Tuesday, December 4, 2018

drawing at duke - micheal

I'm not exactly involved with the art community at Duke. Whether that can be chalked up to a lack of desire or lack of motivation, I have no clue. Obviously, I've taken a class or two in art, I've tried some art history (which was both academically engaging and artistically inspiring--two birds with one stone I guess). But this isn't really the same, is it. I suppose part of it is that I'm a to-myself kind of artist, which sounds kind of pretentious on paper, but it's true. If I'm creating or conceptualizing some piece, I like to have space, physically and mentally, to myself, entirely. And I typically don't share my work with others--doing that in 205 and 101 felt kind of strange, although not unwelcome. I definitely need to do more work in seeing my own pieces from the eye of a spectator, yet when I sit down to create something I tend to just do whatever's stuck in my head at the moment. Often that is some combination of 1) stuff I've been doodling during class (and trust me, I do so compulsively every opportunity I get), 2) an interesting instagram post by an artist I admire, posted within the last week or even the same day, and 3) whatever kind of meandering that happens when I'm on a roll but become bored of whatever task I'm working on. The point being: I try to internalize advice, but I don't know if it actually affects the process during.

Before coming to university, the extent of the feedback I received on my work was in a kind of class class outside of school: my mentor would mostly leave me alone while I worked, and would sometimes walk by, point to a spot, and say "OK I like this. do more of that". This is basically why I have a very gestural, in-the-moment kind of drawing style: he seemed to like it as much as I enjoyed making it. So it's very weird coming to an environment where people are doing their best to give me specific, future-oriented advice that encourages and almost (but not quite) convinces me to plan further ahead.

Frankly, I think I'm more moved by inspirations anyhow, and I'm pretty sure I'm not uncommon in that regard: Seeing an artist do things I admire makes me wanna make stuff right now, while getting genuine feedback on previous, finished work slows me down significantly. As in: in some ways, it scares me out of starting something; in other ways, it compels me to perhaps think harder about what I do. Which, I suppose, isn't all that bad: but it sure feels worse somehow, even if only because I'm unaccustomed to it.

Interestingly, all of my ideas for how to improve sound a lot like sticking to what I'm used to, as in, giving myself more time to myself to generate art, or finding some new quiet corner at duke to work from. But I'm certainly not going to think that far ahead.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Being an artist at Duke


For me, being an artist at Duke means being able to continue making art as a university student. Even though that sounds simple, in high school I took formal oil painting lessons outside of school. That means there was a built-in time in my day for me to create art. However, when I first came to Duke I didn’t take an art class right away, and I found myself being swept up in my classes and being too busy to take time for myself and create. It wasn’t long before doodling on my notes in class wasn’t enough anymore and I realized that I needed to take time out of my day in order to express myself more fully on paper.

When choosing my classes for the next semester, I wanted to make sure that I could take an art class so that I would have structured time in the day to be able to draw. My academic advisor told me that if I wanted to continue taking art classes I might as well get a major or minor. At first I wasn’t sure that I would be able to fit in all the classes, but also mentally I decided that it was important enough to me that I wanted to go ahead and pursue a minor.

I'm glad I made that decision. I've really enjoyed all the art classes I’ve taken at Duke because they’ve allowed me to grow as an artist. I’ve learned so much not only about technique but also different ways of expression from looking at the work of my peers. When I first came to Duke I was unaware of the art community, thinking that because Duke wasn’t well known for its art program that there wouldn’t be many people or resources dedicated to visual arts. I’m so glad that through taking classes I realized that I was wrong. I even got to see the opening of the new Rubenstein Arts Center building. I’m happy to say that the arts at Duke are growing, and I’m happy to have been a part of that growth during my four years, especially since making art alongside other people is an important part of the creative process. It allows us to learn from one another, and share in our collective experiences.  Even though moving forward I likely won’t be taking formal art classes anymore, having taken my own initiative to keep up with my artwork in college has shown me that no matter where I am or what I’m doing I will always be an artist. I will always be able to pick up a piece of paper and pencil and be able to give life to the images in my mind. I will always be able to learn new things from other artists and incorporate them into my own expressions. 

Even though next year I might not be “an artist at Duke” anymore, I am creator for having been a part of this wonderful community and will continue to carry these experiences with me as I continue to grow as an artist and person.

Being An Artist At Duke - Alejandro Gaona


Trying to describe being an artist at Duke isn't a very good task with my kind of judgement, since I'm pretty separated from people and any kind of "art scene" there may be on campus. I couldn't have reached this stage of isolation comparable to living on a mountaintop without my choice of major (biomedical engineering), so I owe that painful load of classes a deeply insincere thanks. From what I have seen, though, is that there are plenty of resources to take advantage of. I'm very fond of the 3D printing service free to all students, since I use it heavily to make little dolls for posing and lighting purposes. That was the initial reason, but it became fun to print out little sculptures for my room, and now I have a desk full of them. If only there was more time to use things like the Art Annex’s free clay, or the recently arranged figure-drawing sessions, I could be a lot more content with myself. Anyway. If there was a problem with the atmosphere around Duke, I’d have to blame it on the general student body. There are artists whose work I’ve seen and liked in the art classes I’ve been in and seeing them wanting to advance their skills has been fun. The most striking part of those people is the commitment to make something new, or commitment to knowing everything about other artists and their body of work. Not being able to relax and spit out a piece is lots of fun when there’s quality in the rest of the class to worry about. The problem is, most people don’t try to be committed like that. The live figure drawing sessions mentioned previously weren’t something naturally given to students, because those students weren’t asking for funding, or classes, or anything to practice those skills. But I won’t criticize artists for not wanting to learn these things or trying to get their hands on more resources, because I don’t know most of what goes on, and don’t expect people to change things easily. What I can say, though, pertains to using 3D printing for engineering and sculpture purposes. Most of the 3D printing resources get wasted on making downloaded items like the sweaty blot on humanity known as Pickle Rick, or the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones, or some other useless pop culture item. One of the most notorious wastes of plastic is a certain model of a human brain, and it will bear my hatred forever. Do you know why the human brain can store so much information? It has a large surface area from all its wrinkles. That translates into a waste of basically all a printer’s plastic filament, a precious roll worth 30 dollars and usually able to last a week of printing, and I despise having to see so many people draining a public resource with unoriginal things. Meanwhile, I’m constantly updating my figures, like adjusting the length of its thumbs, making better shoulder blades, adding more joints for the spine, trying to get parts to overlap when bending the stomach so as to imply muscles and slight folds, and so on. And not one of the people I share resources with was willing to put in a few hours of their life to learn how to 3D model, because their “passion” is only skin deep, and only extends to a lazy bystander-like love for whatever flavor of the month show they think is shocking. I hope the rest of the artists at Duke aren’t that type of person, or stooping to appeal to those people, and thankfully, I haven't seen anything like that yet.

Drawing at Duke by Kathleen Embury

Last spring when I was in the Drawing 101 class, we were asked to write a blog post about this same topic, about what drawing at Duke looked like for each of us.  I remember I wrote about how art gave me an outlet, exercising my right brain in ways I hadn't since before high school.  I talked about how much of an escape it was to have the class along with all my other STEM courses.  And Intermediate Drawing has not only reaffirmed my opinions from last year, but also broadened my perspective on who I am as an artist at Duke--indeed, in life--as well.
   
One thing that was slightly tedious for me from Drawing 101 were the limitations we had on the assignments:  We started with still life's, negative space drawings, had to use charcoal at some points, etc....and it wasn't until later in the course that we had more control over the topic of our pieces.  That's why I was so excited for this semester.  I came in with a solid idea of what I thought I knew a loved to draw.  I liked realistic art work, drawing animals, their expressions, in action.  I love drama, so I knew I wanted to work more with contrast, and maybe throw in a splash of color, too.  I also "knew" I didn't like drawing things that were meticulously detailed (unless it was part of an animal, of course), like brick, water, and skies.  However, this is, in fact, the opposite of the truth.  To be honest, I was just intimidated to even try because it seemed like too much work that I wouldn't enjoy, since I knew from experience I didn't like drawing still lifes.  I had a vague idea that I wanted to draw a landing eagle for my very first piece because back in middle school, I had started to, but then never finished.  Somehow, the idea of the eagle in a storm over a raging ocean kept popping into my brain, and no matter how much I thought I didn't want to get stuck into the details of things that weren't living, I decided to try it out.  And I got so into drawing all the dramatic crashing waves, sea foam, lightning, wicked sky....it was several hours before I even knew the time was passing.

Through the rest of the semester I decided to explore  drawing new things, particularly subjects with a lot of contrast an energy, like water.  Water is the coolest to draw because it can be bottomless and endlessly black, but also transparent and shimmering, something I explored in my first Independent Assignment.  And I tried new ways of setting up pieces rather than on just the sheet of paper, like dividing it into panels to tell a story. Coming into this class, I never would have thought it would have ended with me drawing the LIFE board game.  I think this class has helped me to see how important it is to stretch yourself creatively, particularly in the stressful academic environment that is Duke which, ironically, ended up being the topic of several of my pieces.  Whereas before I had focused on drawing animals in somewhat natural habitats, this class allowed me to say more with my art, to tell a story, make a commentary, and reflect on my life at Duke and beyond. 

Drawing the Line

by Esmeralda

Being an artist at Duke is weird. Because it's Duke. 

There's definitely a vibrant arts community - several in fact - in and around Duke, but art is treated as something more peripheral to the ~DuKe ExPeRiEnCe~ than sports, academics, and even food are. The result is this bizarre dichotomy where one half of the student body thinks of art as a fun way to de-stress from serious topics like organic chemistry, and the other half of the student body stresses out because of their art, which they are obligated to do by a deadline for  some class, student organization, or freelance project (again: it is Duke.)

There's definitely a disconnect between the two camps. So many study break events involve art, but going from timed figure drawing to zen tangle is a bit of a culture shock. I can't seem to carry an art project across campus without being asked if I made that? and did I do it just for fun? Which is an irrationally annoying thing to hear when you've been up till 3 am hunched over a painstakingly inked poster and you'll be up till 3 again on your final paper as a result. And yes, I enjoyed making my creations, and I love them very much, but I would not have produced them at this breakneck speed if my GPA didn't depend on it, the same as any computer coder or mathematician on this cortisol-forsaken campus.

... this may just be a reflection of what it is like to be an artist at Duke during finals season. This entire semester has felt like final season though. So take that how you will.

/end rant/

Being an Artist at Duke - Victoria W


In my three years here, art has steadily meant more and more to me.

I’ve always seen art as something I wanted to do that was not attainable—the more I wanted to spend my time painting, the guiltier I would feel for using up time that I “should” have spent working on assignments that were actually going to be due one day. This, of course, assumes that said art was on my own and not for its own class. Taking a step even further, if I ever even entertained the idea of pursuing art full time, the ingrained expectations of a secure tech job would always eclipse that.

I certainly don’t know exactly what I want out of life, but I know one thing: it isn’t to work in the tech industry—software engineering or summat like that. Still, that’s what I’ve been going for. The only consolation has been that I know I’ll keep art with me—not as the main career, but as something that I’ll always enjoy.

It’s like that too, while at Duke. My main focus, against my better wishes, is probably always going to be my computer science major. And yet, I’ve tried hard to always insert something I enjoy into every semester: a painting class, a creative writing class (twice!), a Polish class, and this time—a drawing class. To me, being an ”artist” has always been a means to keep me sane. As classes have gotten harder and schedules busier, I’ve increasingly counted on being able to fall back on art. Now, more than ever, I appreciate the value of having hobbies.

I wouldn’t say right away that there’s a community that comes along with “being an artist at Duke.” Fine arts, specifically. Back in freshman year, a group of painters (including myself) had a long discussion concerning Duke’s focus on the performing arts over the fine arts—we even tried to petition Duke to expand the painting program. I think it's an ongoing effort. Sure, there are a ton of DUU Visarts programming opportunities this semester, more than last, but those often attract a certain demographic, and a ton of hobby / independent artists miss out. To no fault of DUU—many artists simply prefer working alone. Still, I’m definitely glad that these art events are happening and bringing different artists on campus together. The visual arts program might still not be as large as we’d like, but at least the community is forming :) 

Taking this class has been a different experience—that’s the first word that comes to mind. It’s different to do art on a deadline. There’s always that component of stress over having to get work done, but once I start and really get into things, it’s never a burden. There’s also the added bonus of having all these pieces churned out at the end of the semester—without deadlines, I likely wouldn’t have finished a single piece. I’m glad I had that subtle prod in the background encouraging me to keep at it. Different blends into rewarding. 

As a busy, tired, stressed Duke student, art has never meant so much more.

Ta for now! x



Being an Artist at Duke - Maya Rinehart

When asked to define myself, "artist" is one of the first words that comes to mind. I don’t immediately think “engineer” even though I am in Pratt, or “pre-med” even though I’m thinking about going to medical school. I define myself by the way I express myself. I am an artist. Even so, being an artist at Duke has honestly been more difficult than I had anticipated.
I have been drawing and painting since before I can remember and have always found a way to make time for art classes alongside other academics. I still hear my high school art teacher’s voice in my head whenever I draw or paint: “You can’t have light if you don’t have dark!” or “Look at the masters. We are standing on the shoulders of giants”. Art is a time commitment, but to me it's definitely worth it.

I’ve always known I don’t want art to be my primary major or to dedicate my career to drawing and painting. Still, I can’t let being an artist slip through the cracks. I am an engineering major because I enjoy math and science and want to make an impact on the world, but being an artist at Duke means finding time for myself. I realized first semester freshman year that since I wasn’t taking an art class and wasn’t being held accountable, it was easy to make art my lowest priority. So I enrolled in Drawing 199 as my 5th class for the following semester. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Even though I was overloading, my art homework felt more like a study break than homework.

Intermediate Drawing this semester is the second art class I’ve taken at Duke. I am taking it as a fifth class with four engineering courses, and honestly it has been a lot more difficult to stay on top of my work than it was last semester. I am probably taking too many classes in general, and then on top of that art has been (understandably) a lot more time consuming than the introductory class was. Still, I don’t regret taking Intermediate Drawing in the slightest. I still find that my art homework is never a chore and I am growing as an artist.

Being an artist at Duke for me means finding a way to prioritize the things I love. I don’t think my experience with being an artist at Duke is representative of all of the artists at Duke, however. I have never been to the Arts Annex, for example, because I had brought my own art supplies to Duke from the beginning. I think Duke does a great job of making art accessible to many kinds of people with a range of interests and amount of prior experience in art, which is wonderful. I am grateful for the ability to take art classes seriously even though I don’t attend an art school, because while I’m not an art major, art is an extremely important part of my life.