Wednesday, March 19, 2008

three drafts, in progress

A few months ago, during a figure drawing class, my teacher gave me the most humiliating criticism I've received in a while. Possibly ever. She looked around at the other students' sketches, rendered in dramatic high-contrast charcoal and conte, then looked at pen-and-ink figure on my board.

"You need to start over," she said.

"Oh. Um, why?"

"Because your portfolio looks like a coloring book."

Man, that hurt. It still hurts. I've been trying to work on a series of small graphite portraits of my friends and friends of friends, in the hopes of learning more about light and form without having to deal with this spacey old bat breathing down my neck, but it's hard to brush off a blow that low.

And, ironically, I think the problem I have with these portraits is that I can't shake the feeling that they'd be stronger in a more linear (illustrative?) style.

With the possible exception of the first one, I think that the graphite and attention to form and light makes the portraits look kind of hokey. They look like they might be on the cover of one of those brochures you saw at your guidance counselor's office in middle school, mantled with dust and bearing titles like "What You Need to Know About Chlamydia" or "Marijuana: What's Up With That?" Maybe it's just me, and my teacher's right, but I dunno. I guess I'll do a few more and see if they look better in the context of a bigger series, or I'll bring out the shadow more and see if that changes anything.


  1. I think these are really beautiful, like those old illustrations in childrens books, soft and warm. I love your usual strong linear style though.

    The thing about art teachers is they're just people and often artists who maybe aren't fulfilling their wishes in that area. I clashed constantly with my old art teacher and was left with very low morale. It took another teacher to turn that around. I would not take a comment like that to heart, genuinely.

  2. I completely agree with little robot! These drawings are beautiful, they have a touch of 'something else' and are exceptionally well crafted. Sounds to me like your art teacher has been indulging in a little art terrorism, whereby they use their position of so called authority to undermine and hopefully stifle their student's blossoming creativity, usually due to jealousy or plain lack of judgement. After all, if they succeed and weed out all the students with real talent, then there is less competition for themselves! (I know, this sounds VERY paranoid..heh heh). But it is a good thing to remember that teachers are often artists in the same game, and so, in some way, your peers and your competitors. Their motives may not always be sound.
    After encountering similar attitudes myself at art school, I decided that regardless of positions of 'status' the only criticism I would accept would be from those tutors whom I respected as Artists, ie- If I didn't rate their drawing/creativity then I refused to accept what they said about mine. It worked out quite well, as those tutors whose work I respected tended to be be more confident as people and they never deliberately undermined their students in a cruel or underhand way. (And I noticed it was the tutors without strong drawing skills themselves who tended to criticise my work most harshly..hmmm). please don't let it stop your flow, let it strengthen your resolve instead!! I know how damaging these blows can be.. Xx

  3. My heart actually sunk a little when I read about your art teacher's comment. Unbelievable. Or, sadly, too believable. I, too, ran into artistically stifled instructors, who, quite frankly, should not have been teaching. Her feedback was cruel and thoughtless and not constructive. So don't take it too seriously. It looks to me like you are exploring drawing with an approach that is sincere and open minded. You are bringing yourself to the paper, and finding your voice. That is so much more important than pleasing someone else's aesthetic! Keep on......