Is this thing on? (or Turning Over a New Leaf)

acanthus for blog detail 4Admittedly, it has been a long time since I posted anything. I have been thinking more and more about why I haven’t kept this updated. I wish I could say that I have been so busy making art and doing commissions and having shows that I just haven’t had a moment to gather my thoughts to complete a post. I wish I could say that…. In truth, I am a lazy man. Honestly, real life snuck up on me and demanded a lot of attention. Sometimes I forget that making art is real life. I should be more conscientious of my time. Enough apologies. How about some pictures and a story or two?

These pictures are from a little excursion I took walking some trails not for trail 1 for blogfrom the Academy. There are horses aplenty down around there. in the far distance of the large picture you can see two people on horseback. Later that afternoon I met a jockey (from Ireland) who was out waking a young horse on the sandy trails. He says this helps strengthen their hearts before they travel to New York and Kentucky for the rest of their training.

trail for blog 5

So this story goes back to 2014. Thanks to the graciousness of the maestro I was able to return to the Academy to continue my studies. Last summer I completed a charcoal drawing of the cast of the nose. This summer I was to work on a more challenging ornamental cast and perhaps make a painting as well. Oh Joy! Oh Rapture! To paint! How exciting. (Alas this was not to be and thankfully so. The drawing took longer than expected so there wasn’t enough time to adequately complete a painting. The maestro thought it best that I push the drawing as far as I could. This was a good idea. I got more out of that drawing than I think I could have from a hurried painting.)

I was given the option of drawing another facial feature or an ornamental cast. I had been reading a book about drawing acanthus leaves (cool, right?) so given a choice I selected the ornamental cast with the fragment of the acanthus leaf along with the decorative egg and dart at the top and a bead and reel below.I had no idea what those things were but picked it up as the drawing progressed.

The drawing began with a sketch on brown craft paper using charcoal and white chalk. In typical Bargue fashion the object was analyzed as geometric shapes. Identifying big shapes is stressed and I was reminded to always go back and reconfirm the relationships amongst the light and dark shapes across the form. You’d think that by now I wouldn’t need be so frequently reminded but I guess I’m a slow learner. I’m grateful for help in the studio by people more patient and skillful than I to help me along with suggestions and encouragement. Decent folks at the ol’ acanthus sketch for blogAcademy. The preliminary sketch lasted about a week. This is such an important stage for me as it helps me “get to know things” about what I am drawing. It reveals some interesting relationships within the subject. I never get tired of the discoveries of how the bits relate to each other. Those Greek guys seemed to get everything right and we’ve been playing catch up ever since.

From then on it was just work. Guided by more experienced students and critiqued by the maestro I was slowly making progress. After about four acanthus for blog detail 5weeks it was evident that there was no way a painting was going to happen so this drawing was pushed as far as it could go.Just like with the Bargue drawings I would reach a plateau where I was convinced that I could not see any more subtlety. After a good night sleep (and a Sunday off) I would return to the drawing thinking “I can see so much more. There is no way I can finish this before I have to return home.” What’s that expression about art? It’s never finished; only abandoned. I put as much into this drawing as I could for six weeks and then had to call it quits. At the end of my time there the maestro said “Another couple of weeks and this thing would be done”. I laughed a little. Maybe a little more than a couple. Drawing to the infinite, he calls it. That’s an accurate description.

“Luxuriate in the slowness.” I can’t take credit for that little gem. In a life that is governed by doing everything as quickly as possible many positive experiences are lost. You can do things fast or you can do things well. Rarely do those two qualities coexist. During my time there I reach a certain level of…I don’t know what. Like being in tune with what you are doing. Is that what Zen practitioners experience? It takes a little while to shake off the dust of the expeditious life and get in harmony with what you are doing, to be in the moment, in the experience. I don’t recognize acanthud for blog detail 7when it is happening, only when I have a moment to reflect. Drawing this way is such a conscious effort but not one you are conscious of in the midst of the act. That doesn’t seem to make any sense, does it? Words are pretty useless for the really important things. I begin to feel a bit of a pinch in week five. A little panic in week six. Deadlines begin to invade your thoughts and you know you have to return to that other life soon. You have to leave the cloistered meditative experience and your world begins to, regrettably, pick up speed. I wondered what it would be like to not speed up and slow down. To just go at your natural pace, governed by your unique development. The yoke of artificiality is heavy. I told a friend, also studying there, that it was about time for me to get back to real life. “This is real life.” he said. I forget sometimes…. because of the yoke.

trail for blog 4

So here it is. A little drawing full of magic and curses. Some lines scratched on paper with a burnt stick. I need to remind myself to get quiet and go slow. If you let yourself be ready, drawing will reveal wondrous secrets.

Acanthus for Blog

Acanthus drawing for frame

You should draw like your life depends on it… because it does.


~ by Kelson Barber on November 29, 2015.

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