Art and Risk

29, November 2012 § 3 Comments

Hemingway

by Jane Morris Pack

It seems to me that people have vast potential. Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don’t. They sit in front of the telly and treat life as if it goes on forever. – Philip Adams

The most important thing to remember is this: to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become. – W. E. B. Du Bois

Stephen Nachmanovitch  relates in his book, “Free Play”, that the Buddhists list five great fears.  They are the fear of loss of life, the fear of loss of livelihood, the fear of loss of reputation, the fear of unusual states of mind, and the fear of public speaking.  It is the last which seems  significant to the arts. If making art were a completely private endeavor we could all be as reckless as we pleased, try out wild ideas and fumble and fail if necessary as we learned.  But the presence of the invisible critic leaning over our shoulder is a specter who haunts our work, the intimidating public eye.  It sometimes prevents us from taking risks which might benefit our work.

I recently read in a New York Review of Books that Faulkner once criticized Hemingway for lacking courage as a writer.  Quoting the article, Faulkner said that  Hemingway  “…had always been too careful, never taking risks beyond what he knew he could do.” Hemingway was an outdoors man, a hunter, a deep sea fisherman, a war correspondent.  Faulkner on the other hand was a school dropout, a postmaster, a clerk.  The article, penned by E.L. Doctorow, concludes with these remarks, “that Hemingway was technically undaring… in thrall to the romance of the self, he never tapped the human psyche to the depth of raw existence, or written of characters not defined by the familiar constructs of social reality.” Hemingway was seemingly willing to risk life and limb but Faulkner dared to confront human passions at “eye level” as Doctorow puts it.  It is obvious who Doctorow admires most.

Art taps into a sense of risk and bravado without necessarily reflecting outwardly into our daily actions and habits.   I see this contradiction in some students occasionally, those with quiet exteriors that  hide surprising strength and daring.  Public failure steers many others away from taking risks, the probability of catastrophe looming too large and near.  What do we have to fear? Perhaps the other four possibilities on Nachmanovitch’s list… loss of life, livelihood, reputation, and  finding ourselves in unusual states of mind.  But perhaps mostly we  fear that we were fooling ourselves all along into believing that we had some special gift for artistic expression. We fear exposure.

Peter Abbs wrote that art allows one to “ratchet up one’s life to the level of high adventure”. So how do we dare? By not settling for the familiar.  By not repeating our successes endlessly.  By trying out a new material, a new medium.  By not believing too religiously either our critics or our admirers. Perhaps by avoiding a new difficult 21st century problem…instant gratification and shallow success.  Taking a few risks is gratifying whether we win or lose.

The refusal to rest content—the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one’s obsessions—is what distinguishes artists from entertainers and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all. – John Updike

It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who—at the best—knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who—at the worst—at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.  – Theodore Roosevelt

Easter: The Transcendence of Kefi

9, May 2012 § Leave a comment

My expectations for the Easter weekend at Ekatontapyliani were set pretty high. And it delivered the goods. The promised rose petals fell from the dome at midnight on Good Friday, the lights of the church were extinguished at midnight on Easter Eve and then hand-held candles, carrying a flame from Jerusalem apparently, relit the church and sanctuary outside. Then sure enough there was a firework display in the square (followed by an unofficial one conducted by unruly teenagers that was menacingly close to the hoards of church-goers!).

But I wouldn’t dare purport to have experienced Greek Easter without having at least sampled ‘Mayiritsa’ — yes, that’s right, gut soup, eaten to reintroduce meat to the diet after lent. So we promptly drifted over to a nearby taverna at midnight after church and I gave it a go. I also ate a couple of ‘kokoretsi’ rings for my dad’s sake (England’s number one Kokoretsi fan, kokoretsi being chopped innards wrapped in intestines).

Although all these experiences were memorable, what really defined Easter 2012 for me was the impromptu dancing in that taverna after the Mayiritsa had gone down. I’m talking old men in the middle of the restaurant dancing ‘Zeimbekiko’ on smashed glass, with paper napkins snowing down on them, sweat and passion till 5am on Easter morning. The rhythm and the melody got me and I just had to dance. Just days before, Eleni had led a Greek dancing lesson on Zeimbekiko so a group of us headed for the clearing between the tables and joined in.

Although I had been taught Zeimbekiko before, Eleni was the first to teach me about the spirit behind the dance; its origin being an ancient war dance that soldiers performed to simultaneously express their pride, pain and passion. That ethos is still alive and literally kicking.

At one point a man jumped from being upright straight down to being horizontal on the ground in a press up position, picked up a wine glass with his teeth from the floor, downed the wine and then with a nod, released it sending crystals of glass in every direction much to the delight of the crowd.

But what never fails to astound me is the agility of the older men who, to be honest aren’t always at the peak of physical fitness. They manage to draw strength for their hops, leaps, twists and slow backwards bends from somewhere beyond their bodies, it must be from their spirits.

Let me introduce the Greek word ‘kefi’. ‘Kefi’ doesn’t succinctly translate into English but refers to an overflow of exuberance from your spirit which can manifest itself in dancing, singing or general high spirits. Sometimes it carries connotations of being so happy you’re a bit mad. What else could possess you to dance till 5 in the morning and not feel tired? In an instant it didn’t really matter who or what you were, we were one group moved by the moment and nothing else mattered. It can’t be planned or expected but sometimes Kefi strikes and when I look back on that night I’m reminded of exactly why I got a one-way ticket to Greece.

– Nicola Pasterfield

Some Advice and a Song from Michael Butler

23, April 2012 § Leave a comment

Michael Butler, curator of the Sidney Cooper Gallery at  Canterbury Christ Church College in Canterbury, England recently visited  Greece and dropped by the Aegean Center.  Traveling with his wife, Claire, they felt the need for some sunshine and came to renew their acquaintance with the landscape which Michael had backpacked through many years ago. Michael was introduced to John Pack when the exhibit, The Greater Journey, with John’s photographs and poetry by Peter Abbs, was hosted by the Sidney Cooper Gallery in 2008.

We urged Michael to give us a short talk on whatever topic he wished.  We were treated to an abbreviated summary of his career choices (as a youth he sang with Benjamin Britten),  an inventory of suggestions for artists when approaching a gallery, and a lovely song which he adapted from Purcell’s Fairest Isle and to which he wrote new words reflecting his Paros stay. He sang this a cappella in a lovely high baritone.  We include his lyrics here:

To Paros

Fairest Isle
All dreams excelling
Source of beauties
And of love.

*
The Gods’ own blessings
Fell upon it
Crowned with glories
Wreathed in light.

*
Artemis and Apollo’s
Temples
Marbled Halls
With statues bold.

*
Speak of times where
Man’s invention
Chimed in union
With this world.

His best advice:  your CV is not a list of what you have done but an invitation to live fully and fill in the blank spaces as you go.

Thank you, Mike.

– Jane Pack

Rafael Mahdavi at the Center

20, April 2012 § Leave a comment

Rafael Mahdavi is a painter  and sculptor.  Son of an American mother and a Persian father he was born in Mexico, has lived and worked in America, France, Greece, Austria, Spain and England.  He has quadruple nationality, France, American, Mexican and Iranian.    He may be truly the man of the age:  cosmopolitan, multicultural,  an educated artist , scholar and self made man.

He gave a talk and slide lecture at the Center this month which he entitled Forty Years in Four Minutes.  This was accompanied by a musical piece written by his son.  He then talked in depth about a dozen of his seminal pieces and spoke about his process.  His painting incorporates photographic images, patterning and slashing brush marks.  His work is autobiographical, textured and sometimes includes language.  We saw several pieces based on the braille alphabet, paintings based on personal symbolism, and some large, folding metal fabricated sculptures.

“If painting is to communicate anything and be in the world of people looking at painting, it must be about something other than itself. These ideas made me take a hard look at my work since New York. In the late nineties I started to cull the beginnings of a visual and recognizable alphabet from that era: shoes as home, posts as demarcation in a landscape, the body as landscape. The broken sun- glasses represent the idea that some images are shattering, and the camera symbolizes painting’s nemesis. I continued to elaborate and implement this visual alphabet in my painting: Braille representing touch and the opposites, sight and blindness. Shells as a personal music; water as the absence of taste; the dog as fidelity and poverty. The diver/leaper represents the plunge into the unknown, the leap of faith.”  (from his website http://www.rafaelmahdavi.com)

– Jane Pack

Euphrosyne Doxiadis at the Center

16, April 2012 § 1 Comment

Euphrosyne Doxiadis, working her persuasive powers and demonstrating her intense passion, gave the students two wonderful lectures this last month.  Her first, The Mysterious Fayum Portraits, opened their eyes to the high level of artistic wizardry which created the portraits of people living in Hellenistic Egypt in the first century after Christ.  These portraits look wonderfully fresh and alive after being pulled from the sand of the desert where they had been affixed to mummies.  We wonder at their clarity, color and modern feel.  The painting students who are currently learning the four color palette, the same ancient system as was used by the Greek masters, saw the depth and variety this limited palette allows.  Euphrosyne went into some detail as to the technical procedure so that the students could realize they are participants in a long line of painting tradition spanning the ages.

Detail from Roman Charity by Peter Paul Rubens

Detail from Samson and Delilah by ?

The second lecture was equally fascinating.  Euphrosyne believes, and has convinced us all, that the Rubens painting in the National Gallery in London,  the Samson and Delilah, is a forgery.  With precision and evident distaste she pointed out the particular flaws which demonstrate that this could not be an original:  the lack of convincing brushwork, the flattened spacial elements, the poor understanding of form, the inky black background that comes against but not behind the figures.  All of these things and many more are tell-tale signs that Rubens had no hand in the piece.  Her website http://www.afterrubens.org tells the whole story.  No one left the lecture with any doubts.

– Jane Pack

Student Post: Steven Kosovac

19, March 2012 § 2 Comments

Paros is almost unrecognizable from three months ago. The overcast skies have departed and the sun shines down on the terraced landscape as the land is resaturated with bright greens and yellows and crisp white flowers. Despite a new apartment and a new group of students, it feels as though I never left. Classes are in full swing and my schedule is filled with photography, drawing, Greek lessons, art history, and the weekly Friday hikes. There will even be Greek cooking lessons on Saturdays.

This term I am excited to begin working with the school’s large format camera, a Wista 4×5. Over the past week, I familiarized myself with the camera and developed some test shots, and this weekend a few of us plan to drive to the nearby town of Lefkes to photograph the striking deserted windmills overlooking the area. In the meantime, I began developing a small series of photographs taken over the break in India. On Wednesday I went to my first-ever free draw. Though it was only the three returning students who showed up, we enjoyed the morning sunshine as we drew. Socks (formerly known as Maurice) and his new girlfriend, Muffin, showed up to distract us as they walked across the table and onto our laps, providing inspiration for drawing.

Another reason for my enthusiasm about the upcoming term: Over the break, John Pack took apart and repaired the digital lab’s Epson black and white printer so we will have an opportunity to learn about and experience Piezography (and rumor has it that Jon Cone, the pioneer of the process, will be visiting us in the near future). The paper we will be using is breathtaking and I cannot wait to begin printing.

This term promises to be both productive and rewarding, and the other students seem just as excited as I do to be here. While it feels strange to begin the session on Paros without first spending time at the Villa Rospigliosi, the extra time that we have on the island is much appreciated. The days are slowly becoming warmer and the light is more and more beautiful each day. Though my return for the spring session was prompted by many factors, the unparalleled beauty of this place is the one that I am reminded of every morning when I awaken to the gentle light coming through the white curtains of my bedroom, every evening when the sun dips quietly beyond the sea, and every moment in between.

At the Met Museum, January 12th

14, March 2012 § 1 Comment

Before our winter trip to America, mostly to see our family in sunny San Diego, we invited friends and students of the Aegean Center to join us at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. (I don’t say former students, since I still think of them – of you – as ongoing students and colleagues.) We had done this two years ago, when twenty-five joined us. This year another twenty-five managed to come, and we made a rich day of it.

Most of these students heard about this on Facebook, so it seems the site is actually good for something other than exclamation points. And Elizabeth and I were delighted that so many are living in or near the city, or were there for the holidays. New York is our home city, and the labyrinthine Metropolitan is the museum we know best.

The oldest student was Drew Weidemann, whose pictures of the event can be found on Franklin Einspruch’s site, here: http://www.artblog.net/post/2012/01/carson. Drew, now a professional photographer (www.drewwiedemann.com) was a student twenty years ago, and Franklin was a student a few years later and then an assistant to Jane; now he is a painter and noted art critic. Christine Linclau, a student a mere decade ago, only found out at the last minute, and came down from her office at the museum, where she is digital librarian, to greet us all.  Jessica Freedman, working at a gallery, came at the end. The youngest – well, there were several nineteen year olds – was probably Anna Deming. None of our students, of course, is ignorant about art, its lessons and delights. And John Masters and Jackie Massari are again here on Paros, trying not to be too distracted by Aegean spring.

The Met is huge, and a selection must be planned. Since all of us had studied Greek art together, and most of us had studied Italian Renaissance art together in Italy, we naturally stayed close to the Mediterranean. But we also wandered.
Did the museum know we were coming? For it had mounted one of the best shows we have seen in years: “The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini” – spacious room after room of Italian portraits from about 1425 to about 1515, by artists including Donatello, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, Pisanello, Mantegna, Bellini, and Antonello da Messina. Our etesian September often focuses on the new conception of individuality the Italian cities achieved, not based entirely on mere class and lineage. Men and women wanted to be portrayed as they were, but with intimations of inner vitality and strength. In the Bargello Museum in Florence, I often point to Donatello’s terracotta bust of Niccolò da Uzzano as the first true example of this new sensibility; though that piece did not make the journey, Donatello’s silver Reliquary of Saint Rossore, from the Pisa Museum, did.


In the same room as this masterpiece, a realistic drawing by Fra Angelico again demonstrated that Fra Giovanni was not a mediaeval holdover but at the forefront of the new movement formulated by Brunelleschi and given theoretic expression in 1435 by Alberti, who wrote in his treatise on painting in 1435: “Painting represents the dead to the living many centuries later, so that they are recognized by spectators with pleasure and deep admiration for the artist.” We saw Botticelli at his most poetic, Ghirlandaio at his most psychologically profound, and Bellini at his most empathetic – this is as great as painting gets.

The exhibition’s sculpture was equally brilliant; it is often noted that, before Leonardo, painters followed the lead of sculptors. What age of sculpture has ever surpassed the Quattrocento from Donatello to Michelangelo, with stops along the way for Verrocchio, Desiderio, and Benedetto da Maiano? Benedetto’s two heads of Filippo Strozzi, a rich banker, were of especial fascination. The terracotta one, surely done from life, was meditative and detailed, while the marble one, in fulfillment of the commission, was more abstract and idealized. Going back and forth between them, one could see how the artist made the inner and outer man two aspects of a complete person, public and private, spiritual and political, sensitive and stern; it was astonishing.

There were medals by Pisanello, drawings pricked for fresco translation by Ghirlandaio and Mantegna, illuminated manuscripts – and for some inexplicable reason, not too many people, so that we, a large group, could linger and discuss. But after our two-and-a-half hours in the show we were ready for a rest.

Meeting friends with whom one has much in common – in this case Paros, Italy, the Aegean Center, and art – is always a delight, and we lingered over lunch in the museum’s cafeteria. But then we got back to work, and going back nearly two thousand years, looked at Greek art, which so inspired the Italian Renaissance in its realism and craft, and is so different in its search for essential ideals, for the serenely heroic. Of course we visited the Girl with a Dove from Paros. I think most of us were thrilled that we could so readily compare what we were seeing with works we had studied together in Rome and Athens.


Athens and Florence, so disparate in time and culture, both believed that proportion, fidelity to nature, and reason were divine. Both were independent republics, whose citizens were extremely interested in the arts and so knowledgeable. And Venice and Paros made accommodation for sea light. There is more than one bloom of humanism, but its root is the respect for the individual in the world.

After a coffee break, we all opted for more: Titian, Rubens, Vermeer, and Velazquez. All in all, we were in the museum six hours, and left in high spirits, more exhilarated than tired. That is the effect art and knowledge are supposed to have. On the way out we stopped to contemplate the eagle from Giovanni Pisano’s great Pistoia pulpit, otherwise complete. Probably no one had looked at it, lost in its big mediaeval hall, for a year. Let this eagle be our inspiration till next time, and call us – Drew, Franklin, Christine, Anna, Lauren, Emily, Emily, Jackie, John, Christopher, Carter, Adrian, Shirin, Nikay, Jessica, Jessica, Kristin, Barbara, Brie, Arielle, Ves, Johanna, Jade, Michelle, Liz, and Jeff – to attention on what matters.

– Jeffrey Carson

Student Post: John Cappetta

5, December 2011 § 1 Comment

Paros is a small island, and at times it feels it. As an artist especially, we walk around living in our work and our minds. It gets real easy to spend an entire week in the town, making art, interacting with other students and the locals, until all of a sudden Paros feels like this tiny little rock comprised wholly of the little city Parikia. The Friday hikes are the weekly escape. A mental break for sure, they are an opportunity to recreate with all of the other students, to talk with them, as well as spend some quality time with John Pack. More than that, the Pack hikes are a chance to see the island outside of the town, and experience all of her rugged, prickly, life-giving beauty. When I say prickly, I mean, wear pants, you never know when the Byzantine era donkey path will be overgrown with typically Parian spiked shrubbery. When I say life giving I mean a couple things. First, bring a backpack, people lived off of this land for 10,000+ years, we find any herb a salad could want, lemons, olives that are good to eat off the tree, carob, almonds, half of Whole Foods grows here. I also mean life giving in the sense that, for some reason, nobody comes back from a hike and plops down for a 6 hour nap. It’s energizing, the land has a vitality to it.

On one hike, which was particularly full of ruins, fruit, and history, John and Jane took us to the Healing Tree, which for me, represents everything that the Friday Hikes are. This tree is ancient, with huge branches that sag to the ground and others that stretch up 20 meters. It’s a perfect tree to climb, lounge under, sit on, I could entertain myself there for hours. It got its name from a particular student in the past. She was depressed, and knew it before coming. When she got to Paros she decided she couldn’t handle being here, that she needed to go home. John convinced her to wait out the week, which included a hike to this particular tree. She saw the branches, climbed right up, stayed there for hours, and announced that she would stay. Spending time in the tree was a healing exercise for her, and she swore by it. This is what the hikes can do. They can heal you. Not to sound all New Age medicine or anything, but being in nature every Friday, led by John, is good for the soul. The time out there will inspire you and affect your work. They are an ultimate good, and I swear by them.

Student Post: Caroline Beaton

1, December 2011 § 2 Comments

To my great irritation, John Pack refused to pick us up from the Rome airport on September third. He wrote that it is a necessary experience to navigate the Italian transportation system and find the Villa Rospigliosi by oneself, which as he said,  your arrival surprises no one but yourself. I landed in Rome that morning and was by myself overseas for the first time in my life. I followed John’s instructions and found myself on a train to the Roma termini where I would catch the longer train to Florence. I stood by my suitcase, paranoid and lonely, and looked out the window. Graffiti cluttered sooty apartment buildings and laundry hung from decrepit balconies. If it is  possible for corn fields to look dirty, they did. I thought: Rome is filthy.  As the train ride took too long I felt  alternating emptiness and exhilaration and was reminded of a Tazo tea bag quote: “Empty yourself and let the universe fill you.” So I watched people emerge from underground railway steps as if from graves, and wrote that in my journal. In truth it was only I, every changing instant, every train stop, that felt truly reborn. I would come to learn that this rebirth is not quite as easy or as instant as famed. It is the slow de-tassling of corn along the train tracks, the hesitant pull and some resistance as the shuck releases. And once bare: naked, too bright and alone. Of course I wasn’t alone. I arrived at the Villa Rospigliosi, to my surprise, and was greeted by people (the cream of the crop!) that I would come to love. Furthermore, within and despite our togetherness, I would unearth my Self: flesh-colored and content.

Ironically, becoming comfortable as an independent individual was a byproduct of emptying myself. When I abandoned judgment– which filled my previous universe– and my old relationships, and my strongly rooted sense of American identity, I was left, at first, with only myself. And without those things what was I? In the beginning– it started on the train– I was lost, and at risk of fragmentation, as psychoanalysts say, as a result of the departure from my more comfortable universe and its contents. But feeling for the first time the anxiety of an impending state of fragmentation gave me underground wholeness. Emptying myself made room for a “Vita Nuova”; instead of wallowing in aloneness and chaos, I was inspired to embrace a new world and a new calling: to love instead of judge, to marvel instead of stress, to create (art!) instead of deconstruct. Returning to Rome after three weeks in Pistoia I felt as if I were seeing it for the first time. It was raw and ruinous. I noticed the rotting apartment buildings and the (colorful) tourists but wanted it just as it was. I marveled at the oscillating and polluted process of civilization, of art– its demise and miraculous resurfacing. After all, what would the Renaissance have been if not for the Dark Ages.

In short, the process of becoming empty and re-filling solidified my sense of self. Because, of course, by coming to Italy and Greece I did not leave or lose myself at all, but rather re-discovered it in the context of something different. Only then was I sure I had it at all. Being on the precipice of utter aloneness, I found that I am not solely a malleable product of my American culture, but an independent self with a free will and heart to internalize my ever-changing environment, no matter its unfamiliarity. With time, my self was gradually recognized and rebuilt within the unfamiliar constructs of the Aegean Center. And my new-found wholeness was nurtured, even sustained, by the loving relationships I developed, our creative pursuits and our unending quest to relish each other, our art, good food, and the beauty around us. Call it a personal renaissance, or an odyssey, or an extended meditation; whatever it was it gave me presence. It made me art.

As the threat of fragmentation again arises with only two weeks left in the semester, and the physical loss of these wonderful people and Greece is imminent at least for a time, I remind myself of what I have discovered: the competent Self seeks healthy, loving relationships for emotional nourishment but not completion or validation; she lives presently and thoughtfully and forgets familiarity; she embraces solitude; she allows perpetual emptying to fulfill and re-fill her. “Courage is the ability to open oneself to experience the unfamiliar”– I also read that on a tea bag. While this time I will be returning to the familiar, having courage – to find the unfamiliar in this known territory, to marvel at what I see and feel every day and to let that inflame my interests and my relationships – will keep me whole. Thanks for the train ride, John and friends (and Tazo tea).

Caroline Beaton is a painting student at the Aegean Center.

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.

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