Drawing is a dream come true.
I loved drawing when I was a child but never had the chance to really take a class. Back then, drawing was my way to freedom as imagination could never be fettered. So, thanks to Professor Fick and his class, I could finally start learning the basic techniques of drawing and approach the discipline in a more systematic manner.
Without being fully aware, I often found myself spending every Friday night in the living room doing the weekly assignments. My roommate was amazed by how consistent my Friday routine had become. Nevertheless, I had to admit that I could never draw fast. Yet, I never regret my lack of speed in this regard. Maybe, there is something in life that is meant to be slow – drawing, for example. Those Friday nights are the rare moments in my Duke life where I could truly stop multi-tasking and immerse myself in one and only one pleasurable endeavor. I call them the “peaceful escapes”.
However, like any new skills that I have acquired after my childhood (supposedly during which time my ability to learn new things has peaked), drawing was immensely hard for me at the beginning. The choice of which pencil/charcoal (5 in total!) to use was too onerous; the touch of charcoal was too hefty; each assignment was too foreign. I was not confident about what and how to draw and express what I see – which could sometimes be frustrating. But when I think about it in another way, somehow I feel pleased with myself: after all, I resemble a navigator with a compass that gives limited direction; I have the entire world to explore if I will. I guess it was only hard because it is limitless.
It is interesting that only after I started to draw did I realize how hard it is to put something I saw onto the paper. I felt, for the first time in the past 20 years, that my eyes and brain had been colluding to present a processed perspective of the world for me. This revelation has forced to think deeper about what I see and to observe more closely. In some sense, drawing presents a certain kind of philosophy to me – I am now questioning reality.
Yet, as the class progressed, I realized that we not only draw what we see but also piece together objects to creative a narrative that might not be real. It is no longer about reality; it extends to the realm of imagination. And that has been my favorite part of this class. For the second last assignment, I depicted the Duke East Campus as a farm; there is a very athletic pig jumping the fence, an innocent-looking cow staring at the audience, and a snake spiraling around a cute cat. What I tried to accomplish in this painting is to challenge the conventional wisdom and the stereotypes towards animals. In some way, the painting challenges the stereotypes present in society in general. E.g. overweight people, malicious-looking people, social classes, etc. For the last assignment, I played around with the concept of space and time. The bridge is linking the present with the past, each symbolized by two architectures. The unlikely structure and the spinning top are symbols of unreality or dream. Also, another theme of the painting is that the French building symbolizes the Golden Age where great ideas were born and intellectual curiosity was at its peak in France; this is juxtaposed with the Duke Campus. The irony here is that Duke students have been increasingly career-anxious and the intellectual curiosity of the student body has been disappointing. In one word, there are a lot of symbolisms in this work and different people might have different responses.
While compiling the past assignments into a portfolio in class today, I am proud of how far I have progressed. It is not just about the techniques but also the way to express my views and imaginations through symbols chosen with purposes. Thank you professor!