The most influential lesson I have learned this semester in Drawing 199, is the importance of capturing essence.
Drawing something as realistically as a photograph takes not only talent, but also a lot of time spent observing, sketching, working, and reworking. It is a skill that is learned in years, not a single semester.
So, instead of trying to draw things realistically, my time this semester was spent fostering my appreciation for the power of essence. Art is about communicating to the viewer. You don’t have to draw a perfectly realistic cat for your viewer to understand it; you only have to draw the essence of a cat.
The proudest moment of my semester was when I not only captured the essence of a cat, but the essence of a specific cat, Tippy: my cousin’s pride and joy. Over Tippy’s pampered life, my cousin has treated her as nothing less than a peer. My cousin has personified her every action and tendency so I now understand Tippy as the Queen Bee. If asked to describe Tippy in one word, I think my cousin would choose ‘sassy.’
In my work titled, ‘My Grandparents’ Gift’ I depicted my Grandparent’s house on Block Island, RI. For numerous summers, my Grandparents have opened their doors and arms to extended family, family friends, and their respective pets. When I think of Block Island, I think of going to the beach, of whiffle ball games, of dinner tables filled with family and people who are considered family, of untouched natural spaces, and of course of my family’s spoiled but beloved animals.
When I think about Block Island, warmth spreads through every fiber of my being. My Grandparents’ Gift is not just the house they bought, and continued to expand solely with the intention of accommodating their grandchildren. Their gift is the whole Block Island Culture. They have given me a happy place: A place where worries fade, where everything I do is filled with a distinct lightness, and where I am surrounded by the people I love most.
That is the essence I wanted to capture in my work, which I think I did successfully. However, the essence that I captured most successfully was that of Tippy. The Block Island house serves as a backdrop, with the Irish flag flying proudly, and a whiffle ball game in progress in the foreground. Two dogs, Lilly and Scout, seem to be watching the game devotedly, yearning for attention. And then there is Tippy, walking away from the game, and from every other subject in the drawing, uninterested, with her tail up and nose high.
The day this work was due, I secured it to the board at the front of class. When it came time to critique and discuss my work, everyone was talking about ‘the cat.’ One of my classmates specifically said that she was getting the ‘sassy’ vibe, and that is when I knew I had been even more successful than I had hoped. Essence is about giving the viewer a certain vibe. Somehow, I had managed to make Tippy the focal point of my drawing, and to capture her essence perfectly, despite being the smallest subject spatially.
Before Drawing 199, I thought realistic art was the most impressive. Now, I would take the ability to capture the essence of my cousin’s sassy cat over drawing her realistically any day.