“The ignorant eye is blind” reminded me a good friend as he was talking to me of the difficulty of his art history class. At first, I could not fully agree with his statement as I felt that he had been implying that artistic taste had to be cultivated towards a uniform template without room for personal sensitivity. However, after having taken this course on drawing, his words seem to ring true, but because of other reasons. Although I have been drawing and painting for a while as recreational and relaxing pastimes, I don’t think that I have ever fully realized the difficulty and complexity of trying to represent something as we see it.
Having not taken classical and traditional drawing classes in my childhood, but simply basic painting lessons in primary school, my style of drawings is often cartoonish, or oversimplified. I draw things from my mind, imaginary portraits of flamboyant fictitious characters, old cars and other odd and trivial things. In this class, what I found to be the most demanding, and at times even frustrating, was having to try to stay as close to reality as possible. Personally, drawing had been a way for me to materialize abstractions and ideas, and had therefore not been used to sketch sceneries or inert objects in relation to one another. First of all, I discovered that there truly was a big discrepancy between how I envisioned a familiar building in my mind, and how it actually looked. In my drawings, my proportions were off, often from a higher or lower perspective and omitting many details, misrepresenting shapes and structures, which made my work fall short of my expectations. When I drew in the past, I have never really given myself too many constraints. Having to then be tied to the strict rules of reality was somewhat painful, and at times made me even dread doing something that I once loved. Although initially I found the drawing exercises in class to be redundant, I soon discovered their value and the importance of training the eye and fine-tuning technique and movement. I was reminded that even artists like Picasso who represented people and objects in abstract and childish forms, had been through rigorous training and were capable of drawing realistic portraits. This was a very humbling experience that made me realize how little technical talent I had, while at the same time increasing my admiration for those capable of bringing things to life through pencil or brush.
Having such talented and dedicated peers in the class has pushed me to put in more time and effort into my work, drawing on their creations as inspiration. Every lesson, I am truly struck with awe at the work of other students, whose drawings sometimes even resemble photos. Another aspect that I really enjoyed has been talking about each drawing, finding out the creator’s sources of inspiration and the thought process that went into the work. Discussing these things helped me understand why and how the author chose to represent a certain space, its personal significance, and how I could similarly reflect on my work and what it meant to me.
Our first blog post was a good opportunity to talk about the thing that had truly sparked my interest in taking this class, my appreciation for all art forms and of particular iconic figures whose works have touched so many. Although we did not learn about the old masters and the heritage of style and technique that they have endowed us with, I could not help but try to think of ways to learn from some of the works that I hold dear.
Having to deal with constraint in this class has been the hardest aspect. The need to draw settings from our environment at Duke was not at first very stimulating. The last two assignments were by far my favorite as they allowed my imagination to run wild and incorporate a part of campus in a supernatural and fantastical setting. I have really appreciated the balance that this class has given me this semester. I still find drawing to be a relaxing and enjoyable experience. As a history major, I still encounter aspects linked to art in my classes such as the distinct architectural styles of various civilizations. I hope that I will be able to continue to learn about art and cultivate my appreciation for it.