Monday, April 28, 2014

I have mixed feelings about drawing at Duke, as I do with most everything here. This was the class I was most nervous for.  Academics I knew, but I'd spent my life convincing myself that I don't have an artistic side.  And maybe I don't have a good artistic side, but I found a part of myself that found it very relaxing to sit quietly in a room with 12 other people and know that they were seeing the same thing - almost - as you, and yet were probably experiencing the moment quite differently.  I loved finding proportions (I have a geometric mind), but I'll never forget the moment I felt like I'd shaded something almost well!  I loved the class when we went outside and did a landscape, and the Nasher visit was as strange and fun and informative as I thought it would be.
So my mixed feelings don't come from the class.  But I went through a rough semester, got behind on my drawings, didn't have the energy to do them, and rarely went to class.  The weekly assignments became a source of stress, and that was when I really came to realize how much effort it takes to draw.  I don't mean because I was sick, just in general.  When you tell someone you're taking drawing, it sounds so light and fun and easy.  And it can be light and fun, but it's certainly not easy.  I have a whole new level of respects for artists of all sorts.  Even though I technically knew how hard the worked, how much they practiced, I generally used to admire their talent beyond anything else.  I still do, but I can barely imagine the heart and soul that goes into being really good.  So, interestingly, I think I will say that this class challenged me the most this semester.  I took English and Polisci and Econ, but those I had at least a passing familiarity with.  I knew the type of work that went into them.  But it was drawing, which sounds so innocuous, that gave me some of the most pleasant and simultaneously hardest memories of the year.
Thanks, Bill.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Thoughts on Drawing

By Lynea Bull

Drawing this semester has given me the opportunity to work art into my life a little more. These past 4 years at Duke haven't really allowed for me to keep up with art and playing music so it was really nice to get back into it. I was a little skeptical because I enjoy more imaginative/fantasy/cartoon drawings and still life has never been something I've enjoyed. I still don't enjoy still life drawings of inanimate objects. And I especially don't like backgrounds. I think that's mostly because I'm not used to taking so much time and putting so much effort into something that isn't in the foreground or the main figure in the drawing. However, I've learned that I am capable of drawing backgrounds for my drawings. The assignments where we worked in mid-ground and background images into the drawing really helped me out.

I've also learned that I'm not fond of using charcoal at all. I find it really messy and can't seem to figure out how to keep the rest of my drawing clean. I actively avoided it after the one assignment that required it. I might take a stab at it again, sometime this summer, but I don't really see myself getting too invested in using it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this semester. I was so happy to get to draw again. At times, especially when I was feeling the heat of a deadline, drawing for class felt like a chore. Most times, it was very enjoyable. It reminded me of what I used to like doing in high school and it made me really happy. There's a sense of fulfillment you can get from finishing a drawing and being satisfied with its outcome (in whole or even just little parts of the drawing), and I really missed that.

Thoughts on Drawing

Drawing throughout this semester was a scary, intimidating, experience but overall one that I am extremely grateful for. When I considered taking this class, I thought of how much I loved painting with acrylics on canvas. I hoped that some of that feeling would translate into drawing, and that some of my previous experience would as well.

After the first class I realized that while similar in some ways, drawing is a completely different sport. My messy brushstrokes translated into a more messy and dirty drawing. But it was in transitioning from one to another that I found so much joy in the actual struggle of learning a new skill this semester. One of my biggest challenges was making my work neat and my shading not overly expressive. Through doing this and consciously evaluating this skill on every piece, I think I vastly improved and more importantly, came to own my own style of dawning and shading. 

My favorite tool that I learned this semester was using negative space. While the negative space looked amazing when filled in with deep velvety charcoal, it was the skill set I gained in learning how objects related to one another that I used for the remainder of the semester. I was able to more accurately draw objects because the space between them became more accurate.

I sometimes felt intimidated by the skills my classmates possessed. Also, some weeks I was just off and wasn't able to produce a final drawing that I was 100% satisfied with. But I am unable to deny how much my classmates pushed me to be better, and how I began to understand throughout the semester the amount of time needed to dedicate to each piece in order to accomplish fully what I was capable of. I am excited to continue drawing in my sketchbook and this summer work on even bigger pieces at home. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thoughts on Drawing

       I started to get into drawing when I was around 12 years old. I didn't have much experience at the time and only did drawing because I took art classes throughout middle and high school. My drawing started to develop when I got into high school and had time to do more sketches in my free time. My drawing style then was very concise and I would spend more than a few weeks on a drawing. I had some pretty decent sketches but I spent most of my time doing paintings so I never really developed my drawing style. I really enjoyed taking this class because it forced my to draw every week and even if some of my drawings weren't as great as I thought they would be, from this class, I slowly learned how to create a good drawing during short period of time. It forced me to become more expressive in my and learn how to make various marks with a pencil that would say a lot in the drawing with very minimal effort and I even looked up some techniques of artists who know how to create a picture that told a lot with very minimal drawing marks. In my opinion, becoming a great artist requires patience and diligence by spending hours upon hours making art and learning from others how to make your art better each time. From this class, I learned from other artists and my peers how to better portray a narrative in my work My favorite aspect of the course was having a sketchbook and going to Duke gardens every week to sit down and sketch for an hour or two and forget about everything else that was happening in my life. Art is my form of zen where I forget about everything else and focus on the moment.

Drawing this Semester

This semester, I've learned a lot about drawing. I came in, barely able to draw a smiley face, and I found the first study drawings inordinately difficult. I remember finding a simple water bottle's curves too complicated initially, and i had to use a ruler to draw anything longer than a few inches. But as the semester went on, I progressed through shading, drawing through photos, until the final drawing which is a work I am proud of.

One thing I learned was how useful graphite was, and how fluid charcoal is. I found charcoal very difficult to use; though it produced gorgeous black shades, it was a medium that moved. I seem to be unnaturally clumsy when it comes to keeping my canvas clean, and so charcoal was difficult for me to use. This was especially clear in the empirical perspective drawing; i made the mistake of starting the shading with charcoal, which made the entire canvas messy. But I later found the use of 8B graphite pencils a great substitute for charcoal.

I also learned how difficult shading could be, but how it could immensely improve the drawing. My initial attempts at shading now look like a mess; my only prior exposure to art was photography, where shades are not of paramount importance. My initial attempts at shading tried to make entire surfaces the same shade, which i later realized was unrealistic. Accurate shading darkens in grades, which was something I learned when drawing a dumbell for the shading with eraser drawing

Overall, My drawing ability has dramatically improved this semester. I've enjoyed my journey into drawing somewhat competently, and had a great time

I'm really glad that I got to take this class and developed my drawing skills. As a fashion enthusiast, I've always found that drawing was a necessary skill that I had to learn in order to make mood boards, designs, styling and possibly go on to fashion school at some point. I've always been able to visualize my designs and styling, however, struggled with putting them on paper. This probably comes from the fact that I've never taken a drawing class. To be honest, I took this class hoping I could learn some drawing skills that I could apply to styling and fashion design, but was quite sad when I found the first assignments to be a lot different than I expected. I really struggled because I did not know how to shade or even add depth at all. Towards the end of the class, while working on these last drawings I noticed how much my drawing had improved and how much I had learned in the class and realized that all of these techniques that we learned, one by one, really improved my drawing skills as the weeks progressed, and that these are the foundations of drawing.

I really liked the last two drawings because I love being creative, and was able to do what I like which is style and really creating an image. I was really inspired and spent hours flipping through magazines, styling and picturing the image - where each model should be, what type of background to look for, ... I really wish we had gotten more of these types of assignments. I was really inspired by both of these drawings, but what I loved most about it was finally being able to put my ideas down on paper. So, thank you professor Fick for making me be able to do that.

Hopefully, if my academics permit I will be able to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp which is why I've been working so hard. There, I will be able to take more drawing classes which will be geared specifically to styling and fashion design, and I will be able to develop my skills further.

All in all, I really enjoyed this class and am really happy I was able to learn so much from it.
Thanks gain and have a great summer professor Fick!

Reflections on Drawing

I have always loved making art. I've kept sketchbooks intermittently throughout my life and often turned to art in making gifts for friends and family. Until taking this class, though, I'd never really had any formal instruction in art (I took a couple art classes in high school, but they were really in the style of come-in-and-do-whatever-you-want).
As an engineering major here at Duke, I haven't gotten to take classes that allow me to express the artistic side of myself much at all. When I finally had an open class spot in my final semester, I excitedly filled it with a class that I knew I would fully enjoy.
I've really appreciated that this class dissected drawing and forced me to examine all aspects of the process from line to considering space to adding shading and value. I had never really considered these separate aspects of drawing before, and I think that I have seen significant improvements in my drawing abilities over this semester. At first this was somewhat difficult for me, especially when we were instructed not to use any shading (because shading is my favorite part of drawing), but looking back I can certainly see the value in considering and practicing each artistic element that is included in a drawing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Reflection on Drawing

This semester has been very interesting for me in terms of developing my drawing skills. I did enter the class with some prior experience in art. It was sometimes difficult for me to revert back to a few of the simpler techniques, such as line drawing- I felt that my art didn't look complete without shading. However, I feel that over the course of the semester, my abilities as an artist have greatly increased.

Drawing has always been my favorite form of art. It is so precise and I love sculpting every last detail of whatever is in front of me, with just the tip of a pencil. It is time consuming, but very rewarding. My favorite part of drawing is always being able to look at the end product- it will always be there to reassure you that your time was worth it.

At the beginning of the semester, this class consumed my weekends as I was spending almost 8 hours on drawings. I am a perfectionist- I have a hard time producing work that I know is messy and loose. However, by the second half of the semester, especially when we ventured into drawing from photographs, I learned to let go of my obsession with precision. I was pushed out of my comfort zone and had to rely on my imagination to blend images together, filling in the details of pixelated photos rather than drawing what was directly in front of me. In addition, I started to use charcoal instead of pencil- which gave more contrast in my drawings, but left more room for error. Charcoal was harder to erase, and it was extremely difficult for me to draw precise lines. Despite these difficulties, I feel that I developed my skills in the use of charcoal, which wouldn't have happened if I didn't take this class. In my sketchbook, I did a series of charcoal drawings without using any eraser- this was extremely unusual for me to do willingly, but I felt that it would be useful to have the practice.

This class has forced me to expand into areas outside of my comfort zone, and hopefully with more practice I will continue to hone my drawing skills.

Thoughts on Drawing

Looking back over the course of this semester, I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned from this drawing class. Aside from the doodles I used to draw out of boredom, I had never had any formal or informal drawing experience. I remember the first time we sat down to draw from observation in the beginning of the semester. I had NO idea what I was doing. I was actually pretty nervous about it. But then as time went on, I began to pick up some intuitive techniques alongside the things we were actually learning in class. I’m just really excited that I can see a legitimate improvement in my drawing. When looking at my drawings and the pieces produced by my classmates, I realize that I have a long way to go in my “drawing career.” I’ll admit that it was often intimidating, and even discouraging, to walk in and see the beautiful pieces that my classmates had made hanging next to my drawing. But despite that, it’s nice to know that I am capable of doing this (albeit, to a lesser extent than my peers) as long as I put the work in.

Of all the techniques we’ve studied, I’d say that drawing with charcoal and using the eraser as a tool have been the most useful in jump staring my drawing. I’ve grown very fond of the fluidity and painterly-like aspect of charcoal, and using the eraser as a blending tool has made this art seem much more feasible.

Like I said, I had no drawing experience prior to this course. But I am so excited because this class has introduced me into this world of drawing in a way that I doubt I could have done on my own. Not only do I have the materials that I need to actually do the work, but I also have learned classic techniques that I think will go with me over the years. Considering how time consuming these pieces can be, I worry that I won’t be able to keep up the practice as diligently once the course is over. But I hope that I can at least apply what I’ve learned in Art 199 to whatever drawings I do. 


This course has been an awesome opportunity for me to learn about drawing and additionally learn about my own weaknesses/strengths and how to improve.  Previous to this course, my only drawing background came from doodling in notebooks and some sketchbooks with the occasional drawing for work before muscle dissections. I had never heard anything about the different ways of varying line weights or how to use charcoal or proper composition of a piece. Now I hope to carry this knowledge forward and continue practicing in my sketchbooks and transition from mindless doodles to pieces that actually resemble my intended drawing.

Additionally, I've always been extremely afraid to draw large pieces. I didn't want to waste materials, or look like a fool for not using them properly. Through this course I now have the materials I need and an understanding that I can do something with them. I look forward to continuing to draw things that I love to look at.

Though this course ended up being a much more significant time investment than I had expected, I enjoyed all of the time spent and really believe that I gained a lot. I will definitely recommend it to my peers, though I will recommend against taking it with Physics.

Drawing Reflections

This semester I was able to explore my artistic side. I enrolled in the class because I wanted to develop my drawing skills. Given the choice between painting and drawing, I would always choose painting. My style is looser and more expressionistic. I worked hard to control my drawing especially through the line drawings. I also have improved in pushing values. Towards the end of the semester I have come back to my expressionistic style. However, it is stronger and I am more comfortable with my style. I have also reconfirmed that I like drawing directly from what is in front of me instead of creating my own scenes. I find something calming in drawing what is right in front of me. I really have to take in my surroundings.

I have fully enjoyed taking this class.

Anyone Can Be An Artist

A friend sent me this today after a semester of seeing me struggle through my weekly drawings and criticize myself more harshly than I should. Thinking back on the semester, I found it appropriate to include this image in this final blog post.

On the very first day in the beginning of the semester I was immediately intimidated by many of the other students with far more artistic background than myself. Drawing the first study drawing in class, I was shy about my art, I didn't want to show it to anyone, and I was afraid to open myself to criticism because I already so harshly criticized myself. I thought, sure I've dabbled in ceramics before, but drawing is nothing like that and there is no way that I am possibly going to do well in this class with my background, I am a physics major, this has been a horrible mistake.

But despite those thoughts, I stayed in the class because I still thought drawing might be fun, and soon enough I found myself starting to enjoy drawing and actually liking of some of my pieces. The week after that first day, my study drawings were hung in the front of the room. In my mind, in comparison to the other student's mine were so bad and I walked in thinking oh goodness why why why is mine up there. But after listening to Professor Fick talk about what each drawing he had hung had to offer, I started to feel a just little better.

By the end of the semester I started working with charcoal for the first time and pushing values as I gained more confidence in what I had learned. I found this class a lot more enjoyable than I ever expected. I loved composing my final pieces, my criticisms became much more healthy and constructive, and I was less afraid to share what I created with others.

But the picture that I posted above doesn't mean to say that I now think that drawing is easy. Or that any art is easy.
What is does mean is that I think that you can gain skills in anything if you really put your mind to it and really practice. With an open mind and the will to work hard, anyone can create art that they can be proud of and want to share with others. I think that's the most important thing that I learned from this class and it's something that I'll take with me in my future classes at Duke. If I ever walk into a new class and feel the same discomfort I did in the beginning of this semester, I'll remind myself that not everyone can be an expert at everything right away and that all I can do is try my best and hope to gain something out of the experience.

The lessons I learned from drawing this semester go far beyond just drawing ability or developing an artistic style. The lessons that I learned about being more open and confident in the future are ones that I will take with me beyond this class and far into the future in my life.

So, as the picture says, anyone can be an artist, all you have to do is not be afraid to make some art.

Minshu's thoughts on drawing

This class kicked my butt, and I think the most challenging thing was finding the motivation to draw things in great detail for final drawings. My main reason for taking this class was to have a semester of drawing under my belt in (potential) preparation for graduate school in landscape architecture/landscape design. Because drawing in this field is so project-oriented, I think in my own mind I get lazy about drawing that doesn’t serve a clear project or purpose. Drawings for landscape architecture also tend to be quick and more of sketches, with much of the design work then being done on a computer. So I also have this conception of drawing being the initial step in a design process, and I am always trying to rush to another stage further along in the process.
This is not to say that I don’t appreciate drawing as an artistic process and medium; I love watching other people draw and seeing drawn art, but I just don’t seem to have the patience to draw my own work. As far as personal art goes, I am also a photographer, so I think I’ve gotten used to the instant gratification that comes with taking and editing a photo. I do love that drawing, like photography and other artistic processes, are really calming for me, and require an effortless focus once I get into a certain rhythm. I just wish I had more time for drawing and because I usually don’t, I tend to start feeling impatient.

- Minshu

My Reflection on Drawing- by Stephanie Downey

I enjoyed drawing this semester for a number of reasons: the ability to experiment with different techniques, the joy of expression, and the feeling of pride in my creations. These are simply a few of the reasons that come to mind. More than anything though, I love drawing for the endless challenge it represents. I imagine that I will always feel a sense of restlessness, wanting more and more realism in my drawings, and this will make drawing a hobby that I will always pursue, as it isn’t possible to ever achieve perfection.

Though I enjoy drawing as an activity, I am particularly fond of viewing the drawings of others as an art form in its own right. After completing this course, I realized that learning more about how to draw (and coming to understand just how difficult it is) has made me appreciate the drawings of others much more. For instance, I have found it very difficult to use charcoal well and also have difficulty adding detail to drawings (such as the texture of the stone buildings in my landscape drawings of Duke or the texture of trees). After failing to achieve my desired results in these areas, I was able to better appreciate my classmates’ work, as well as the drawings below (each of which exhibits a use of texture/ charcoal that I appreciate because I have yet to achieve such mastery):

As far as the course itself is concerned, I have truly enjoyed getting to see how creative my classmates are. This is especially true with the last few assignments, in which we were allowed to draw from photographs and create a fictional drawing. I also enjoyed the emphasis that the class placed upon incorporating the Duke landscape into our work. As a graduating senior, I have found that I rarely took the time to enjoy the beauty of the campus until it was almost too late. However, drawing the campus forced me to stop and appreciate what was around me- an experience I will cherish when I think back on my time at Duke. 

Lastly, I truly enjoyed taking drawing at Duke during my final semester as an undergraduate student. It was a great way to gain a creative skill that I can carry with me into the real world. I plan to continue drawing to release stress, a strategy I believe will prove to be useful once I enter the working world. It will be nice to be able to return to my apartment after a long day and unplug, unwind, and release my creativity. Overall, drawing at Duke has been a great experience, and it has made me want to continue drawing and perhaps take additional art classes in the future.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Art 199 Final Reflection

Before taking this class, the extent of my artwork was crafting or doodling every so often. I have always admired artists and wanted to be able to copy their work, but never really tried to draw or keep a sketchbook. Now I've realized that drawing is a very time consuming, though enjoyable, activity. It is difficult to force creativity or inspiration when you're not in the mood to draw.

I have learned that drawing involves opening your perspective, and seeing not only what you perceive to be there, but what is actually there. This class has been great for trying to challenge my artistic skills and learn how to give a picture a dynamic sense and a storyline.

One of my favorite techniques that I learned during this class was shading with charcoal. My drawings in the past all involved rough sketched outlines of things, and I only ever used pencil. Charcoal was a completely new media and I was unsure at first. However, I learned that shading boldly and working with the pigment on the paper lead to really textured and more realistic drawings.

Art 199: Final Reflection

While I haven't been active artistically for the past four years of college, I started taking art lessons when I was in 7th grade. However, throughout most of high school my primary medium had been oil paint; thus, it has been a very long time since I have actively tried to create using nothing more than a pencil and an eraser. In that respect, it has felt like something has been missing when I was taking this class, in particular, being able to use color. My favorite painters (van Gogh and Monet) tended to rely very heavily on their use of color in their expression of their subject, and paid less attention to the subject's precise form. I feel as though my painting style leans towards that direction, as opposed to the very detailed work of the artists from the Renaissance period. Hence, particularly at the start of the semester, I was struggling trying to work without using color  (The way I think of it is that many people struggle to express 3-dimensional objects in a 2-dimensional space; for me, for a long time, color has been that third dimension).

However, I am grateful that this class challenged me to try to express concepts such as emotion without the use of color;  I have found - or perhaps have been reminded - that one can instead manipulate the shape of the object, as well as the relative thickness/darkness of the lines one uses to draw the object. I also appreciate the fact that this class forced me to go back to trying to capture the full detail of an object, rather than just the relative feel of it: I am glad that it is making me slow down and look at objects again before starting to work (as opposed to in painting, when I of late get overexcited and just jump into the work and only after many repeated tries am able to capture the object... with painting you can paint over your mistakes, and each try gets a bit better than the last, as opposed to drawing, where you essentially have to erase whatever section you were working on, and start from scratch).  I will be interested to see how much my painting style has changed after taking this class.

Thoughts on Drawing - Megan Friedman

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really enjoy drawing. While a lot of people find it relaxing, I find it incredibly stressful. I visualize things in three dimensions, not two, so converting a three-dimensional object onto a piece of paper has always been particularly difficult for me. When I think of a chair, for example, I see the front, back, side, top, and bottom all at once. I can rotate the object in my head to see all of it. As someone intending to study architecture, this is a relatively useful skill. For me, drawing a plan, an elevation, or a section is simple. Even axonometrics aren’t too difficult because they are mathematically very precise. But looking at a building or an object and simply drawing it on a piece of paper with some sort of three-dimensionality is a great challenge to me, and I knew I was going to have to face this challenge head on in this course. VisArts 199 is a major requirement for the Architecture concentration. I knew I was going to have to take this course during my time at Duke, so I decided on this semester.
Throughout this course, I admit I struggled. Finding the motivation to complete an assignment was difficult at times, mostly because I knew it would be difficult, but I definitely feel I gained a better understanding of my drawing abilities.

With my final project, I chose to include Gross Chem as my building from Duke’s campus. Architecturally, the exterior of the building is relatively simple, especially the side I chose to depict. As I was drawing it, I yearned to reach for my ruler, my scale, my triangle—anything to make the perspective more precise and exact. But I forced myself to draw it using the empirical perspective we had learned a few assignments ago. Although the lines are not perfectly straight and the lines probably don’t all converge at one vanishing point, I feel I was able to correctly capture the proportions of the building on a two-dimensional surface. This was a huge accomplishment for me, especially since one of my first sketches included a measured sketch of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye. I was able to hone a skill that will be invariably useful to me in the future. Although I still don’t look at drawing with a bounding sense of excitement, I am definitely grateful of the new skills I have developed and am looking forward to being able to use them in my career.

My Drawing Experience By Jabari Parker

The time I spent in ARTSVIS 199 aka Prof. Fick's Drawing drawing class was one of the best experiences I had here my first year at Duke. I had a chance to observe from other famous artist, alongside my classmates that helped me implement a new joy and passion I have for creativity and imagination. Drawing also created a gateway away from the struggles I had dealt with, like basketball and my other classes. It gave me something that allowed me to obtain peace when my mind was occupied on stress that went along with my daily duties. I also want to thank Prof. Bill Fick for all the things he taught in the class. He gave us techniques that improved my drawing and most importantly a renewed enjoyment that I once had for drawing.

Thoughts on Drawing - Cuquis Robledo

Coming into Drawing 199, I had just taken a semester off from Art classes. Ever since I was little, I was always doing art of some sort, from painting to working with dry pastels. I took an IB Art Course in high school, and while excited for it, it did not meet my expectations. When I tried to express myself, I was shot down because my teacher was worried the concept was too "literal." And when explaining our pieces, we were not allowed to say we like our piece, or any piece, because it looked "pretty." We had to give these complex explanations about why we chose a certain medium and why did we place figures here and there. But isn't one aspect of art is aesthetics? What if the artist's intention was just to create a beautiful scene? I feel in the art world nowadays, we complicate the meaning behind the artist's work when actually, the meaning can be just quite simple. We end up putting words in the artist's mouth.

That is why I took Drawing 199; because I knew that this class was going to focus on realistic objects -- my strength -- rather than conceptual concepts and meanings. It felt good to sit for hours in quiet, just feeling the graphite of my pencil meet the paper, feeling the graphite and charcoal on my hands. It was my time to not think of anything. I soon realized though that IB Art had not taught me any techniques regarding drawing (it was more like a self-discovery class). For instance, we were never taught how to make our drawing proportional to the actual still-life, and we briefly went over techniques about foreground, middle-ground and background.

Out of all of these techniques I learned my favorites is using the eraser as a blending tool so that it gives the charcoal a sculptural feel. Here is an example of one of my favorite pieces from class. It was the photographic drawing: It's called "Heaven," and it is in memory of my oldest dog, Patches (dog on the left).

I know I am going to keep doing art, but probably more as a hobby and not as a Visual Arts major just because I like to take the liberty to express myself without the constraints of a class. However, Drawing 199 did help reinforce some of my drawing skills I knew and introduced me to new ones a well. I can also say that I am definitely more of a realistic drawer than a fictitious one. I am glad that I decided to take art again though, so I could be creative again.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Drawing 199

I really enjoyed reconnecting to my creative side this spring; two of the classes I took involved lots of drawing and lots of creative writing, making for a productive and enjoyable semester.  Professor Fick's Drawing 199 class had me drawing for the first time in several years.

Like most kids, I used to enjoy drawing a lot-- art class was my favorite subject in elementary school.  Before that, I can remember drawing sketches and in coloring books in my free time as a toddler.  But as the years went by and work became more and more theoretical, analytically focused, and - frankly, unimaginative - I forgot all about cultivating my inner artist.  So I really appreciated the opportunity to do so this spring.  I think it is great and necessary that classes like these are offered at Duke, and I hope many more continue to be offered in the future.  Everyone has an inner artist and classes such as drawing, music, writing, etc... all cultivate this.

Here are some of my favorite sketches and drawings I did over the course of the term--

2/8/14 Sketch of watercolor painting of Austrian
Alps on my desk

Mid-Semester Sketch of the Duke Campus Farm

  End of the Semester Drawing from Photographs-- "Into the Mountains"

My drawings definitely improved over the course of the term, and I was able to develop my own style, often involving a scenic natural background, and mixing detail with dream-like qualities to produce what I think turned out to be some cool-looking drawings.  Thanks for a great term!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Thoughts on Drawing

Drawing has always been a part of my life. When I was little I used to draw with my dad all the time. I remember having contests with him for who could draw the best, and of course my mom would always say that my drawings were the best. Despite this, I knew that he was better than me and I always wanted to be as good as him. In elementary school and middle school, art was one of my favorite classes. Once I got to high school I started to take art a little more seriously. I took honors level art classes, became an active member of the Honors Art Society, put together benefit art shows in the community as a fundraiser for the Humane Society, and helped design and paint murals both at school and in my community. Once I got to college, I never thought that I would have time to enjoy drawing and art like I had in my earlier years. Fortunately, I decided to take Drawing 199 this spring and it made realize that I can enjoy drawing and art, despite being a busy college student. I had never taken a formal drawing class before, and I really enjoyed starting from the basics and building upon this foundation. I think this kind of teaching and guidance has made me a much better artist and understand drawing on a much deeper level. Drawing has made me appreciate all of the objects around me for what they are- whenever I look at a tree, or an object in my room, I no longer see it as just an object, but as lines and shadows and values and shapes. This class, along with other photography classes, has inspired me to be pursue a Visual Arts major, to study what I am interested in and use art as a means to communicate my ideas and experiences with the world.

Art is Freedom.

My presumption is that all artists embark on their projects with a certain degree of intentionality. This can be intentionality about the story behind the work, or the colors, or the strokes, or the emotion, or how a viewer should perceive it. Sometimes this intentionality shines through, sometimes it’s lost in translation, but such is the beauty of art.

The privilege of doing art for pure pleasure means that an artist has complete freedom over her or his creation. My favorite assignments in this class - the sketchbook and the fictional drawing - were the ones when I had almost full reign over the blank slate of paper in front of me.

In contrast, when art is created for a market, it must conform to socioculturally accepted standards of beauty or be fresh enough to supersede the status quo. Of course, these standards may at some point in time be nonexistent, or infinite. But nonetheless, who are we to judge art? My heart always sinks when I visit a museum, and overhear someone say, “That’s not art!”. The example that first comes to mind are the well known paintings by Piet Mondrian, featuring black horizontal and vertical lines, and only the primary colors.

So what if we have no idea what the “meaning” behind a piece of art is? Or if it has a weird angle, or a splotched shade? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Why not give the artist the benefit of the doubt? Art is freedom. It isn’t meant to be perfect, especially if it’s a reflection of our humanity. I think as long as art serves some purpose for the artist, however trivial or whatever that may be, it merits its existence amongst us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Experiences with Drawing

When I was a child, I doodled a lot. My mom bought me a number of “How to Draw” books, one of which I distinctly remember being a “How to Draw Dinosaurs.” Apparently I was a big fan of dinosaurs as a kid.

At some point my mom began to enroll me in after-school art classes taught by a family friend. She figured that these classes would help me develop my “talent.” I recall her explaining to me that I should always keep on drawing because I was good at it, and it would be something that I could hold on to for a long time. I maintained these miscellaneous art classes for a couple years throughout kindergarten and elementary school, amassing a box full of artwork. However, I ended up quitting these classes before I got to middle school for a reason that I can’t currently recall. Maybe it was because I just did not like doing things my parents made me do (I quit playing piano roughly around the same time) or because I simply thought that sitting around and drawing was boring.

Those art classes in elementary school were the last time I ever picked up any drawing utensil with the goal of creating an art piece more extensive than a small sketch out of boredom until this semester. (However, I do think that I went to a painting class for a few weeks some year in middle school because I have one painting that I produced at some point). Either way, as I grew older, I began to regret my prepubescent decision to quit art classes. Unfortunately I was already in high school at this point and high school art classes were supposed to be exceptionally time intensive. This was not something I was interested in juggling along with sports, homework, and other things my high school self spent his time doing. I let my desire for art rest for a while, figuring that hopefully there would be more chances down the road.

Fast forward a few years to the fall semester of my sophomore year at Duke. My friend was enrolled in a drawing class and sent me a few pictures of her work every now and then. I knew that I had space in my schedule for the spring semester and of course became interested. Some friends told me that they heard it was a lot of work, but I ultimately knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist this opportunity. I wasn’t sure what to completely expect coming in. I was a little worried that everyone in the class would be art kids who had taken art all through middle and high school and that I would be completely out of my league.

Luckily, the drawing class turned out more welcoming than I could have ever asked. Each weekly assignment was slightly different and always challenged me with something new. The class was also a sharp contrast to my other classes, a majority of which have been science classes. It was always peaceful for me to set aside my textbooks and whip out the drawing board or sketch pad for a few hours to work. I can say without a doubt that I’m glad I took this class and that I have enjoyed the whole experience and learned a lot. At this time, I’m contemplating a visual arts minor and am planning on taking an art class or two abroad in Rome next fall.

My Thoughts on Drawing-Reflections on the Semester

      Before the semester began, I was extremely excited to be taking this drawing class. I was about to begin my last semester, was only taking three classes, and was so happy to finally have some time to take a class I really wanted to. I have always loved art, and drawing in particular. My dad and I took a weekly drawing class together when I was younger, and I continued taking lessons through elementary school. However, it wasn't until high school that I had a teacher that I absolutely loved. When I got to Duke, I no longer had time to spend drawing or doing projects just for fun. I missed this part of my life, doing an activity that I could completely lose myself in for hours while listening to music.
     After the first day of this class, I was no longer excited. I couldn't believe we were going to be responsible for an 18"x 24" drawing each week, along with sketchbook drawings and study drawings! I was scared because I knew that I was an extremely slow and meticulous artist. I enjoy the painstaking process of drawing realistically, measured, and without mistakes. I knew that in the past I would spend hours and hours on the smallest of projects, if only to please myself with my handiwork. I had never taken a drawing class where the drawings had to consistently be so large, and I was worried that I would never finish them. 
      What I learned throughout the semester is that drawing isn't about representing everything exactly how it appears in real life, though I still tend towards this style. I learned to draw things to express something, giving enough detail for it to be clear what it was but not killing myself to get it "right". I learned that I could put a lot of value down, and then change it, smudging it and erasing it, often to achieve the texture I actually wanted. I began to teach myself that I don't need to get psyched out at the beginning of a project. If I draw what I see, eventually it will come together.
       Not only did my drawing skills get put to use and strengthened in this class, but I learned to trust myself more and not be afraid of making mistakes. I decided that worrying about the projects wasn't going to help me; I just needed to start and get into them, and they would happen.

Thoughts on Drawing-Jacylin Zhang

I started practicing Chinese Traditional Painting since kindergarten. This is an ancient Chinese way of drawing. We use brushes and ink to draw on a special kind of soft paper. The key of this way of painting is the shadows (the thickness of the ink) and the space arrangement. A part of the paper is always left empty intentionally in a good space arrangement. A full use of the paper is not persued, as shown below. 

The more simple, the more beautiful. Also, geometric structures are also avoided. You should never draw a square, rectangle, circle or any geometric shaped figures or structures. You should also arrange them in such a way that they are kind of a mess, but occupy the space in a perfect way and thus making the whole painting far reaching and deep, simple and beautiful. Sometimes, it can even be as simple as below. 

There are three general categories in Chinese Traditional Painting: Plants, Animals, Landscapes and People.  All four have different approaches. 

As for Plants, people usually draw plum blossom, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum. They symbolize the four spirits of morality that have been valued at an extremely high extent by Chinese people. Plum blossom means fearless perseverance, orchid the self discipline, bamboo the chivalry and chrysanthemum the prominence in a negative surrounding. 

As for Animals, carps, horses and tigers are often picked. For carps are seen as the symbol for luck and horses are always highly valued since ancient China. Tigers are worshiped and considered as the king of the animals. 

The landscape drawings are special in the way it is painted in Chinese Traditional painting. Huge brushes are often used with ink mixed with lots of water. The landscapes are often abstract and vague because Ancient Chinese considered the mountains and waters sacred and mysterious.

When drawing people, a very sharp brush is used (just like a sharp pencil) to draw the details out. It is just like drawing with charcoal in our class: drawing out the figures and shading.

Having been practicing Chinese Traditional Painting for almost 15 years,  I joined this class to try another way of drawing. And I found that although the painting materials and strategies are different, the keys and essentials are the same. I always apply the space arrangement skills and the shading skills I learnt from Chinese Traditional Painting to charcoal drawing.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thoughts on Drawing - Josh Zlotnick

My interest in drawing has its roots in 7th grade, pubescent Josh. I realized I was half decent at looking at pictures of my favorite cartoon characters and sketching them out. This led to a brief span of making drawings for my friends who would request their favorite characters. I swear I drew Sebastian from The Little Mermaid perfectly once, but I gave away the original to someone in 2nd period French Class.
Most of my inspiration came from books my mom bought me from Barnes & Noble and a website I stumbled upon called Through drawing I could channel all my nerdy interests into something productive, and I really enjoyed recreating characters or scenes. However, I was never one to draw from my imagination.
After those middle school years, drawing took a back seat because I had high school, sports, and eventually college on my mind. It was not until last semester when I studied away at the Duke Marine Lab that I picked up a pencil and a sketchbook again. If you are unfamiliar with the Duke Marine Lab it is located on Piver’s Island, a tiny spot of land across from Beaufort, North Carolina. It is a wonderful place and I had an amazing experience there, but I felt a bit isolated on the island at times. I turned to drawing for relief and would often spend evenings sitting on the docks drawing pictures from my Iphone.

Sketch of Cover Art from Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land