in most dorms across America.  I lived in Weston House and Pam lived in Dyson House. They are side-by-side Residence Halls at the foot of Georgia. Right near the large bridge that you cross over into South Carolina.  I'm not certain if they still bear those names (the names of SCAD buildings often change over the years. It's a common occurrence.)  If you were to visit there now, you would find a large castle like structure with a walkway that goes over a covered bridge across from Weston and Dyson. This is Turner Hall and did not exist at the time Pam and I first became friends.  It was just a bus stop for the school buses to pick students up from and a very large briar filled hill that crossed the covered bridge. 
I remember, specifically that there were 2 architectural sculptures there. They resembled wooden tree houses and were the size of such, but they were a little "Off"  One of the tree houses were low and literally sunk in the ground, tilted on it's side to the point that if it were to rain the rain would some right through the sideways windows, drenching you.  The other tree house was so far up with no ladder and if you tried to run under it in the rain, it provided no shelter, which incidentally was the title of the Sculptural Pair.  The were part of a city wide Art Project called functional follies.  I still have a promotional poster, I stole off one of the bulletin boards that quarter.


     The Drawing Assignment was a simple one, or it seemed that way:  To draw a self portrait on a sheet of neutral-grey colored drawing paper.  You can only use compressed charcoal and a white conte crayon as your drawing tools.  The object is to use the paper as your midtones of the portrait and add only your truest darks and your truest lights to develop the image on the drawing paper.  This is a very tricky and challenging task, if you had never done it before.

      procrastinated on this particular project till the last minute.  I just didn't think I had my head around quite how I wanted to approach it.  I decided to go over and see my, then-new friend, Pam, to see how she was coming along with it.  She was actually working on her portrait that night. 
I remember, upon seeing it for the first time, how inspired by it I was.  I just LOVED how she approached the project and went back to my dorm room shortly after that to begin my own self-portrait.  I wanted to capture in my drawing the same energy, mystique and ambiance she had in hers.  I did the drawing all in one night.  As many students usually stayed up all night and crashed here and there when they could, this was not an issue (concerning being considerate of my then roommate at the time.)   I mean, as Gusto Gummy always says,"You have to work when the inspiration hits!"   I actually miss and crave those days of artistic camaraderie and community. It's Oh So Missing in my life today.  This was another thing Pam and I talked about in our Thanksgiving phone conversation.

     I remember the night of the critique of that project in our Drawing Class. Pam had no idea that she had inspired me in such a way.  She recognized what I had taken from her piece and put into mine almost instantly.   I think that gesture really fanned the flame of us hanging out with each other more and beginning a relationship of artistic collaboration. 
These drawings and the one night that I went around with her with a blank tape and a tape recorder t interview random people about random subjects with random questions... I was never certain if it was meant to be an art project, but it was Hella-Fun and one of the reasons Pam and I are still such good friends today. 

     Thinking back about that time in my life brings a smile to my face.  Pam admitted she thinks about those days as well.  I told Pam (in November 2013) that I was thinking of tackling that portrait project again as part of my Back 2 Basics Drawing Thing.  I had the idea of seeing if she wanted to participate in it and we could each do a portrait of us today in the same spirit that we created the original pair and then have a critique like in the good ole days with each other of the final drawings.  I thought it would be a fun way to "see where we are now."

     I admit that I did my drawing, like before, in a single evening.  I did not stay up all night, as I work days now as opposed to just going to class.  I found the challenge this time to still be tricky, but I kinda fell into this drawing groove.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the mind, at the time, to take progress photos to post on the Sketch Blog, just the finished drawing.  I mapped out all my major shapes with vine, like you do. I then began to fill in the shadowy areas and star committing to darkest darks to the appropriate areas.  The great thing about drawing things as you see them is that you don't have to think TOO much about your composition, as the nature f the project dictates and decides many of those things before you even put charcoal to the paper.  I took a break after I had finished my darks and before I began my lights.  I have to say that the entire experience was just a pleasurable as it was the first time and the end result was even more pleasing. 

[Pam & Lewis 1999]
[Pam & Lewis 2013] 

     From the pairing above you can see the evolution of how we have changed in our drawing styles as well as how we have changed, physically, as people. 
We had a lot of fun discussing each others' work in the context and vernacular of our formally trained past.  We liked it so much that we decided to do another project. This time, Pam would decide the project.  I thought it would be fun for us to start a little Drawing Club together, even if were the only members and continue to create and work on projects together, just like we did when we met.  I just finished our most recent Drawing Club project, but will discuss that later in another post.  Incidentally enough, our Drawing Club has 2 new members and we couldn't be more excited for the critique of our projects soon.

[My Friend, Pam]

     Much Love Goes Out to My Wonderful friend, Pam. This shout out is for you. I wanted to tell you how glad I am that we met all those years ago and that I absolutely treasure the friendship and artistic kinship these many years.  I look forward to our future adventures and art projects.  Cheers to You! :0)

To the rest of you all, I hope you enjoy our drawings and until next time...
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art. 

      P.S.  Something else Pam and I worked on together that year... the following quarter, I had her dress up in various outfits of hers that captured different aspects of her-self.  I then drew each individual Pam in a separate monochromatic color. Last year, I put together a set of t-shirts from that drawing.  It was, to me, a symbol of our friendship and artistic past that we can wear.

[Pams, 1999, conte crayon & charcoal on colored paper]

1 comment:

  1. What a nice blog entry about the fun, creativity and friendship we share! I'm proud to know you as an artist and person. You give me so much inspiration and happiness and I always look forward to talking with you. It's nice that we have internet and social media where we're able to collaborate on projects like this together still over long-distance. Cheers, Lewis!