19, July 2016 § Leave a comment
Jane Morris Pack
Learning to draw the human figure is a challenge and demands a clear understanding of how to capture form. It is also a difficult task to do in two weeks but the eight students attending the Intensive Summer Workshop did an amazing job of pulling it all together in a short time. We worked from the model for two hours every morning and then after lunch the projects included working in clay and drawing the bones and muscles. Learning to draw the basic geometric forms was given particular attention as they are the building blocks for all form. We investigated perspective, built a clay head, foot, hand, nose and mouth. The students traced their own proportions life size on paper and then added the skeleton and muscles to those drawings. On the final day, as a creative exercise, we hung paper cutouts onto a line and played lights over their forms to suggest movement.
Since drawing is such an intense activity we needed a few distractions to smooth the steep learning curve. One night was spent watching the stars appear from a vantage point high on the mountain after sunset, on another we had a wine tasting of six prominent Greek varietals, and lastly a full day was enjoyed on a wonderful boat trip around the neighbouring island of Antiparos. Thank you to all of my wonderful and enthusiastic students from whom I learn so much.
1, July 2014 § Leave a comment
by Jane Morris Pack
The 2014 figure drawing intensive is underway at the Aegean Center. After five days we are at the same point which we normally reach after the fourth or fifth week in a regular session. The students know most of the names of the bones, we have built a clay hand and foot, clay head and features, and a paper construction of the rib cage and pelvis. Our model comes in the mornings and we work on anatomy and drawing solutions in the afternoons.
We concentrate furiously but the atmosphere is joyful. Unfortunately the weather has been very hot here so we have the fans going continuously. We have a boat trip coming up if the winds stay down and a few more chances to eat together. As the students are all at a high level I feel sure we will get through an entire semesters worth of work in our 12 day seminar.
19, July 2013 § 3 Comments
Nine students are attending the Figure Drawing Intensive now underway at the Aegean Center. Each morning we draw from the live model for two hours and every afternoon the class reconvenes to study some particular aspect of the figure, whether it be the form of the skull or the concept of negative space. We have worked in clay and cut figures from paper, learned names and parts of the skeleton, drawn cylinders and spheres. The ability to draw a geometrical form in any direction, from any angle, is a critical but often overlooked aspect to beginning figure drawing.
Our group is varied in age from 17 to 60 and although we are all women we represent five different countries. As a teacher my hope is that at the end of two weeks the students will be able to draw the human form from memory in varied stances. Drawing from the model then, with the level and degree of accuracy we hope to achieve, will enable the student to proceed on their own and improve with practice.
10, May 2010 § 1 Comment
The first subject that Jane discussed in Figure Drawing was that drawing is communicating your thought process. Drawing is representation, not depiction. My experience in the class has been forgetting my verbal identification with the figure, and learning to see it as formal elements.
The first three processes we learned were mass, energy lines, and constellations. Mass gives the figure weight and proportion. Energy lines illustrate the envelope of space around the figure, movement, and placement on the page. Constellations help to translate the figure from 3D into 2D, by giving you the placement of the figure on the picture plane. When warming up, or in the beginning of a longer drawing, these three processes serve as my initial map for the figure, and usually take only a minute or two. From the beginning I had a tendency to be timid, tight, and small with my lines. This first map of the figure has given me the initial looseness, immediacy, and accuracy vital to making my drawing come alive.
The next process was putting the figure into three dimensional boxes, and finding landmarks on the figure, such as the C of the ear, neck, shoulder girdle, cut-away of the ribs, sacral triangle, and pubic triangle. The boxes illustrate the plane change in the body, making it easy to construct figures in imagined positions with a realistic sense of light and shadow. Once we began to study the skeleton, I found I could also give the figure a feeling of perspective simply by projecting the pelvis, ribcage and skull into boxes.
In the beginning of the course I was overwhelmed and unsure of what to put on my paper. What small bit of light is important to describing the figure? What shadow confuses rather than clarifies? Where should I put a line? As I studied the underlying structure of bones and muscles I began to see the figure as geometric shapes, and understand how best to describe them using light and shadow. The studies we have done in Basic Drawing of spheres, cones, cylinders, and cubes have proved extraordinarily helpful. I began to forget my verbal identification with the figure, and to draw exactly what I was seeing, and more importantly, how to make the figure read on the page.
Usually after the initial stage of the drawing, I move to negative shape. I take my eyes off the figure, and draw the shape between arms and torso, between the legs, between the fingers. In concentrating on these shapes I trick my mind into forgetting any verbal identification I have with the figure, and any preconceived ideas of what an arm, or a leg is supposed to look like. The result is that I get the exact position and peculiarities of the pose.
We have done various other exercises with line quality and expression, but these processes serve as the foundation for more complex ideas such as cross contour shading. It would also be impossible to draw light and shadow without first understanding bone structure, muscles etc. Figure drawing is not only complex technically, but mentally, and the more time I spend on the foundation the more imbedded into my unconscious it becomes, so I no longer have to think about everything at all times. When I look at my drawings I realize that I am not just looking at a half an hour, or an hour of work, but two semesters of learning to see the figure in different ways.
In the last couple weeks my drawings have become, almost unconsciously, about what it is I am communicating through the drawing. Am I seeing the loneliness, or the exuberance of the figure? The heaviness, or the sensuality? Often what I draw startles me in the accuracy of its expression of what I am thinking or feeling. I am constantly confronted with myself through drawing the figure. And for me the beauty of the class is in learning how to communicate my thought process.
8, June 2016 § Leave a comment
By Jane Pack
Annelise teaches theatre at the Aegean Center and I teach figure drawing. This last semester she was taking my class and I was taking hers. We often heard our words to students echoing each other, she commented that I sounded like a theatre teacher and I frequently wanted to break in on her classes and exclaim, “The same applies to drawing!” Of course the arts are grouped for a reason, as creative endeavours each challenges the practitioner to move out of their comfort zone, to search for meaning, to communicate feeling. But drawing and acting seem to have a particular resonance with each other, similar vocabulary can be useful in each: gesture, rhythm, movement, weight, form, vision. And each requires intense concentration, a challenge to refresh and renew our approach each time, a thoughtful and deep presence. It has been said that drawing, of all the visual arts, is closest to pure thought. And acting has that same intensity, the need to be in continual focus or risk losing it all.
I urge students to challenge themselves to use new approaches for each drawing, to keep themselves from being bored with their own accomplishments. I teach craft and expression side by side, but push technique so that the students can think emotionally and still be outside those feelings enough to communicate them. In theatre one loses oneself in a role only when the self steps aside and allows the dramatic impulse of the playwright to come through. I found I was thinking almost like a draughtsman when I was crafting my role: what shape, what form, what movement, what rhythm. And the actress, Annelise, considering how a drawn gesture communicates tension, where the human form expresses emotion, what the speed of the line or its weight can do to change the depiction.
Each discipline has its magical storytelling moments, each includes the element of audience although that is profoundly more weighted in a performance on stage. Still, the draughtsman is performing too, the moment the pencil encounters the page. Most importantly, with practice and discipline, each art brings us closer to our unique self and wakes us up to the present.
3, February 2017 § 2 Comments
“When we ask about the relationship of a liberal education to citizenship, we are asking a question with a long history in the Western philosophical tradition. We are drawing on Socrates’ concept of ‘the examined life,’ on Aristotle’s notions of reflective citizenship, and above all on Greek and Roman Stoic notions of an education that is ‘liberal’ in that it liberates the mind from bondage of habit and custom, producing people who can function with sensitivity and alertness as citizens of the whole world.” –Martha Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, 1998
Seven Liberal Arts: Francesco Pesellino: 1422-1457 Florence
While hoping to find a way to take a much needed sabbatical many years ago I made some phone calls in search for a person to take over my job for a semester. I talked to a woman who taught at a well known academy in the States, someone who I felt could teach drawing and painting simultaneously as I had been doing for years at the Aegean Center. I gave her the outline of the program; a three month course, in Greece, teaching 20 hours a week, covering the gamut from printmaking to oil painting. She brushed aside my inquiry but not because she felt the weight of long hours of teaching, or because the responsibilities were onerous, but because she would need to teach drawing and painting concurrently. She said that a student needed a full year of basic drawing, followed by a full year of figure drawing before they should be allowed to touch a brush. When I explained that being a single semester abroad program prevented us from spreading out the curriculum in this way she dumbfounded me with her response. “Well”‘ she said, “I consider myself a fascist when it comes to art instruction”. I thanked her for her time and promptly hung up.
In relating this story to students I often wondered whether the fascist intent was sanctioned by her academy or if it was just her own perverse mindset. I have unfortunately seen and heard of teachers who felt their method was uniquely correct and had no tolerance for other viewpoints. In art classes the slavish adherence to what is fashionable and a blindness to tradition can narrow students responses. As teachers we must all ensure that our students learn the basic skills that will serve them in future no matter which direction the art world takes. I am deeply committed to obtaining and practicing these skills, but to be a self proclaimed fascist in order to attain that objective is repugnant. Recently I contemplated her response again and thought about it in context to the current political climate. It still horrifies me and I still fight against the dictates that her statement implies.
The Liberal Arts were conceived to educate citizens who could uphold the highest ideals of the Greek and Roman cultures. Rhetoric, grammar, logic comprised the trivium and to these were added the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. Over the course of the centuries a liberal arts education has come to means something broader but it still indicates a course of study which seeks to inculcate a student to uphold the fundamental underpinning of a democratic society. The arts, especially the visual arts, play a role in embedding memory, culture and history into the minds of citizens. The museum plays its part as well as the galleries, publications and criticism. The arts aspire to imagination, forward thinking, to uphold aesthetic ideals and keep sensitivity alert. This perhaps is why the first thing many dictators do is imprison the artists and poets. But art can also be fashioned into propaganda and can in itself become weighted down with rules and dictates. And apparently teaching art can become fascistic as well.
If we are to remain an open society we need to teach the creative process and embody it as well in our teaching. I try to foster a creative environment in the studio along with emphasizing the discipline that learning an art form demands. Strangely, many art students do not feel creative. The striving to make something of merit often stifles the urge to begin. Creativity requires a certain amount of mess, of boredom, of play and practice in order to perform its magical alchemy. Rigid hierarchical formulae do not help to promote its appearance. We cannot be creative if we are being taught that conforming is the most important requirement. This is why so many students feel that being creative is a rare gift rather than a natural outcome of their nature, too many years spent in graded, monitored, tested classrooms can kill off the ability to create. Often beginning students are intensely creative before fear and compliance knock them back into simply performing for others.
I stay in my job with pleasure, it keeps me involved in my passions and engaged with young clever minds. I teach drawing and painting but I also feel my job is to awaken students to their own nascent creativity. To engage in the creative process is to grow as a person and as a citizen of the world. Within the beautiful environment of the Center with its multicultural milieu, with imaginative and intellectual activities and trusting relationships the creative is allowed to emerge. :Jane Morris Pack
“Those persons, whom nature has endowed with genius and virtue, should be rendered by liberal education worthy to receive, and able to guard the sacred deposit of the rights and liberties of their fellow citizens; and . . . they should be called to that charge without regard to wealth, birth or other accidental condition or circumstance.” –Thomas Jefferson, 1779
15, July 2014 § 2 Comments
by Jacklyn Massari
Once upon a time there was a girl named Mackie Vassari. She was living the perfect life, according to society. She had the perfect apartment in a cute little suburban town right next to a park. The apartment was white, with lots of natural light, and the most precious blue tea pot.
She had a comfortable full time job that she knew so well, she could even do her job with her eyes closed. Mackie’s job was not far from her super cute apartment, where she liked to light candles and incense after she got home from work, while she was making chicken sausage for dinner. Yum!
She was living with a guy named Bon. He was the All-American Man. He had a great, stable job, common sense (for the most part), and a decent sense of humour. He wanted to provide everything to Mackie for the rest of her life. She would never have to lift a finger, except to paint, which is her favourite thing to do!
She was basically on the verge of living the dream. Or was she? She found herself thinking constantly about life. What’s the point? There must be more to life than this. Right? This can’t be it. She was confused and sad. Except for when she taught Zumba classes to ladies who loved shaking their booties. But other than that, she was sad.
One day, someone she knew from high school died of cancer. He was so young. She imagined that that could happen to anyone, and she immediately booked a trip to Greece because it had always been her DREAM to go there. She wanted to make sure she got the chance, and realised that it will never be “the right time” for anything. So just do it now.
That trip made her realise that there is a big world out there, and she wanted more of it. Soon after, Mackie applied to the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts. Much to her surprise, she was on a plane on her way to the Center for her first (of three) semesters only a month later. It seemed like a whirlwind, but pretty much the coolest whirlwind in the whole wide world. She left Bon, her job, her apartment, and the rest of her life behind her to travel off to Paros.
Slowly slowly, she stopped thinking so much about what the point of life is. She was just happy. She was learning a million things about art, languages, Greek mountain tea, Greek superstitions, relationships, Italian Renaissance artists, egg tempera painting and sunsets. She was also learning how to live simply and how important art is to her happiness and well being…and not only hers, but everyones. She learned so many things about herself that she never would have learned otherwise. Art opens up all those doors.
Mackie is even more obsessed with art than ever before. Since leaving the Aegean Center, she has been working many fulfilling, artistic jobs, and slowly building her life back up again in the way that is right for her. She lives in a small studio that shakes sometimes because it is located right next to the train tracks, and above a fish shop that smells of rotten fish sometimes (especially in the summer) and with a shower that does not work. BUT she is SO much happier.
And so the moral of the story is:
1. Live life to the fullest.
2. Don’t wait.
4. Be happy.
5. Live simply.
6. BADDABING BADDA BOOM!
Jacklyn Massari attended the Aegean Center in Spring 2011, Fall 2011 and Spring 2012. She returned to the Aegean Center this summer to attend Jane’s Figure Drawing Intensive.
30, October 2013 § 1 Comment
I graduated three years ago from a well-known private university in New York City. Due to my interdisciplinary studies, I took a variety of classes in fine arts, business, economics, writing, Swahili and a slew of liberal arts courses. With each class I learned a great deal of knowledge about the topic and myself, but I was never inspired to act upon my education. In fact my life in New York City became rigid and stagnant; I no longer went with the flow of life, but tried to control each and every bit of life that I could.
Art had been a large part of my life growing up. In high school I even took two art classes a year, but in university, art began to slip away from me. After my second year of university, I no longer thought of myself as an artist, and I stopped creating art for four years. At that point, I lost a huge part of myself.
Late last February I woke up on a cold Sunday morning with the guidance to come to the Aegean Center. I had recently started drawing again and had a few brief stints painting and began to realize that creating art energized me. The program started in one week, but I knew as last minute as this decision was, that I was meant to be in Greece in the spring and to be a part of the program.
And I was meant to be here. It was here that I found painting and drawing classes with Jun and Jane that sparked my imagination and inspired me to learn in ways that I had not done since I was a child. As someone who has also worked abstractly, the classical foundation classes were challenging, but kept me motivated and interested. Jane Pack’s figure drawing course particularly inspired me. Jane’s innovative and straightforward teaching technique introduced me to the human form, the way it moves, the way it has density and even those obscure names for bones, like the iliac crest, or muscles, like abductors. I was a sponge, able to absorb information easily and often. I never got tired of my education, and in fact wished there was more time in the day to learn more.
I am grateful for my years at a traditional university; I have a strong business background and great memories. Had I come to the Aegean Center at the age of 18, I may not have been able to take from it what I am now taking from it at the age of 26. I know that I am at a point in my life where I am receptive to an art education and I am now able to accept my path as an artist and a creative because of the nourishing and exceptional two semesters that I have had at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts.
24, July 2013 § Leave a comment
Today is the final day of the two week Figure Drawing Intensive at the Aegean Center. We are tired but exhilarated and all the participants have seen great improvement in their abilities to draw the figure. I see startling jumps in the comprehension of form and anatomy, exactness of position and character of the pose. In the last few days the ability to concentrate and focus has increased and a one hour drawing flies by without awareness of the time passing. We have worked in ink, finger paint, conte, charcoal and pencil. Yesterday we drew portraits. Now time is needed to allow the information to sink in and enter the subconscious.
It was a joyful experience to teach this group. Each student brought their unique skills and perspective and we all helped each other to achieve our best. Thank you to Eleni, Elena, Ellie, Maia, Cassie, Penny, Isabel, Anglelika, and Avril for your contributions.
9, October 2012 § 1 Comment
(Administrator’s Note: The Aegean Center for the Fine Arts blog is back! Sorry if you couldn’t find us for a while — we were having some technical issues! Visit us again for more news and notes from the Aegean Center!)
Sitting on the top deck of the 5:30 p.m. Blue Star ferry, I pulled my black moleskin journal out of my backpack. “Why I am going to Paros,” I wrote at the top of the page. I stared at the blank sheet.
I had dreamed of returning to visit Paros and the Aegean Center since the day I left almost three years ago, but now that the moment had arrived, I was more nervous than excited. None of my friends from my semester were returning with me—What would I do on my own for an entire week? Did my teachers want to see me as much as I wanted to see them, or was my visit an imposition? Had I built Paros into an unrealistic fantasy in my memory, and was the bubble about to burst? Did I really expect being there to answer all the huge, existential questions about my precarious future that were running through my mind?
I chewed on the back of my pen. “Because I love the beach,” I wrote, drawing a line through the words immediately after. “Because the baklava at the bakery is the best in the world,” I wanted to make myself laugh. “Because I need John’s advice,” I tried again. “Because the last time I was lost and confused, I went to Paros and swam in the Aegean Sea and calmed down, and I’m counting on the magic still being there.” Not entirely satisfied with this list, I snapped my journal shut. The sun was turning a rich orange as it sank into the water and the wind was thick with salt and anticipation, reminding me of the sunsets I had watched and painted from the church by the Paroikia shore.
When the ferry finally pulled in at 10:00 p.m., the port could not have been a more different place than the cold, deserted town I had left behind three Decembers ago. Tourists flocked up and down the waterfront. Hotel staff and car rental services accosted disembarking passengers before they could make it past the windmill. Every bar and restaurant was packed beyond capacity. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, feeling more anxious than ever. But my feet did not falter once as they walked through the Plaka, turning onto Market Street towards the school building. Behind me, the noisy evening erupted into a flurry of fireworks to celebrate the assumption of Mary. “What am I doing here?” I muttered to myself.
I first met Jun when he was busy at his exhibition “Sacred/Wild,” but he still took the time to welcome me back and help me settle into my apartment. My initial apprehensions retreated and I fell asleep to the sound of the wind in the olive groves. When I arrived at the school the next morning and saw John and Jane, any remaining uneasiness disappeared entirely. “We’re so happy to have you,” they welcomed me. Within moments, I felt no different than I had as a student, stopping by the Uffizi during one of my breaks between classes. Before I could ask, John handed me a key to the school and encouraged me to use it as much as I needed to. Soon, Jane was making travel suggestions for my upcoming trip to Turkey and we were pouring over books about Istanbul. Our conversation meandered, from the potential to study the similarities between Indian and Greek philosophy to journalism in the digital age and, most importantly, the texture of the week’s myzithra. I was finally home.
Hours later, at a table at the Albatross laden with my favorite Parian foods, I remembered one of the most valuable lessons I learned at the school: to appreciate good food. From our elaborate dinners at Villa Rospigliosi to the simple meals I used to cook with other students at the Aegean Village, food is a central part of the Aegean Center. I began to see food as much more than the basis for sustenance: it is an experience to be revered and cherished. At my first Monday morning meeting as a student, John opened with the words, “I want you all to promise me that tomorrow morning, you will buy a pomegranate and break it over Greek yogurt and honey for breakfast.” I didn’t really like pomegranate, but the one I ate to fulfill this promise changed my palette forever.
That was October, and this was August— it was too early for pomegranate. Now was the time to eat honeydew and water melon, and I was not about to argue with the land. On Paros, eating seasonal food acquired new significance. I became more attuned to weekly weather transitions than my own desire for a specific food. I realized that fresh, local ingredients and spontaneity are critical to a good meal, but even more essential is good company. As students, we had carried our small stoves to one apartment, pooled together the produce we had bought earlier that day and cooked dinner with each other.
Three years later, over plates piled with fresh gavros and calamari, luscious beets perfectly complemented with skordalia and horta, and tomatoes with creamy myzithra that instantly put all other cheese to shame, I remembered how much I loved to eat the Aegean Center way. As we passed the plates around, each of us was careful to serve ourselves so that everyone else would have enough. Sharing was far more important than self-indulgence. How we learn to eat is symbolic of how we learn to take care of each other and develop a heightened sensitivity to our surroundings.
The Paros I had returned to in the summer was remarkably different from the winter Paros I remembered, but its beauty still left me breathless. My friends (the ones who have never been to Greece) often tease me that my relentless praise for Greece’s natural beauty makes me a perfect candidate to work for the Greek Tourism Organization. Ever since I left, I have dreamed of the narrow, cobbled streets of Paroikia, weaving my way through white washed walls, blue domes and pink bougainvillea creepers. I have insisted that the sunlight on Paros is more luminous than anywhere else in the world and that the deep purple and turquoise water of the Aegean has mysterious healing properties.
Returning to Paros reaffirmed that its landscape instantly calms me. I spent my days visiting old haunts and discovering new ones. I realized that Krios was no longer the far beach I used to hike to in the winter; it was one of the busiest beaches on the island, and a ten-minute ferry ride from the port. Lefkes, however, was still deserted once I walked out of the town square and into the mountains. Hiking past abandoned windmills, through the terraced landscape studded with ancient olive trees, I returned to my solitary Paros. The sirocco was particularly violent that day, but with no one but the wind to listen to, I found the same inner quiet that I had come looking for. Suddenly the questions that had been on my mind since I left New York three weeks ago no longer seemed insurmountable.
I rediscovered my old running route to the Valley of the Butterflies and went swimming at the Cave of the Nymphs, each time feeling immensely grateful to connect so intimately with the earth. I have grown up and lived in large cities for most of my life, and the ability to appreciate nature is one that I have gradually learned. Learning to love Paros, and by extension Greece, was easy, because I was introduced to the place through John’s love for the island. Friday hikes are as much a part of the curriculum as figure drawing or art history. As students, we learned that although we spent most of our time in Paroikia, there were worlds beyond for us to explore. Three years later, my interest in wandering around the island was still fresh. Where would a familiar path lead me if I turned left instead of right? Where would the land lead me if I left the path all together?
Paros reminded me that it is possible to live slower and more deliberately, and that the benefits to watching the sun set and moon rise every evening are immeasurable. I felt the same unencumbered joy each morning when I woke up simply by choosing to listen to the waves. I realized that I could call more than one place in the world “home,” because even after I left Paros, I continued to carry its wisdom with me.
Being at home on Paros was possible because I was also coming home to family. The Aegean Center is not a semester- or year-long program: it is an opportunity to belong to a close-knit community for life. From seeing familiar faces around Paroikia to meeting students from different semesters who were also there, every day was an affirmation of the school’s inclusive and supportive community.
When I met Jeff and Liz in the school courtyard, they asked me not five but twenty-five questions about how I was, what I had done in the past three years and what I planned to do in the future. Our conversation picked up exactly where it left off when I used to sit in the dark room with Liz, pouring over my test strips and telling her what was on my mind. At the school, we develop relationships with our teachers that go far beyond typical student teacher interactions. Our teachers make the effort to get to know us, take care of us and remain genuinely interested in who we become after we leave. Reconnecting with John, Jane, Jun, Jeff and Liz reminded me that I had learned much more than fine arts skills at the school. Their experience and insight has taught me a way of life that I constantly seek to recreate when I am physically not on Paros.
One week later, on my way to Athens, I was back on the top deck of the ferry with my journal. “I could write pages and pages about this past week. But all I need to say about it is that it was perfect,” I wrote. Visiting Paros brought back beautiful memories and allowed me to create new ones. It reminded me that the bliss I had experienced as a student was still there, and will always be there, waiting patiently for me to return.