Friday, April 24, 2015

How This Class Has Affected My Drawing

-Vincent Bivona

Ever since I was a child, I have always been fascinated with drawing.

For me, drawing is a unique creative outlet in that empowers me to convey my own perspective of the world around me. For this reason, I have always enjoyed depicting images and scenes through drawing. I have also always had an interest in taking a drawing class but never quite got around to it. And so, drawing for me is one of the interests or skills that I  had believe I have failed to explore or develop until I decided to take this class.

This class has equipped me with the tools necessary to create art.

Having explored different drawing techniques throughout the semester, I now feel capable of creating pieces of art that I am proud of. After realizing the many aspects of drawing that I was not aware of before the course, I have come to appreciate drawing itself more as an art form. I now recognize drawing as an extremely intricate, technical process that can be used as a powerfully creative tool in communicating ideas through image or the telling of a story through image.

This class has motivated me to continue drawing.

After seeing how my work has developed and evolved throughout the course of the class, I now feel excited about developing my skills further. Before taking this class, I had stopped drawing for pleasure. However, being pushed to draw, I have realized once again how much I enjoy drawing. Overall, as a result of this class, I have come to respect, enjoy, and appreciate drawing more than ever before.

Last Drawing

At 2 am Wednesday night, as I put the finishing touches on my final drawing, I felt more so than ever the joy of drawing.

Having no prior art experience, I signed up for this class full of enthusiasm. Last semester, one of my friends recommended taking Professor Fick's introductory drawing class, and all of a sudden, I had become intrigued by the idea of being an artist.

But then came the first day we drew in class. The subject was simply a ball on a stool, and as I began to draw it, I found something strange. As soon as I looked away from the subject and back at my pad, I forgot what I was even trying to draw. Every few marks I put down would have to be erased. I needed to constantly squint my eyes in order to compress the 3-D objects I saw onto a 2-D page. And after making the slightest bit of progress, I realized that all the angles and proportions were off, and so I'd erase everything again. I never realized how much information one had to sort out when drawing from observation. The process was agonizing. 

And for most of the semester, I agonized over drawing. I would spend hours on my assignments while never producing anything of which I could be proud. Frankly, I was depressed with my apparent lack of talent.

But there were moments, few as they were, that I felt surges of inspiration. If you look in my sketchbook, you'll see two series of sketches: one of just my hands and another of portraits of famous physicists. These two series were each done in single sittings, and I'm sure I had found some kind of "zone." I think something clicked during those moments. It was not that I particularly drew well, but that I drew with definite purpose and patience.

As I continued to keep up with the assignments, I tried to remember how I felt during those moments when I enjoyed my sketchbook. I can't say I succeeded right away. Making polished assignments of large open spaces is much more difficult and taxing than simple sketching. But with our last assignment, for which we were basically given free reign on the narrative, inspiration hit again. Despite working on a deadline late into Wednesday night, I felt no stress. I was patient with my lines and shading, yet I didn't agonize over them. Without realizing it, I was enjoying myself, and I am proud of the finished product.

I'm glad that the zone found me one more time. And it came at a good time, because I think it helped me realize something basic but important-- that my right to enjoy and create art never had anything to do with talent.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Finding my Vision?

Do you feel that you’ve developed a vision for your art through the work you’ve made this semester?

I would not say that I have developed my vision for my art for the rest of my life, but I have identified a couple of themes that are interesting to me and that I would like to explore further. I really enjoy texture in things from nature—trees, clouds, water, etc., and I learned this when I was drawing setting for my raccoon in the first narrative drawing. In next couple assignments I did more strict studies on trees and clouds, but I felt they were boring. I wanted to bring back more of a quality that enabled an interaction between the drawing and the audience, which I felt my raccoon drawing had (even if it wasn’t immediately obvious). So I decided to keep exploring the textures of clouds but reintroduce another element, which ended up being an airplane wing. For this drawing, the placement of the wing was really important to me; I wanted whoever was viewing it to feel they were looking out the airplane window and thus indirectly interacting with the setting. I liked this idea—placing a single machine against the backdrop of a single natural setting and position it such that the audience would be drawn into the conversation between the two. Thus for my final drawing I picked out a strange angle to view the flying hull of a catamaran (and took the person sailing it out of the photo) and placed it against a partly cloudy sky.


What are you saying with your drawings after 14 weeks of work?

I don’t feel like I have fully explored the potential depth of things that I could say with my drawings. I don’t really know what I want to say, but I do know I that find the simple harmonious interaction between nature and man an interesting subject to explore, and I think I want to continue with that to see what deeper meanings it might lead me to.


What is important to you as an artist? Have you changed as an artist?


I use art mainly as a way to ground myself and relax, so it is important to me that what I make is also at least sort of relaxing and grounding. It seems I have settled more firmly into my style of drawing that started last spring in beginning drawing—a more pastel, subdued combination of values that gives a romanticized tint to whatever I’m drawing.

Finding Interesting Things--Yiou Wang

I love interesting things.

I had never received formal art education before, and being a self-motivated artist I clearly knew my limitations in drawing: I thought I was a little lost, I did art purely for fun and wasn't always widely aware of what I was doing with my art. When I started this class, I expected a relief from the confused state of artmaking. I thought we were to be guided step by step and do whatever the teacher told us to--a brand new experience in my life! But I was surprised when it became clear that the class's purpose was not on perfecting your skills but on finding your voice, focusing on the artist's mind rather than the artist's hand.

It was actually a pleasant surprise. In my stage of creativity, I already understood the importance of the expression of the mind in artmaking, all kinds of arts, but I needed time and space to practice this technique of transforming the thought into paper. So, I realized that the class's goal totally coincided with mine. 

With excitement and high energy I passed this flying semester. I found out my capacity of that transforming technique through tons of practice. I remember at the beginning of the semester, I had a few sketches, but nearly all of which drawn from beautifully pre-composed photographs. My mystical stairwell with a mirror was the only piece in which I played around a little bit: I added a mirror and some water. All others--my mom's portrait on the beach, the creepy abandoned amusement park, and the forest with a father and a son--were adapted from photographs. I did not compose those scenes, or altered any element purposefully. When I discussed with Prof. Fick, he showed a strong interest in the stairwell piece (which later becomes, "Untitled"). It was also my favorite, because somehow it had some part of my mind put inside the scene.

Gradually, through more works, I began to find it irresistible to try out my ideas on the paper. I veered toward surreal imagination, occasionally using photographs for tools to be arranged according to my idea, not as sources of inspiration. I continued my signature features. For instance, water represented inspiration and spirituality in multiple works, and I tend to play with my W.Y.O signature a lot, hiding it, altering it to suit the situation. One signature feature that stood out throughout my drawings, is what I call "the absence of the protagonist." It is my tendency to exclude any recognizable-sized human figure in my drawing. It is not to say that I dislike drawing people; I draw people, too, as shown in my detailed portrait of my mom. But I want a more intimate experience with the viewer. With a big human standing in a drawing, it often implies that you are gazing at someone else's life or circumstance, but with the absence of the protagonist, my drawing invites you--the live protagonist--in. I strived to create a silent conversation between my thought and its viewer in every single work.

After getting used to drawing what I find fascinating--mysteries, natures, infinities, and philosophies--I began to feel my hand freer than ever before. I could extract images purely from my mind and I could execute it with my hand. That's when I embarked on a longer journey. It wasn't until some point this semester that I felt all my past adventures had been doodling around the bay, but once I find drawing an expression of interesting thoughts, I'm preparing to set out for the open sea. As if by nature, I unconsciously put myself in face of bigger challenges every time. The final piece I did for this class is one of the most ambitious ones I've ever done. I underestimated its complexity and ended up tangling in a time-consuming, energy-consuming, complicated and rich piece. But my patience  pays off. My final drawing, after multiple times of burning the midnight oil and endless hours of hard work, turned out to be exactly what I wanted to express. Although if given unlimited time, my perfectionist drive could finalize it further.

Everything I did in the semester is the best standard I am able to hold to. Taking this class is the best decision I made in college. Although some works came at great cost, I don't care. This may sound very silly, but as long as I'm a young and energetic artist, I'll keep up this level of inspiration and I'll remember what I want in every future artwork--to present interesting things, to create conversations.

The Mirror That Reverts Time

Following The Predecessor

The Calcified World

Infinity of the Self

Infinity of the Space



The Homecoming (photo in progress)








My Thoughts On Drawing

Osaro Obanor

Drawing Blog Post

 Before I went into this class, I always would say “I suck at drawing.” Honestly, my opinion of this really hasn’t changed. I do, in fact, suck at drawing. But I enjoyed this class because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. It made me tap into a portion of my brain that I rarely utilize in my science/ pre-med courses. I have enjoyed my previous experiences with art through the mediums of photography and film but these experiences were not difficult for me to grasp because there were tangible instruction and steps which one could follow to improve their work. But unlike my prior experiences, my experience with drawing this semester was more dependent on a mental development of not only artistic skill, but also an understanding of the space around you. Having to analyze and interpret the world around you in order to capture a scene and have it translate realistically onto a canvas is honestly the hardest task I faced during my senior year. But the more I was tasked with having to  “be artistic,” the more I found myself visually appreciating the world around me.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday Duke life, it is easy to become accustomed to going through life with blinders on, focusing only on things that relate to your future goals.  I found that this Drawing course, and just drawing in general, was a nice break from the monotony and stress of Duke life. In addition to being a great stress reliever, drawing was also a productive and stimulating way to spend my time.

At first, I underestimated the amount of thought, presence, and awareness that is required when executing a drawing. But after many failed attempts to recreate the space around me, I realized that I needed to channel a stream consciousness that, before then, I never really thought was important. I needed to be present when I attempted to draw and really visualize things as I progress through drawings. Once I mastered actively thinking, I was able to move through my drawings and really pay attention to the way lines worked and how objects were related to one another spatially.


Although I still think I am a terrible artist, I do think that I have made a lot of progress in terms of how I think about drawing and visual space. I believe that it takes a bit more experience for my progress in thought to translate to progress in the quality of my drawings. Through much frustration and trial-and-error, I have come to appreciate the drawings that I have the ability to create and enjoyed the experience of going through the creative process. But overall, I really appreciated this course and its reoccurring tendency to push me out of my comfort zone in order to tap into a fuller understanding of the things we see on a daily basis.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reflections on Drawing at Duke

What an exciting semester it has been!  There have been rallies, parties, recitals, projects, and drawing(?)!  For the past four years I have been loaded up with technical engineering classes that pushed me to the edge of my critical thinking abilities.  While baffling at times, I am not sure I ever felt as stumped as I did on occasion in my first art class at Duke: "What on earth am I going to draw for this assignment?"  I will admit, the first assignment had me in a panic as I fumbled to find anything in my room that looked like it could be art--but that's kind of a point in itself.  We are surrounded by art and anything can be viewed artistically if you approach it with the right mind set.  Those dirty shoes in the corner? Art. The bottle of spirits behind your books?  That can be art, too.

For me, it was not a sudden change.  Over the weeks, coming to class, sketching in our sketchbooks, practicing for the assignments...  Somewhere in the middle of all of this drawing, my mind just opened up and re-accepted the artistic inspiration that had been latent since elementary school.  By the time the perspective drawing came around, I knew what I wanted to study!  Perhaps almost comically, my skills had not caught up to my enthusiasm and I still managed to struggle with drawing what my eyes saw and not what my mind told me would exist.  My final submission for this class is far from perfect, but it captures some of the things that excite me most, and feels like a marked improvement from the form I had when I was going into this semester.

Art was my zen experience in a bustling senior year and I am happy I was able to enjoy it with my buddy Timo.  The change of pace from working on a computer to grabbing a sketchbook and watching the rain fall outside my window was functionally therapeutic.  If I could do it all again, I think I wouldn't change much.  Perhaps I could have made more time to sketch and really explore some new drawing territory, but given my schedule and drawing history, I am still thrilled to walk away with what I have.  I hope picking up the supplies on the 30th motivates me to use them and continue to have dialogue with my artistic self even after I set out on a new adventure as a Duke grad!

Thoughts on Drawing

I have always been involved in art ever since my parents signed me up for art classes when I was in elementary school. I had begged them for months to sign me up because I knew my older sister took art classes, and I had always looked up to her when I was younger.

From there, I took weekend art classes for many years until I reached middle school when I was able to sign up for art classes in school as well. I continued my passion throughout middle school and high school, even taking AP Visual Arts as a senior and creating a portfolio.

When I came to Duke as a first semester freshmen I was very busy adjusting to college life. I realized towards the end of the semester that I was disappointed in myself for not continuing my passion in art. I had gotten busy with school, extracurriculars, and family life, and had not continued to purse one of my passions that was most important to me.

This is one of the reasons why I decided to take this Drawing course this semester. I wanted to have something that would make me focus on art at least a couple times a week. Despite art being a passion of mine, sometimes it is very hard to find time for it in the midst of everything else that's going on. This class definitely helped remind me about the things that were important to me, the things that made me who I was.

I also took a seminar class this semester on modern art celebrities that also peaked my interest. Now, I am once again encouraged to pursue the things I'm passionate about. I am definitely considering a minor in either Visual Arts, VMS, or Art History. I also have realized that I'm interested in a career in marketing, something that combines both my interests of business and creativity. While searching for internships I also created a portfolio of artwork from my past as well as some from this class. (Link: http://www.sonyazhang.portfoliobox.me/portfolio)

I definitely want to take more art classes and more art history classes at Duke. I realize that I have the time and passion to do these things, I just have to remind myself of how important they are to me and who I am.

My Drawing expirience

I have always had a passion for drawing as long as I can remember. I remember my first attempt to draw as hobby was when I was in grade 1. The previous day my mother had taken me and my sister to see a puppet show, and I found my self retelling the story the best way I know how:drawing.
I can still remember the excitement when my parents bought me my first pack of 12 colored pencils, the disappointment whenever my sister was better than me, and how good I felt when my classmates admired my drawings of fashion models or the my horrible attempt to draw a portrait. My drawings were never excellent, but they were good enough for me.
During my late childhood and beginning of teenage years I spent endless time drawing, to me drawing was my entertainment. In a few years I had made numerous comics, many of whose story lines were influenced by what I saw on South American, Philippines and Tanzanian soap operas. As my interest in Hollywood movies grew and  overshadow the soap operas, my comics started drawing from the American high school movies I had seen.
 My last comic book took 7 years and counting, until this day I have not been able to complete it, partly because I don't have a clear story for it, there are always new flowing ideas on how it should progress, It is like a story that is still written. However, the major reason was the 6 years of toiling through middle and high school. The little time that I had to indulge in my hobbies. I remember during my IB2 year I realized that I had not drawn in more than a year and a half. My skills were getting poorer than they were before. Like most teenagers who were interested in arts, I was always told my future is not in arts rather in the natural sciences. For the longest time I abandoned my passion to face "reality".
After  joining Duke university in the fall of 2014, I was completely unaware of the possible opportunity to reconnect with my artistic side. At the end of the semester I made a decision of enrolling in drawing 199. This was the best decision I have ever made for my arts interest.
Drawing 199 is not a walk in a park as everyone thinks, just like any other course it required commitment and I was willing to commit.
I spent numerous hours on my assignments and sketbook. In this class I learnt a lot of techniques that I did not posses before because I had never taken an arts class before. My favorite one was shading and value, before this class I was intrigued with drawings that involved shading but I had no Idea on how I could utilize the technique in my own artwork.
I still don't have an idea on how I might be able to use arts in the future or how I can make a career out of it. Growing up I went through a lot of possible careers like architecture, comic designing, fashion designing but I cowered from all of them because I knew I was not good enough. But now I can feel a spark of hope, and I believe I can try to make a career out of one of them as long as I keep on drawing.

My Thoughts On Drawing - Patricia Pinckombe

Patricia Pinckombe
Blog Assignment #2
4/22/15


I draw because it's a way to express myself. My interest lies in abstract works because I'm able to produce more with them (in terms of creativity and expression). I'm also interested in works that I'm not able to understand entirely -- a somewhat esoteric guessing game between the artist and the viewer. It's a stimulating game and it seems both the artist and the viewer eventually walk away with something. Overall, art is an outlet - it's my favorite way to express myself creatively.

Thoughts on Drawing- Haley Amster

My brother was diagnosed with aphasia when he was about 4 or 5 years old. School was rough for him. Nothing was easy and it was much harder for him to learn things than it was for the other kids. But the one place he excelled was art.
My brother won award after award for the pieces he created as a kid. He excelled at art, and he seemed to have an eye for it unlike others. So my parents set up an art room for him, and as he spent more time in there, the walls were filled with drawing after drawing, until vivid colors covered every inch of the walls.
And I was in awe of my brother. As a small child, he was my best friend. He was so kind to me, and had a patience for teaching me things. And he created such beautiful things. I just wanted to create beautiful things too.
I’m convinced that my brother taught me how to be creative and make art. In such a formative time in my life, with completely unartistic parents, I imitated and emulated my brother’s style in my drawings. They were never quite as good as his, but I enjoyed the time we spent together making them, in our little colorful art room.
And then my brother got accepted into a special arts program for kids that showed promise in the arts. He got to go draw in studios on the weekends, and I wanted that too. So, when I was old enough to apply as well, I did, and I got in. But we never ended up going to those arts classes together.

My brother stopped making art. I don’t entirely know why but I have a few theories. 

First of all, kids are mean. My brother was artistic, not athletic as a child. And they made fun of him and called him ‘gay’ or ‘feminine’ for enjoying art. He was pressured into doing more ‘manly’ things, and was socially conditioned to feel shame about his enormous artistic talent.

But even deeper than that, art pulls out deep emotions that arent always pleasant. Staring at a blank piece of paper and deciding what to draw can somehow bring out dark emotions that were under the surface. There’s a reason why- in our Drawing class at Duke- almost all of the assignments where we had free reign to pick a narrative, we chose death, destruction, and chaos. To be an artist may mean to feel things deeper than most others feel, or to be in contact with deeper parts of your mind more often. Art has a message and a purpose, and sometimes it can be painful and taxing in the process to create it. Just ask Van Gogh.



So maybe my brother stopped because it was just really depressing too.

But I didn’t stop making art. I continued to in small ways, whether it was weekend classes or choosing the more visual option for a school project, I continued to enjoy to draw and create. I often avoided making art depicting heavier topics though, as I didn’t want to pull out dark moods over an enjoyable activity.

And then, miraculously, after over a decade of avoiding anything arts-related, my brother re-picked up art. He is graduating in a few months from UC Santa Cruz, and in his time there, he realized that people celebrated art and envied his abilities. This environment encouraged him to create and praised his work. He started making art again- but not only that, he primarily made art for others. He would make elaborate posters for events, drawings as gifts for people, and so on. He would draw light, fun, vivid images and people loved it.

And I’m happy for him. While art may not be a dominant part of his life (or mine) anymore, he has rediscovered some element of himself that was shoved away. It’s always been fairly easy for me to keep art as a hobby. I wanted to take the Drawing class at Duke, and nobody made fun of me for it. I tended to avoid darker topics in my pieces anyway. But it was never that easy for him. It was always a source of discomfort or shame, and now it isn’t.


I’m really excited to bring my portfolio back home to show him over summer. After all of the improvement I’ve made over the course of this class, I might finally have something worthy of hanging on the wall of our art room that I made myself. Or maybe he’ll outdo me again. Honestly, I’m fine with either.

Thoughts on Drawing - Sam Toffler

I have always been intrigued by art and drawing. When I was in elementary school, I would constantly collect and learn from how-to-draw books. Even as early as the first grade, I can remember my friends asking me if I wanted to be an artist. When high school finally came around, I really wanted to get involved in art classes but none of them fit into my schedule. It was frustrating at the time, but I decided that taking a dedicated visual arts class would have to wait until college.

Now that I have finally taken a real class in visual arts, I couldn’t be happier. Drawing 199 exceeded my expectations in more ways than one. One of the things that surprised me the most was how much time I needed to dedicate to the class. Bill suggested spending roughly eight hours per week on drawing and now that I have finished the course I think that that is an understatement. In the beginning of the class, I would not have said the same; my drawings went rather quickly. But as the semester progressed forward and my schedule became more free, I realized that creating impressive artwork requires a ton patience and a ton of time. Given that I was pledging, I wish I was able to devote as much time and energy to the projects during from the beginning of the semester as I did to the projects at the end of the semester. Along with this patience and time commitment, my skills naturally improved tremendously. To see evidence of this, simply compare my earlier sketches to my later sketches. It never felt like I learned one new revolutionary technique at any given time, but there is still an astounding improvement.


After taking Drawing 199 at Duke, I really want to continue pursue classes in visual arts. At the current moment, I would like to at least complete a visual arts minor and perhaps even a major. Being creative is unique, fun, and relatively relaxing, and the courses that the visual arts program has to offer truly sound interesting. Even this summer I am heavily considering taking classes at the Art Students League of New York. Given the improvements that I made this semester alone, I can only imagine where further studies might take my abilities.

Nature's pen

The reason why I came to Duke is because of the immense academic freedom it had to offer. I have been drawing since a very young age, my father being an artist has led me to develop an aptitude in this domain. My interest in drawing had been growing stronger over the years and when a series of portraits I had done my senior year of high school got exposed at my city's house of Youth and Culture, I knew for sure I wanted to cary around a pencil and a sketchbook for the rest of my life. Drawing, to me is a very soothing, personal activity. Yet it can requires an inhumanly amount of patience and despite the control your hand might have over the pencil, sometimes the final result is not what you intended it to be. In other words, it is always a challenge and procures a great feeling of satisfaction which is why I am pursuing drawing in college.  
Growing up in Alps in the south of France however, has led me be as passionate and excited about another subject : The Environment. As a child, my brother and I spent hours out in the fields, pretending to be explorers saving endangered species, and I must admit, that childhood fantasy had turned into a real possibility when I started taking biology classes in high school, and it has now become my reality as I take marine science classes at Duke. If I were to stay in France for a higher education I would have had to integrate a very narrow minded academic system. I would have had to choose between the path of science and art, any possibility of doing a chemistry and drawing class in the same day would be absurd. Duke has offered the chance to flourish in both fields and become a scientist and artist. 

I have been having my doubts on weather or not such a unique diploma would get me anywhere, however whilst skimming through the pages of my Marine Megafauna book for class, I fell upon a set of unique drawings that clicked the switch of my mind's lightbulb. 






Ernst Hekel's work is truly amazing. I had never been exposed to drawings quite like his. He was a German biologist naturalist and artist who lived in during the 19th century. He was a medical and science student in Berlin before being a professor of zoology at Jena from 1865 until his retirement in 1909. Reading Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, which had been translated into German in 1860 completely changed his life. He began to manufacture "evidence" in order to bolster his views on evolution.  He was the first person to ever draw an evolutionary ‘family tree’ for mankind as well as the first to find answers to the link between inorganic and organic matter.

"Life History of a simplest organism"





"Cystoidea  aus Kunstformen der Natur, 1899"
"Copepoda - aus Kunstformen der Natur, 1899"
He maintained a strong point of view that science and art could expose the hidden truths of nature. By traveling the world with sketchpad and watercolors and a microscope he documented the coastal, marine and tropical ecosystems. In his selection of 100 colored lithographs published in 1904 under the name of Kunstformen der Natur, he reveals his ability to find the perfect balance between accuracy and idealization. The flamboyant colors and and very symmetrical patterns make the variety of aquatic creatures and vegetation he is documenting acquire a somewhat fantastical, psychedelic side. The level of detail and information about the organisms' body structure is almost unreal for an illustration the the 1900's. Most biologist would simply draw a rough sketch to have an approximation, a record of the organism they were studying, however Hekel strongly believed that morphology had aesthetic roots




Seeanemonen aus Kunstformen der Natur, 1899

His work is extremely meaningful and inspiring to me as a scientist and artist too. I think his lesson however should appeal to all : There will always be a place for people who trust themselves, and pursue what they love to do, not what appears to be more socially or financially benefiting.