Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thoughts on drawing

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!  


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  2. Hi, this is this exact definition of random--I don't know who you are except that you may 'draw at Duke’ (University, I presume), but your analysis of Schiele's art and technique is well done, and I couldn't agree more on his use of line and perspective as means to his end of exploring life's frail, ephemeral qualities.

    So, to skip a (slight) beat on the subject, I'm exploring myself more and more deeply of myself--sometimes catching a True glimpse of the (without a lack of a better, more unique saying), as Hegel explored in his book titled so, 'The Phenomenology of [my] the Spirit' (if you haven't read it, or at least know of it or know why it was written (i.e. who cares (one may ask))?

    And so, getting back to my 'who cares?' reason for writing this post, in exploring myself and unexpectedly stumbling on Schiele again (I should admit, I was originally viscerally averted from his work, because of the outward portrayal of his popularized works of unnecessary, primitive and crude use of sexuality's qualities), I'm finding, through my use—or sometimes just plain being an observer and not necessarily creating something material—of perspective and line in my own, art and life are exposing to me a kind of understanding (especially my lack thereof lol) about Truth in existence--not some fact regurgitated or etc. concerning life, but rather something like a moment/experience in life could be seemingly trivial to one, yet the defining moment/realization/‘Eureka!’/moment of another's life at the same time! It always comes in an intense ephemeral way, like a wind that kisses your cheek or like when you see that most beautifully colored sunset over a sea. And it’s that ephermal quality about it, at least to me, that makes it so important to me, that I ruminate on it very carefully for hours and maybe days, months at a time—that moment of such intense inspiration that it’s damned nearly an obsession. I hope we all reach a constant state of that kind of Truth one day, I hope before we may be unable to appreciate it. Btw, I’m reading a lot of Kerouc (especially ‘The Dharma Bums’ and ‘Big Sur’ and the likes), even though I was also drawn off about him, because I pinned him as simply a materialist, hedonist, and someone that’s more about exploring the sensuousness of life, ignoring the more deep qualities of why we are, what is Truth, and where can I find it….