Monday, November 30, 2015

In Pursuit of Art

When I was four, I realized I loved to draw. I doodled, I traced, I drew. And being a four year old, I had all the free time in the world to do exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to paint murals and tell stories with pictures. I wanted to be remembered like one of the giants – Picasso, da Vinci, O’Keeffe. But as I got older, art was slowly pushed away. In middle school, I was told that artists were poor and starving and to focus instead on something more practical. In high school, I was told to pursue a STEM career and to apply to an engineering school. I drew less and less, time spent previously now replaced by math homework and science projects. And when the time came, I committed to Duke’s engineering program.

Then, a month before I left for college, Duke asked me to type up a short paragraph on ‘future goals’ heading into college. I listed off the normal checklist: work in a lab, do research, get an internship, land a job in industry. And as I mulled over whether or not I had forgotten anything, it dawned on me that I had not drawn in years. So at the last minute, I slipped in a fifth goal: to rediscover art.

But as quickly as I had stepped foot on campus, I became inundated with work. Problem sets, tests, projects, papers. When one assignment finished, three more were waiting to be done. And just like that, art was once again neglected, pushed out of the collage of the more “important” things in life. One year passed. Two, and then three. By the end of junior year, I had checked off most of what I had hoped to do in college: I had majored in Mechanical Engineering, worked in a robotics lab, did independent research, interned in industry. But I had not rediscovered art.

And so senior year, I finally took this art class, many semesters overdue, to check off the final goal on my list and to make good on a promise to my four year old self that I would always keep art in my life.

Alex's Thoughts on Drawing

I took an art class in high school and really enjoyed it, but I guess I suffered then from the same problem I do now - I draw too fast.  I tried to slow things down on the last couple of assignments and I definitely feel as if I have improved, but I am still not too happy with my textures.  Drawing is fun and relaxing, although it sometimes feels weird since I'm used to studying for exams and doing problem sets, this was a different type of work that I wasn't really familiar with.

I really liked the last two assignments, although I feel more confident about my next-to-last drawing, if only because it didn't have trees or other objects with lots of texture.  I enjoyed seeing other people's drawings - they are incredibly talented and I wish I could draw like them.  However, maybe I will continue to practice drawing so that I can improve.

Although I expected the class to only use pencil, I really love using charcoal.  I love the contrast it creates and even though it's messy, it's my preferred drawing tool.  I never used charcoal in high school, so it was something new to me and I'm glad that we got to use it.

Drawing at Duke has been fun and I really enjoyed this class!

Thoughts On Drawing

Throughout my life time, I have never spent much time drawing. I have not even spent much time thinking about drawing. Drawing was such a different activity to me, and I always thought I would not enjoy it because I was so busy and interested with different sports. Taking this class has made me regret not thinking much about drawing, because I have been able to learn so much about myself through drawing.

At the start of this class I had no prior experience to drawing, and that definitely showed in my early drawings. As the class continued on, I believe I began to show many improvements in my drawings. I spent more and more time on each one, and began to grow happier and happier. I learned to use the techniques professor had taught us in previous weeks, and translate them into my drawings today. I am so interested in drawing now that I keep my own personal sketch book, something I could not see myself doing years ago.

My favorite drawing of the year was the Drawing From Photos drawing. I drew a barn in a field with a white fence in front. I spent hours on this drawing trying to prove to myself that the more time I spend, the happier I will be with my work. As I continued to work on this project, I began to realize that I have learned so much this semester because I could not of imagined myself drawing like this three months ago!

I took this class to explore in different areas that I had no prior experience in, and I am so glad I chose drawing!

Thoughts on Drawing

Prior to drawing at Duke, I was introduced to formal art making and drawing throughout my time in high school.  I have always loved to draw and doodle growing up, but I had never taken an intensive art class until my junior year of high school.  I learned the basic components of line drawing, shading and value but my grasp of the technique was limited.  For this reason, I preferred taking classes in painting and mixed media art as a high schooler as I was not confident in my ability to turn in a solely drawing portfolio.  However, after a couple years at Duke, I began to miss taking art classes.  As an Art History major, I have loved viewing and learning about the different artists and artworks, but I was missing that essential part of studying art such as the practice of art making.  To receive full credit for my major, I am required to take a Visual Arts class, and I am truly glad I decided to take Drawing.  It has allowed me to understand the many stages and practicalities involved with making major artworks.  While my classes have discussed in great detail the process involved with creating different works in multiple mediums, it is a unique experience to utilize these methods.  

In addition, I found that my afternoons in Drawing have really benefitted my semester and general schoolwork.  The sketchbook was my favorite component of the course. Throughout the semester, I have used my sketchbook as a place to produce small drawings and cartooning that distract me from some of my daily stresses.  It is evident from my sketchbook that I do love to draw cartoons.  When I was a child, I always tried to copy cartoons I saw from books and television, and even as a 21 year old, I enjoy reproducing images I see daily onto paper.  I have never liked tracing, and I think that has influenced my artwork. 

Moreover, I have enjoyed the the class’s variation in assignments. Each week, we were encouraged to produce works that engaged with many different areas of drawing. It was incredibly interesting to learn about the variations in technique and style from experience, rather than an academic classroom or textbook.  In conclusion, I definitely think my experience in Drawing has encouraged my creativity which is sometimes lost at Duke, as well as has impacted my studies as an Art History major.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thoughts on Drawing: Capturing Life

Prior to this course, I had only taken a studio art class in high school. I learned my teacher’s definition of the fundamentals of drawing which consisted of various techniques mostly shading. However, I became so focused on the technique that I lost the personality and emotions behind the pieces. I looked over my drawings from high school and they seemed dull and lifeless but precise. Conveying emotions in a creative way was one of the main reason that I wanted to learn how to draw so I focused on developing this skill over the course of the semester. I focused on not only conveying an object in my drawing but also conveying life. I quickly learned that even inanimate objects can express life through their arrangements. I also learned that arrangements can tell stories.

For the first assignment, I gathered random objects and assembled them on the trunk in my room. 
After a few minutes of sketching, I began to lose interest in my drawing. I noticed that as my interest decreased, the quality of drawing decreased as well. I removed all of the objects from my trunk and tried to start over. I reflected on how I could connect with the viewer of my drawing. What emotions do I want them to feel? How will someone experience this piece? How will someone better understand me by seeing this drawing? Since there were no titles for the line drawings, I was forced to challenge myself and think of how to convey more than a title and more than a random assortment of objects. I tried to brainstorm the type of experience that I wanted to capture but I immediately started thinking of titles instead of emotions and creating personality. I realized that titles can often distract people when they experience a drawing because they are constantly trying to connect each decision that the artists made back to the title. I looked around my room and began to notice objects that evoke a sense of pride. I saw my djembe drum and thought about how it symbolizes pride in my heritage and memories of playing it with my family. The shape of the drum added circular shapes in contrast to the rigid edges of the trunk. Although the drum is wrapped in a kente cloth that has rectangular shapes, I wanted to capture the curves in the body of the drum so I chose to highlight the round elements. I thought about how other objects could play off of the shape of the drum and which objects evoked a sense of pride. I selected an elephant from my collection of elephants because it connects with my heritage and being of African descent. I also selected because it added movement by capturing the elephant while it is walking. I continued to build up upon my original vision of pride and culture and add more objects. I thought about how my arrangement could tell a story about me.
These first few drawing helped to understand how to build a drawing. It requires an intense intentionality that I had not been taught in my previous courses. I had to start with the blue print and think about the message that I wanted to convey but also be comfortable with leaving room for interpretation. I stopped rushing into my drawing and always started with first defining the personality of the piece. It became much easier to apply the techniques that I learned in this course and my high school course when I knew what direction I was heading in my drawings. It also became much more enjoyable when I had a vision while drawing. In order to remind myself to capture personality and life in a drawing, I began to think of drawing as a language and the different techniques and elements are words so the drawing must always be legible and understandable. The drawing must be so legible that the viewer can read your experience and create their own interpretation possibly based on their own life.

Although a blank page can be intimidating, one of the many lessons that I learned from this drawing course is how to make my drawings come off the page, come to live and tell stories. These stories can be from my own life or evoke a feeling like pride. After developing these skills in the earlier assignments, it became much easier to draw pieces that we had to title or when we had to capture a particular scene. I was able to always keep the viewer’s experience in mind and connect the drawing to my overall vision.

Thoughts on Drawing

I didn’t come into this class expecting too much, but feel like I’m leaving with so much more. I used to draw quite often in Middle School, but besides my extensive doodles in my economics notebooks, I hadn’t done much since then.

However, I’ve always appreciated art, especially in its more complex forms. As a visual and media studies minor, I have loved getting to learn the intricacies behind graphic design and how the technology and art have increasingly interacted to sometimes distort and sometimes clarify our perception of the world around us.

While my work with media has become more and more complex, I think it was really important for me to take a step back and bring it back to just pencil and paper. I think one of the hardest parts for me was once again being forced to deal with the tiny imperfections that make art so beautiful. With drawing, there is no “undo” button and lines just never seem to turn out perfectly straight, and that’s totally okay.

My favorite drawing of the semester was by far the final fictional drawing. I decided to depict Harry Potter Elements on the Gothic West campus. I think the drawing capture many of the skills that I have learned throughout the semester. I consciously created dense texture in the grass and roof while using contrasting shades to draw attention to different elements. I also tried to create a distinct foreground, mid-ground, and background, which some of my previous drawing lacked.

I feel like I definitely improved throughout the semester and many of these skills have translated positively into my other fields of work, art related and otherwise. I’ve started to once again sketch out idea before starting my graphic designs and even mapping out my web design ideas with color pencils before I even write a single line of code.

Drawing has been a relaxing part of my week and gives me time to think and see things in a different way. My sketchbook still has blank pages waiting to be filled.

Final Reflection

I learned so much from this drawing class. I not only learned how to capture and depict the distinctive qualities and portions of various objects, people, architecture, and landscape, but I also got to learn more about me: my strengths and weaknesses as well as my drawing style. I’ve always loved art ever since I was a little kid. In high school, I graduated with the honor of taking the most number of art classes in my class. From Rococo to contemporary art to almost all types of artistic styles and genres in between, art always found its way to my heart and to be frank, really made a mark in my so called life.

Although I’ve taken various drawing classes in the past, this drawing class really taught me how to pay attention to the perspective. The first couple of class periods, the greatest lesson I learned was the importance of paying attention to what I see instead of what I think I should see. I feel like my drawing improved so much once I almost “scientifically” observed the study objects and planned out the approximate placements of these objects in portion to my paper. I also really liked how we practiced doing the study drawings before working on final drawings. Although I at first thought doing two drawings for one final piece was slightly pointless and was a waste of time, it was actually ended up saving my time, as I knew exactly what to change, add, or take out for my final drawing.

I would like to think there’s a certain style to the way I draw. The way I use different kinds of lines, how I maneuver different shades using graphite and charcoal, and compose my objects on a paper all reflect and point towards my personal, stylistic qualities. Taking this class really allowed me to confirm this stylistic aspect of my work and also derive certain strengths and limitations from this self-discovery. I think it really allows my drawing to stand out and be distinctive from others, despite me being not at all technically advanced. But at the same time, it sometimes works as my disadvantage in that all my drawings give off a similar vibe no matter what the composition of my drawing may be. In the future, I think really studying different styles of drawing and practicing these different styles to personalize them as my own will help me break my stylistic mold. This class allowed my arsenal of techniques to expand and grow, and I’m hoping that in the near future my arsenal of styles will diversify as well.

I also appreciated all the comments I received from my classmates and Professor Fick. It was really interesting to hear and learn about different perspectives shared by my fellow classmates about my work and each other’s work. I also loved looking what my classmates drew each assignment and listening to their stories of how they went about in producing their work. Last but not least, I also would like to share some of my other works I’ve done in the past. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thoughts on Drawing: Capturing Essence

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.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

My thoughts on drawing

My approach to drawing and art in particular changed drastically after having taken this course. I have no real experience with art - I have never really bothered to pick up a pencil to draw anything in my life. But now, after this class, I understand, little by little, what it means to appreciate art. Art is not tangible, nor is it possible to define it. The best way to understand art, and ultimately beauty, is to accept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I grew up exposed to musical art, through piano and songs, but it never occurred to me that drawing would be something that I would enjoy. As I approach graduation, I realized that after Duke, I will not have any opportunity to try drawing. With this in mind, I took this class and I am glad I did. Perhaps the most fundamental lesson from this class is that no matter how skilled you are at drawing, it is always possible to express what you see with art. There is no skill limitation to the message you convey through drawing. I am now able to see objects and shapes as their lines and shapes - the angles and the shadows they make. I can understand the objects and make it mine so that I can take my personal interpretation of the object and apply it onto canvas or paper.

This class reminds me of the AMI film class I am taking. They both approach the utilization of art to express everyday life using different yet similar mediums. Film and drawing are different in the sense of dynamic versus static. I personally think that drawing is more complex - trying to capture the essence and stillpoint in life. Both classes have taught me how to appreciate the simple, mundane aspects of life; even the smallest of objects can become masterpieces with the right interpretation and presentation.

I think the best advice I can give students like me who are science/engineering majors and have not been exposed to art or drawing is to accept the fact that in drawing and art, there is no right or wrong. There is no "correct" way to draw something. In the same vein, there is no "wrong" drawing. It is imperative to let go of the binary mentality of right & wrong so ingrained into student's minds and just accept art as a free-flowing medium. It empowers you to step out of your comfort zone and express what you see in the world.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My thoughts on drawing

This class has changed the way I think about a lot of things. When I walk around campus, I’m more aware of the lines and values that come together to make the scene in front of me. I see the detail and intention in the architecture of our academic buildings, residential areas, and recreation facilities. What is interesting to me is how my perspective on drawing itself – drawing as a practice – has changed as well.

Before this semester, I had never really given drawing much thought. I just assumed some people were good at it while others weren’t. And I thought that the people who were good at drawing, were good at drawing because they could copy down what was in front of them accurately. But now I see that it’s a lot more than that. It’s not about duplication, or even representation. This class has challenged me to view my pencils, charcoal, and even erasers as the tools I use to create my own interpretation of what I see. And there are infinite ways I can do that, even for a single scene. I can change the entire context of a drawing by how I cast the shadows, how dark I make the lines, how much weight I give to the background.

This idea reminds me of the photography class I took last semester. The landscape is what it is, and there isn’t much you can do as a photographer or as a sketch artist to change it. But what is amazing is the number of ways that landscape can be presented. Just as two photographers can create starkly different images of the same scene by focusing on different elements, varying the scope, or standing from a different vantage point, we can do the same with our drawings.

There’s not a single, correct way to take what you see and present it on paper, and that’s what makes drawing so freeing and challenging at the same time. I think it highlights how each of our minds are so beautifully different and how all of our perspectives are needed to really see and understand the world we live in. 

My Takeaway from Drawing Class

About a year and a half ago, I picked up a pencil and started to teach myself to draw. I started making art for fun in my free time and tried to improve at this hobby. I would doodle and often just make marks on the page until it started to look like something -- often abstract or surreal in nature. This year, I decided I was good enough to take a class and that I might benefit from guided practice. In the ten weeks since I started this class, I have not only seen a very noticeable improvement in my real-life drawing skills, but I also learned how to see the world in a whole new way.
Using perspective to see how lines and curves actually look vs. how I expect them to look has made a huge impact on my artwork. Before this class, I would simply draw what I felt was correct. This resulted in a lot of abstraction because I could not get shapes to match up with real life. After only a few weeks of practicing techniques like measuring distances and angles by holding the pencil at arms length in front of my eyes, I have gained a much better perspective for putting the world onto paper.
Before taking this class, I was nervous that signing up for it would make my hobby into work. While this class has occasionally required me to draw for longer than I would like (and therefore occasionally made it feel more like a chore than fun) I am glad I signed up for it. I now have many tools in my learning box from which I can continue to build on and improve. This class helped me learn to be a better designer and I hope to continue learning these techniques in the future.

Thanks for a great class, Professor Fick

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Drawing at Duke: Blog Assignment #2

Coming into the class as an engineer, I felt like I wouldn't be on the same level as a lot of the other students in the class. The most drawing I'd done in my engineering design classes were sketches of free body diagrams and maybe a few 3D models. This year I took two ARTSVIS classes - this one and Digital Imaging. It was challenging for sure and took a lot of time/work, but I definitely enjoyed the change of pace from the typical yet endless engineering lectures, labs, and problem sets. I soon found out that you can really make some work that you'll be proud of if you spend enough time erasing and re-doing, trying and trying again. However frustrating the class may have been at times, I certainly felt that I learned a lot from the experience. Although in my future I will probably not produce drawing/sketches worthy of publication and the like, I believe the class has and will help me a lot as a full-time engineer: it will give me a sense of pride and confidence in my drawing abilities as well as provide me with a method of communication with pictures not just numbers and words.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Blog Assignment #2: Thoughts on Drawing

     I have always loved art and have thought of it as very significant part of my life. I have tried to the best of my ability to work on it throughout my nineteen years. When I was nearing the end of my high school career I was nervous because I didn’t think that I would have time to dedicate to art and quite frankly the ability “to stick to it”.

     Freshman year I realized how much I missed working on art and constantly made plans to go to the Arts Annex but never followed through on the plans, which is exactly what I feared would happen. Eventually, during December break I started following a local student artist on Instagram and absolutely fell in love with her work. After seeing her work, I wished to be creating work of my own and immediately decided that I would “get back into it”.

     Before coming back to school for the Spring semester, I gathered all my art supplies from home, bought a new pack of drawing pens and a fresh sketchbook. I told myself that  I would make myself draw a few times a week at the very least. I didn’t have to. Once I started again I couldn’t stop. I wanted to be sketching and drawing all the time and while I was always aware of my love of art, I once again gained a deeper appreciation for it.

     During this time I also decided to take an art class during the next semester, in further effort to continue practicing. I really have loved this class and enjoyed it very much and am so glad I made the decision to take it. I find that as my classes are getting harder I have less and less time to dedicate to drawing but taking a class in it really helps me set time aside for it.

     At this point I am planning on taking another art class next semester, a painting class and hope to end up minoring in Visual Arts. As I move through my time in college I anticipate learning a lot more about art, developing my skills and hopefully just maintaining my connection to this wonderful discipline.