Monday, April 23, 2018

Thoughts On Drawing

I've drawn a lot and loved drawing since I can first remember. In retrospect, I realize that this might have to do with the fact that I grew up as an only child with busy, working parents. I inevitably had to come up with ways to entertain myself, and I drew a lot in the basement which lay a very good foundation for my drawing skills. In elementary school, I was labelled the girl who was good at drawing before anything else, and this went on in middle school and high school (although the label of being one thing became less prominent). In high school, I even created a Facebook page where I could share my art with hundreds of other people--mostly friends and family--and I also entered a variety of contests like Boston Globe Scholastic.

During my first semester of Duke, I realized that I had barely done any drawing since fall of senior year in high school. I had been busy with college apps, and then I took a break from doing real work during the summer. First semester of college also hit hard. During winter break back at home, I began making small comic panels in pen for the first time I would work on these panels for hours, and it all began when my close friend who suffered from depression encouraged me to make a comic collaboration with her. She wasn't an artist kind of person when we were in school together, but she picked up the habit of making incredibly angsty, existential comics in lieu of more dangerous habits.

I realized how much I missed drawing, and how I would not just block out time for it if I wasn't forced to draw, so I decided to sign up for a drawing class. I did this as my 5th class, which wasn't very smart since I also chose a very rigorous schedule, and it kind of backfired. While I'm glad I've been able to practice my still-life skills, taking drawing also made me realize how much I don't like drawing buildings, landscapes, and objects so much as people. It also did not help that I fell behind a lot because I caught the flu, or the additional fact that the content we drew did not interest me as much. I also struggled a lot with figuring out myself this first year and in a number of my classes, so drawing became more of a task then what I had wanted to be -- a relaxing creative outlet. On top of that, I continued making comics to relieve my own stress, but the time I poured into the comics I could not translate to my 40 drawing sketchbook since I keep those in a more private diary form.  I do wish there was more space to draw things we were interested in during class, and that we did not have to always do a study drawing and a final because this would always feel extremely redundant and I would have liked to been able to simply pour all of my energy into one piece,

That is not to say to say that I have not enjoyed the class. I made two friends and it is also wonderful to get to explore the art community at Duke which is at first a bit harder to find. I also liked getting to work with charcoal, and I absolutely loved Maira Kalman's probing visit when we did the creative exercise of remembering our childhood and drawing "the first place we could remember."

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Thoughts on Drawing

I have always loved drawing. As a child, I always remember spending my time with my coloring book. Wherever I would go, I would take my coloring book with me. During school, drawing was my one cure for boredom. Ranging from doodles to caricatures of my teachers, drawing was one of the best ways to spend my time. 

After coming to Duke, I struggled to find time to draw, or do any art at all, but this class forced me to draw and find time in my day to sit down and simply become absorbed in the activity. Although the assignments were not something I would chose to draw, or would typically draw, it still made me practice drawing, which always gives me a sense of calmness. I particularly liked the sketchbook, which gave us full freedom to do whatever we wanted. I am mostly interested in illustration and less realistic ways of drawing, so the sketchbook was a good break from working from observation and let me really become creative. 

One of the highlights of this class was the visit by Maira Kalman, who illustrated the cover of The New Yorker for the March 23rdmagazine. Her way of talking about her work as well as her approach to drawing really inspired me and gave me ideas for what I could do in the future. Overall, I enjoyed the class, was able to practice my drawing skills and ultimately made me feel more fulfilled with my experience at Duke. 

Thoughts on Drawing - Nina Hatami

Upon coming to Duke, I felt sad that I never had the time to draw, and until this semester, I could not take Drawing as a course that fit into my schedule. I was excited to finally be able to take this Drawing course, especially because I thought it would be good practice in working with my hands before dental school, which requires a great degree of manual dexterity. Quickly, I realized that this class was much more challenging and time-consuming than I had anticipated. However, I enjoyed having the drawing assignment as a weekly requirement, because it enabled me to take time to sit in my room and get in the zone. Although I would get frustrated thinking about all of the other things I had to do for my other classes, all in all, I am thankful that I could sit and just draw.

Last semester, I took a class on mindfulness and meditation, and we learned that meditative experiences can be gained through a multitude of different ways—including drawing. I remembered the feelings of being in the zone that I would get when drawing in high school, and I was excited to fully appreciate the feeling again, especially after learning about its meditative effects. Sometimes I would feel annoyed by the number of hours I would invest in sitting on my dorm room floor and drawing, but by the end of the day, I would realize that my mind was no longer busy with rushing thoughts.

I was also thankful for this course in allowing me to exercise a creativity that was personal to me and that I had not really explored before. I have always been extremely connected to my Persian background, but in college, I feel that I have grown to appreciate this aspect of my identity even more. I greatly enjoyed incorporating my Persian culture into my assignments and felt quite surprised and proud of the ideas that I would come up with. Especially in my final assignments, I sought to incorporate this aspect of cultural identity whenever I could, and I felt quite satisfied in having all of my ideas develop on Bristol board. I felt that I learned so much about myself in the process of developing my ideas and seeing them come to life on paper.

Nina Hatami 

Thoughts on Drawing

I have really enjoyed drawing and I feel much more capable of drawing after this class. Although some people may be naturally talented at drawing, I have realized that anyone can draw well if they are meticulous, patient and aware of drawing techniques. Putting detail (along with time and effort) into a drawing makes it so satisfying when it is finished. It is surprising to step back and see a finished piece - to see the culmination of detail look good when you started out with scrappy/scratchy sketches. It made me feel really proud to create something.

I think what was - and still is slightly - holding me back is committing to my drawings. Drawing recreationally, I would always draw something small and just for fun. I would see all the flaws of the first sketch and then just give up and find a new idea. Having deadlines in the class made me fully commit to the drawing. I would address any flaw I see and fix it, instead of ditching the idea. Knowing the caliber of previous peer drawings gave me something to aim towards and forced me to spend the time needed to make the drawing reach the level of my peers.

Commitment to drawings was also habituated through the sketchbook. Since each sketch should only take 15 minutes, any sketch I started I finished. Additionally, although I have always thought the size of an art piece does not mean much, drawing on a gigantic sketchpad made the biggest difference! Given something needs to fill the massive sheet of paper, a bigger drawing requires more time. Its size also opens up opportunity for more detail.

Post Duke, I will be buying a large sketchpad in the new place I live and will tie consequences to my drawings so I stay committed to them. I will then send photos of my finished drawing to Maya so I feel proud, and I hope she shall do the same.

Maya and I choosing what to draw from a magazine. Memories :")

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Thoughts on Drawing - Joanna Fan

As a graduating senior in her last semester, I took this class because I wanted to explore something new. As a science person all my life, I really wanted to explore the arts and creativity world, although I knew I probably wouldn't be very good at drawing because that's why I chose to focus on dealing with numbers at the first place anyways (half-jokingly).

Looking back, I do not regret this decision at all, although drawing has been a lot more difficult than expected. When I went to the art supplies shop at the beginning of the semester to buy supplies for this class, the helper at the store mistakenly gave me charcoal pencils for normal ones. As a result, I was very confused by the hardness and texture of my "pencil" for the first few classes, until Professor Fick pointed out to me a few classes later that I was using charcoal pencils. That pretty much summed up my experience with this drawing class - I tried, although sometimes confused, but overall very proud.

I think my major struggle with this course is that I find it very difficult to convert what is in my mind to something on paper. I'm able to draft a very detailed plan in my head with all the desired angels and shapes, but I often fail to deliver the same level of accuracy to paper. As a result, my final works often look frustratingly cartoony. I honestly think that I would appreciate more training in drawing smaller objects and easier landscapes before moving on to the last few major assignments at the end of the semester. But at the same time, I understand that we only have a very limited time in one semester, and people come in with different levels of experience. Although this class seems pretty hard to catch up with for a complete novice like me, I'm sure that many of my classmates had no problem keeping up with the progress at all. So one suggestion for Duke would be offering more drawing classes for students in different levels.

In conclusion, although I'm nowhere close to a decent drawer, I am proud that I was able to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Drawing shapes on a drawing board is a very different experience from calculating cash flows on Excel spreadsheets, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the process. I'm not sure if I will have an opportunity to take a drawing class again after graduation, but I will keep drawing as a hobby. I may be confused and frustrated during the day, but I know I will be very proud and regretless at the end.

Thoughts on Drawing - Eric Xu

I've always enjoyed being artistic, whether it was making sculptures with clay, making prints, or taking photographs. Though I've been heavily invested in the performing arts playing music, I haven't had any formal training in the visual arts for many, many years. I figured in my last semester here I'd try drawing. 

I don't think drawing was ever my favorite type of visual art, but I did always like to doodle and sketch random inventions in the margins of things I had to work on or read when I was younger. My sketchbook in this class ended up being representative of such things, and I'm glad I was able make more creative sketches. On the other hand, I had little experience making large scale scene drawings like we did in class. The assignments made me think about using drawing to tell a story, something I previously only thought about when taking photographs. I did come to find out that these large drawings can take up days of time to create. It was important to resist trying to draw every detail that I saw for the sake of not spending hours on one thing. Large drawings also change the movements of the arm and wrist required, requiring more control to avoid upsetting proportions. 

While narrative drawings were fun, I often found it difficult to imagine narratives to draw. I think my imagination works better for drawing objects with high detail but in isolation. I liked playing with animate and inanimate objects in my sketches, often morphing living things with machines that served fantastical purposes. Then I would draw in how I thought those things ought to work, omitting any sense of responsibility for proper engineering or practicality (that'd be a real engineer's job).  

Overall, this class was a nice departure from the usual types of classes I've taken. I've gotten better at drawing from observation just through practice and learning to recognize what I see and what the brain thinks I see. I think we could practice using shading and texture more before we are launched straight into drawing full narrative scenes. Most of what I learning in those areas just came from trial and error, but sometimes I just did not know how to make a texture look how I imagined. Maybe it is difficult to formally teach these techniques and the best way to learn is through trying it for ourselves. I'm sure I'll find more opportunities to practice and learn new methods of visual arts in the future.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thoughts on Drawing - Yixin Lin

Drawing has been an important part of my childhood. I've spent many days in either weekly classes or by myself drawing, usually from photographs but also a bit of sketching and painting from observation. When I was younger, I especially enjoyed drawing fan art and portraits of my favorite films, and also getting better at shading technique and the ability to recreate textures such as hair, skin, feathers, fur, etc.

However, drawing became rarer through high school and college. I would take the old skills out to draw personalized gifts e.g. for birthdays or Christmas, but the frequency dropped. Throughout this, my pieces would only be up to a normal A4 paper size, nothing as large as the expansive landscapes we drew in class.

I was glad to take a class at Duke which reemphasized my hobby, which I haven't taken a class for in many years. It allowed me to go back to the basics, learning techniques like the use of negative space which is highly useful and yet I haven't consciously thought much of. Again, the landscapes that we drew--much larger than most work I've done-- allowed me to draw buildings and explore textures such as grass and foliage on a much larger scale.

I also enjoyed the concept of a sketchbook-- I've only ever really drawn what we termed as "finished drawings" in class, pieces for which the intention was to finalize. The quick sketches in the sketchbook were useful to practice specific techniques in isolation or to try something new. Perhaps in the future I will keep a sketchbook to experiment with, maybe also in other mediums.

Finally, I appreciated the focus on narrative-driven art, even in still art. In the future, I hope to keep making art which is meaningful to me and express this through narratives.