Student Post: Maggie Knight
28, November 2011 § Leave a comment
The week before the break I woke up in a rather unusual fashion. From my bed one can see my bathroom door. The previous day I had haphazardly thrown my towel over it. As I lay there unwilling to venture beyond my blanket I began to notice how pretty the towel was. The light shone through the bathroom window onto its peaks and valleys, and I began to pick out contour lines, shadows. I leaned over and picked up my iphone to grab a picture. I was still unwilling to leave the safe spot that was my bed, and now when I look at the picture I wish I had been more diligent in this regard. None the less, I snapped it. As the morning progressed I began to laugh at myself and the clichéd nature of my situation. I really have begun to see my surroundings in a different way.
I think of myself as lucky in a number of ways. Prior to coming to the Aegean Center I had drawn periodically as a child, but as I ventured into my 20’s this had become somewhat sporadic, and in the few months prior to catching my flight to Italy it had become essentially non existent. As I moved into my career and my mid-twenties I began to pick up a camera in hopes of capturing the moments I did allow myself to see. I had coined the phrase with a friend of my mine from back home of wanting to capture the ‘click -click’ moments of life. Thus I had the urge to capture something more, but no longer confident in my ability to do so. I landed in Italy as a blank slate in a number of different ways.
In Pistoia I began drawing again, tentatively and with much frustration. We began with some basic drawing, which included learning about perspective. I recall sitting one afternoon in the villa drawing a line of boxes, and how at that moment it was so difficult. I had forgotten or grown lax in my approach, or had altogether no technique. I began filling in the blanks. The program was reminding me what I had previously learned and was also giving me a new approach in which to conquer my nerves. For example, one of my earliest memories of having a drawing lesson as a child was when I was seven. I was sitting at the kitchen table drawing a horse that appeared on one of my baby sister’s plush toys. Just as I do now, I was vocally sighing with my inability to gain the likeness. My mother approached me and said “Why don’t you draw everything but the horse?” While I now know she was talking about negative space, that had really been the last time anyone had given me direction in that regard. Up until now I didn’t even realize that this was how I approached a lot my drawing. In a number of ways I did know some things, but I still needed to fill in the gaps.
Figure drawing has given us the approach on how to look at a figure; weight, constellations, boxes, contour lines. As I have progressed in the class I have begun to see what I saw previously in my drawing but without direction. For example, previously, when I had wanted to make something look less flat, I would draw in circles to give it body and shape. Figure drawing calls these contour lines. I have thus tried to amalgamate the two approaches ; trying not to draw the full circle, but still giving the body shape in this regard through my half circles. I kick myself a little because at certain points in the program I had stopped drawing, painting, or taking photos because of my own confidence and nerves. At points I was acknowledging what I did know, and thus had stopped. I remember when we were first introduced to contour lines at the villa and in my head I thought, ‘I think I do that’. The structure of painting and drawing has helped build that confidence again. It’s slowly filling in gaps, but also creating new ones while allowing me the ease to get going.
Digital photography, on the other hand, has allowed me to see things in a whole new light (pun intended). A couple of weeks ago, we moved from using the Bridge program to exclusively using Photoshop. For some reason I found this overwhelming. John poised the question in class asking “Who here feels overwhelmed yet?” I quickly lifted my hand only to have him say “You’re just nervous.” He was exactly right. On several occasions he reminded not only the class but me specifically that there was no test at the end of the program. Often John would say “Just play”. This drove me nuts at the beginning. I had worked in education previously and the Aegean’s approach to learning was what had attracted me to the center, but theory and practice don’t always jive at the beginning . Digital has taught me to keep going in other ways. It has encouraged me to take the photo, look at what I have taken and then try again. It’s teaching me to ask questions. It’s teaching me to see the world on my own, through my own eye, to learn from John’s trained eye, but to also portray the world as I may see it. It’s teaching me to again ask questions. Now, on the other side of the semester, I see the ‘structure’ of learning to learn.
Together, drawing, painting, and photography have helped me see bits and pieces of my ‘click-click’ moments in a different fashion. Because of painting and drawing, I see things such as saturation and tonal gradation which allow me to see my photography differently. Composing my photos, and the way I look at light, has had its effect on my drawing and painting as well. This past week I was sitting in a cafe and decided to do a quick sketch of my glass and table. In five minutes I rendered something that I found not too shabby. I then flipped back to one of the pictures I had painstakingly tried to compose at the villa in Pistoia. It had taken me three hours to draw a cup. Now I draw the contents of my table in less than five minutes. Not without mistakes, but definitely with less trepidation. Now that I play with it, I have questions, and I play more each day. Now, I wake up in the morning and look at a towel and notice how beautiful it is and reach for my camera.