“I’m your Venus, I’m your fire…”

A little 80’s nostalgia courtesy of Bannanarama to begin this entry.

I haven’t written about North Carolina yet even though I finished my second round of studies there in August of last year. I have meant to, of course, but I haven’t quite decided how. I wax nostalgic for North Carolina even though I’ve only seen a few square miles of it really (mostly the short drive from Pinehurst to Southern Pines). I think about the Academy alot particularly when I know I should be drawing and I’m not. There one cannot be lazy nor does one want to be.

Over the summer I completed three drawings. They were all tough in their own way and exciting, too. I had started the Homer Bargue drawing at home and tried to maintain the discipline I had received the summer before. “Real life” gets in the way and you never Homer Detail Eyesdraw as much as you should. When I say “you’ I mean “I”. As it turned out I was pretty lucky to have not finished the drawing before I headed south again. I had hit some rough spots and working on the drawing under the watchful eye of the Maestro and the more advanced students helped me get back on track. I fell right back into the rhythm of the studio; it felt like I had never left. Everything was wonderfully familiar. Homer turned out pretty Homer Croppedwell, I think. I posted am image of him in a previous entry. Not too shabby. That brought me to four Bargue drawings but it must have been pretty obvious I needed some more work. I then began the fifth Bargue drawing, large Venus image.

Here is what I like about the atelier format of art education that I think art schools, colleges, and universities should take a good hard look at: You don’t move on until you’ve mastered the foundation technique. Now, I know in education (boy do I know) they’ll tell you that’s just how they run their program. I believe they (the ubiquitous and vague “they”) honestly believe in what they are saying. But I’m a product of that environment. I’ve worked in that environment. It’s not the case. You pay your money, you do your time (prison reference intentional) and then you walk out an artist. Two tings of note: 1. That system is run by money, we all know that. 2. You probably aren’t an artist.  In defense of that last statement I freely admit that I am not an artist. I don’t think most people who think they are really are. I will probably never be one. There are few Titans of the Arts out there. They usually have one name: Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Sargent….  I guess I’ve revealed the gods in my pantheon of art. I’m not discounting more recent artists. I would definitely include the names Cornell and Rothko to the above list. If I made a list of poets I think Cornell and Rothko would fit in there quite nicely as well. Ultimately, I suppose I have no idea what it means to be an artist and as a result I suppose I don’t really know what art is. You may just want to discount everything you’ve read so far. I might…

In the same way that the Ariadne Bargue was an incredibly important experience for me (it still hangs were I can see it so I can remember how much I still need to learn) the large Venus induced a great deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Oh, she started out Venus sketchcharming and alluring, full of soft curves and round shapes, pulling you close and making you promises as a Venus is wont to do. But near the end I could not stand the sight of her. Frustration upon frustration. The secrets she revealed early on grew complex into a maelstrom of related but seemingly contradictory qualities. She grew cold and I knew I would never know her secrets and was a fool to think I could have. Dejected. Rejected. Led on and led astray. But then it happened, as it was supposed to, as it was ordained to… the tumblers fell into place. The tantalizing little relationships I thought I saw at the beginning, thought I understood at the beginning, where just glimpses out of the corner of my eye; half realized vagaries seen straining through a fog. How clever I thought I was to have seen them. I made a meticulous sketch with detailed notes about all the relationships I saw. How one form related to another and how this group related to that….. My sketch looked like a page from an illuminated manuscript, a holy book. In the center was the drawing; the gospel, and around it the scribbled notes and naive interpretations of novice trying to will himself to understand. But then all those small bits and pieces, little relationships and connections became one. And I knew this drawing. I had seen the parts and then I had seen the whole…. Then I saw them all together, simultaneous and in harmony (or with as much harmony as my furtive scratching would allow).  A tempestuous relationship with a demanding mistress. But in the end I came to know that drawing. (Am I still talking about drawings?) The drawings I completed have sat in boxes unopened since my return leaning against my easel. I recently opened them to have a look and take a few measurements; perhaps frame one or two. There she was, somehow closer to perfection than I remembered. There are still things “off” I’m sure but I try not to let myself get too caught up in those deficiencies. The curves and arches and bends are all there; gentle, soft, beguiling. I put the drawing up on my easel and thought: “I know you.”Venus Cropped

Art is a funny thing. These objects are like people. They have personality. When I go to the museum there are certain paintings I have to see before I leave. The Rembrandt usually, the Caravaggio and Sargent certainly, and Ruben’s portrait of his wife, Isabella Brant, without exception. (  http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1947.207 ) Sometimes I watch people interact with my favorite paintings (my paintings). I wonder what they are thinking. I wonder why they are drawn to this work or that. Perhaps I should ask. Paintings, works of art in general I suppose, are like people in that way. They have special and unique relationships with each person. It’s unwholesome to have such an impassioned relationship with another mans wife but since she died of the plague a few hundred years ago I don’t think anyone will mind.

I then graduated on to the third dimension: my first cast drawing. But we’ll save that story for another day.


~ by Kelson Barber on February 18, 2014.

One Response to ““I’m your Venus, I’m your fire…””

  1. I’ve been waiting for this one.

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