Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Its Figurative

I was fortunate enough to land a seat in Chris Gargan's summer figure drawing class. The class was three weeks long, with 8 hours of classtime per day. Some people freaked a little when I told them about the commitment, but for me it was great, even waking up at 5:30 am to get there on-time was worth it. This is the 37th year that Chris has taught the class, and he has developed a curriculum and style of delivery that is unique to him. Like me, Chris has a background in education, he got his Art Education degree and also his MFA from UW Madison. He worked as a teacher in the public schools before taking his post at MATC (I believe that they renamed the school Madison College, but it will always be MATC to me)

The class was very interesting to me because I got to see how he teaches, knowing what I know after graduating with a degree in art ed. Chris doesn't merely lecture, or demonstrate, or set the time for the pose, he actively participates in the education of his students. He does this in several different ways. For instance, the study of anatomy might not be of interest for some students, and some demonstrations might get a little long (not for me, but remember, I'm super interested). Instead of merely allowing students to die on the vine (technical educational term) and pass off responsibility onto the students, Chris takes the responsibility onto himself. He will follow some technical information with a funny story that relates to what he is teaching, which acts as a tie down in his students minds, and keeps them awake.

We covered a lot of ground in the class. We never stuck with a media for more than one day. We drew in several traditional medias including: Charcoal, Conte, Ballpoint Pen (is this traditional? It's sweet), Pen and Ink, Heightened Charcoal, Ink Wash, Pen and Ink Heightened with White Gesso, Acrylic, and Watercolor.

My favorite day of class, was when Chris gave his lecture on aesthetics. He contrasted the illustrative work of Stanislav Prokopenko with the visual economy Sherrie McGraw. Chris, of course has a deep respect for anyone who can draw at Proko's level, but asked his students to anaylize the content and feeling that they got from each of their work. This led many to convert to the McGraw edge of the spectrum. It was moments such as these that set the class above others figure room experiences that I have had. To be able to discuss the subjective nature of aesthetics with a class of 20 somethings, and to have them walk away with new, substantial ideas, was impressive.

Anybody around me knows that I am hungry to take my drawing skills to the next level, it can only lead to better paintings. I am not a naturally skilled drawer. Let me rephrase that, my temperment is not one that naturally facilitates skillful drawing. Some drawing media, like pencils, or ballpoint pen are just so small, that it's not easy to cover a large surface. I paint with big brushes, because I like to be able to do things quickly and broadly, and then move in for the specifics.So, some people are good at drawing, with those tiny pencils and pens, and because Chris has taught the class so often, he recognized that I am not, and showed me ways to combine my painterly ways with the techniques that he taught .

I know that I got my money's worth out of the class. I would pay just to hang out with Chris. I feel fortunate that he is my friend, and that he let's me tag along with him to go out painting. If you are a painter, or drawer, or sculpter, or whatever you are, who wants to take your work to the next level, do it. Figure out one component skill of the media that you are working with that you would like to improve upon, put it into words, and then attack it with passion.


We made sketchbooks in the screenprinting and binding department

My friend, Nick Loveland, and Chris showing the class how to bind the sketchbooks.


Chris giving a pen and ink demo

Pen and ink, with wash heightened with gesso.

Chris setting up for a two color acrylic demo.

I used baltic blue and yellow ochre in this piece.