November 12, 2011

Look, don't look

From now on I'll just call it art torture. 

A few weeks ago I subjected the children in my daughter's second grade class to a perspective lesson, and blah blaah blaaah...I had a bunch to say about this, but I'm boring myself. Suffice to say that they were less than impressed.

Jump forward

This week  made them try to draw bizarre objects that I flashed on a screen for them for 1 min each (or maybe  bit more) - from memory. 

At first I had them then slowly came the scribbles and "I'm finished" and "this is boring!" and "Holly..I don't remember anything."

Oh really?????


"ART my friends, is NO picnic in the park...or luncheon on the grass...or Sunday stroll along the banks of some riverART my little friends, is HARD WORK, like any other discipline! And if you're going to be good you'll have to suffer like the best! Sometimes you'll be adrift, and some days it will make you feel weird
but by golly if I have anything to do with it, you will have exposure to different ways of making art and ways of translating your observations of the world that most people never get!"

I should have said that, but I didn't.

But then... Look...

This exercise didn't come out of any text book - it came from thinking long and hard about how we observe, and thinking about how to strengthen that ability to observe.

What I came up with was that having information taken from one, crucial information and in this case visual information, sharpens ones appetite for the information and subsequent attention to those details that might not be so desired had they not been taken away.

Does that make any sense?

And, going back and forth between looking and remembering while drawing, ultimately facilitates the widest range of artistic expression. 

And check out these Bots! I want to turn them all into t-shirts. Aren't they cool?

By the time we got to my last RIVETING object, a little Chinese hat, they were pretty much done, as was I.

There were no huge conclusions to be drawn, and I left feeling like "Shoot! I wish they liked this better!" and I've been thinking about that...that and the part where I couldn't figure out how to say what I wanted and stumbled head first into the great abyss tripping over my words, then thoughts...then I couldn't figure out how to end.

Then, several days later I start thinking about all the details I remember of exchanges I've had with some of my art teachers and artists I was around one way or another, from infancy and on: Joe Funk, Sam Francis, Maureen Murdock,  Elena Mary Siff, Ken Nack, Will McLean, Helen Chadwick, to name but a few.

Hey teachers! Even and especially you dead ones, yeah you Joe, Sam, Ken,'re still talking! And these amazing little people 5 million miles away from where you may be, or where we were - these little people are are taking little bits of you in and doing amazing things with some of the things you've taught me.

I'm sorry I'm not a better messenger.

And now I'm done, I mean really. I've turned to mush.

But wait - I have to say, through mascara soaked eyeballs now OUCH! that I'm especially thinking about Ken Nack because he taught me that life, all of it, can be art - if you want it to be. He emphasized over and over again that your experiences are what it's all about - that by god, if a student wasn't in class it was probably because they had to do laundry and that was sometimes just WAY more important than being in class that day. And...all those students missing in class after lunch in Florence? Well - it was hot out and these Italians and their butter...I'm sure, he would say, smiling and chuckling a bit, that it was the butter that did them in. 

So - from one generation of artists to another to another...thanks!


  1. This one's really good... makes me teary eyed and smiling.

  2. I think training kids to really 'see' something however briefly the image presents is a great idea. I feel that so many of us walk around on auto-pilot, we could all do with your lesson!

  3. Oh thanks guys! Rebekah - yeah, I got all teary thinking about these little things that get passed down from generation to generation. Beautiful specific nuggets.
    Alison - thank you! Yeah - that's what I'm trying to teach mostly, how to look at a thing, how to honestly observe whats around you and THEN how to translate that into, in this case, a drawing. I think the specificity with which we observe is as important, if not more so, than the specificity with which we respond. Second graders...ha! :)