Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fashion Drawing I: It begins

From left to right: sketch from live model drawing session in class, F.D. I textbook, figures in fashion proportions for homework

So, I had my very first class on Wednesday. Going into it, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and I strained to recall what first classes were like back at William & Mary. Would the teacher expect us to bring anything? Art supplies? Would there be nude models? I just didn't know. Despite never having been a boy scout I do feel a policy of preparedness is a virtuous one, so I brought a small sketch pad and some drawing pencils, just in case.

The room is pretty bare. Stainless steel tables with metal stools form a U-shape around the perimeter with a carpeted platform in the center. At the front is a whiteboard, and off to the side, inexplicably, one of those metal newspaper dispensers you see on the street for the New York Times. When I arrived there were just a few other people sitting around the room. No one was sitting directly next to each other or chatting, they were all just quietly texting or casting furtive glances around the room. I sat down one seat apart from a brown-haired girl who was looking nervously at her schedule. I had my coat in my lap, and I noticed everyone else did too. Looking around (furtively), I saw that there were coat hooks behind the door, so I got up and hung up my umbrella and coat. Slowly, one by one, the other students also stood up to walk swiftly to the row of hooks and hang up their coats. A natural born leader, that's me!

My furtive glancing accidentally collided with a furtive glance from the brown-haired girl to my right. She smiled tentatively, and I tentatively smiled back. "Hi," I said.

"Hi," she said back, "Is this your first semester?"

"Yeah," I replied.

"Mine too," she said.

"It's my very first class, actually. Are you doing the AAS program?"

"Yes," she said, and then in a confidential tone, "I'm so nervous about this class, I'm really terrible at drawing. I went to this intensive camp for it once, and the instructor was so mean to me about my work that I haven't done it since."

Hoping that she hadn't detected any visible signs of the relief these words had invoked, I made with the pep talk. It's not that I'm happy she's so nervous, but it's nice to know that there's at least one other person in the class who is just starting out in the program. Time passed and more people filtered in. It wasn't until about eight minutes past the hour that the teacher arrived and class finally began.

The teacher (professor?), W, has a young face and long black braids. He introduced himself with a quick overview of his career as an illustrator in the fashion industry, which has been long and pretty impressive. He has been teaching at Parsons for the past 15 years, and still does illustration work as well as fine art. The way he speaks, you can tell that he genuinely likes teaching, something he also told us straight up. I have high hopes for him as an instructor, because in addition to projecting as a very friendly guy, he also has a no-nonsense air about him that I respect. I think his criticism will be informative and useful, and I don't think he'll hesitate to give it when it is due, which is pretty much exactly what you want in an art teacher. He did seem slightly disappointed that more people hadn't brought any drawing supplies with them, at which time I was thanking my worry-bone that it had made me bring that sketchpad and pencils, let me tell you!

After going over most of the syllabus, covering the typical syllabus stuff (rules about missing class, food in class, homework and grades) and the typical art class stuff (what supplies to get and where to get them), we took a short break, and then it was time for some live model drawing! I supplied the girl to my right with some sketch paper and a pencil, and we were off. This was actually something that I've done before: 5 minute sketches, where the model changes poses after five minutes. I'm not really sure what Prof. W thought of my work--he never said anything to me, although he did give suggestions to a few people as he was walking around the room.

The sketches certainly were not my best work, but I didn't feel terrible about them. Drawing is like a muscle--it gets stronger the more you do it, and atrophies if you stop. In high school and college, I drew all the time. The margins of worksheets, the paper textbook covers made from grocery bags, the interior of my planner, they were all covered in little illustrations. I had sketchbooks filled with my ideas for comic book characters, and eventually I started working on a few ideas for graphic novels. Later in college, when Clint and I started working on The Supreme Idols of Subculture (our super cool two-person band,) I drew all the art for our website. Thankfully, I still have most of it, even though the website is long dead.

Looking back on all of this stuff, it looks like it was produced by another person. It looks that way because my drawing muscle has gotten so weak, there's no way it could produce work of that quality right now. I look back on this art from the past and I'm proud because it's good, but I'm also kind of regretful. Somewhere between then and now, I let my drawing-self atrophy, and getting back into the swing of it is going to involve a lot of hard work. But it's work that I'm looking forward to, and even if it's frustrating at times, I know it's worth it. Onward!

Okay, I know that should have been the dramatic ending to all this, but I have to share this last anecdote, because it totally silently cracked me up. At the end of class, Prof. W was going over what we needed to bring for next time and the homework. He had asked us to bring a charcoal pencil, and then remembered that we'd also need a kneaded eraser. He was trying to explain what a kneaded eraser is, and then this kid E, one of two dudes in the class, holds one up, which Prof. W takes and uses as a visual aid to his explanation. At this point, this E character gives the rest of us the most smug, self-satisfied look I had ever seen, and even rolled his eyes a little bit, as if to say, "Heaven forbid I should share a universe with such plebians. Imagine knowing not of kneaded erasers!" It was pretty much the most hilarious moment of my week.

No comments: