What I did on Summer Vacation…

Did you ever have to write one of those essays when you were in elementary school? Well, this summer I would have had something to write about. This summer I had the incredible good fortune to spend seven weeks at the Academy of Classical Design in Southern Pines, North Carolina. I’m not going to recount the educational experience I had or talk about the curriculum or particulars of the specific drawings. If you are interested in such details I would strongly suggest that you head down south for the summer program. I can only say good things about the experience and any summary I could give would not do it justice. Trust me… you should go. (In the post are the drawings from the summer. My humble but sincere efforts….)

I will say this, however: Everyone there was as nice, thoughtful, and helpful as you could possibly imagine. The students produced great work and very kindly helped me through my stumblings as I tried to improve my drawing skills. The assistant director provided critiques that were critical but never left me feeling criticized. Her skill was evident from both how she spoke of the drawing process and her work that was present. The maestro was easily the best instructor with which I have worked. He has a calm, quiet demeanor and you immediately feel as if you have known him for years. He is witty in a conservative way, and his subtle sense of humor is gentle. The first day he asked where I was from and I answered “near Cleveland”.  “Why, you are a yankee!” he said. I said I had never been called a yankee by an actual southerner before to which he responded, in that soft North Carolina accent, “Well, you are most welcome.” When it came to teaching he was all business. There was a seriousness to it that you felt but it was never overbearing. It’s difficult to describe and I don’t think I can explain fully what studying there was like…. I’m grateful for the opportunity. It was an environment that compelled excellence. Anything less just  did not occur to you. The experience was one of those by which you judge your journey. There is the time before and the time after. And after you are a little different.

The other summer student and I drew from reproductions of the Bargue lithographs using the sight-size method. Unlike some versions of the method we used no plumb line and nothing to measure. We made a line, stepped back, judged, made another line, stepped back, judged. I drew thousands of lines this summer and walked mile after mile in twelve foot increments.

There were so many little things that contributed to making the experience so positive. I could go on and on but I think those things are not for you, dear reader, they are for me. The experience was so intense and intimate for me as an artist I can’t help or make you understand. To be frank, it is none of your business…. just as your great moments are none of mine.

The studio was quiet and dark and cool, a monastic shelter from the heat outside. The only sounds were the creaking of the wooden floor and the scratch, scratch, scratch of charcoal on paper. Sometimes Olive, the studio dog, would be there. She belonged to one of the advanced students. When she wanted to play she would take one of her toys and press it into the back of your knee. Frequently it was just me and Olive. I enjoyed the mornings a great deal. Drawing, playing with the dog, drawing, looking….there was nothing else in all the world. There is nothing better.

There were times when I was very frustrated. There were times when I was elated. There were times where I was just… connected some way. To what? I’m not sure….something important. Something big.

Coming home was hard. Much harder than I expected. More emotional than I expected or was prepared for. The last day of class the other summer student and I were the last ones in the studio. The other students had left for the day. We were putting the finishing touches on our final drawings. The maestro returned and the three of us chatted for a while. It struck me that this was it. Tomorrow I head home. I wish that evening could have gone on and on and on…. It was a long drive home to Ohio and I was profoundly sad.

I completed four drawings at the Academy. There are two more in the Bargue sequence.  On the easel in my living room the bust of Homer awaits. Two more Bargues and then a transition to three-dimensional subjects. I have a great deal to do before I head south next summer.


~ by Kelson Barber on September 3, 2012.

One Response to “What I did on Summer Vacation…”

  1. I was hoping you would put some of your work up. You make my day!

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