Art Classes and Education

Drawing UnFundamentals

After three classes, I finally have something positive to say about my drawing course at Emily Carr.  The first two classes in this very short course (only 6 classes total) were a major disappointment.  The instructor is very talented and I’m sure he’s a fine teacher for the full time art school kids, but when it comes to drawing fundamentals (the name of the course, btw), he’s been less than stellar.

We’ve spent a good third of our class time introducing ourselves, then showing our work and talking about it.  For my ADD-adled brain, this is pure torture.  I want to learn!  I want to DO!  Spending 30 minutes talking about “What is a line?” makes me want to rip my hair out.

The course is basically led by the students and the instructor teaches by just answering our questions.  That might be good for advanced students who know what they’re doing and have specific questions about shading, perspective etc., but when you’re just starting out?  Most of the class doesn’t have any clue what to ask other than “So, how do we draw?”

The third class he redeemed himself though; we did an entire class on the human body.  He demonstrated the rules of splitting the body into eighths, we had a skeleton there to help us really visualize the body from the inside out plus we got to sketch from a live model – a nude live model.  I’m hardly a prude and quickly lost my self-consciousness at the whole situation, but it was a little startling right off the bat.  I caught myself a few times thinking about the fact that I was staring (I mean really STARING) at a naked woman’s butt.  No wonder so many people practice sketching with bowls of fruit!

Nudity aside, the class was enormously helpful for learning how to draw all sorts of different poses.  At one point the instructor got the model to stand up against the wall in front of a slide projector so he could project an image of a skeleton over her body.  Like an x-ray, it was a great learning experience to really see what’s going on inside our bodies.  By working from the inside out, I should (in theory) always be able to draw the human body in anatomically correct poses and positions.

It’s funny…as often as I draw and paint people, there are so many things I had simply never noticed by attempting to draw from memory.  Hands, for example; people constantly draw hands that are too small and make the entire picture look off.  Try this: hold your hand up in front of your face.  For the average person, their hand is the same size as their face.  That seems HUGE to me!  I think about all of the girls I paint and how BIG their faces are…never would I think to make their hands the same size.  Feet too – much bigger than you’d expect until you really start to LOOK.

Seeing where the shoulder joints are, where the hip joints are…all of those sort of angles now make sense when I’m sketching.  I don’t have to worry about if the position of my figure looks awkward or not because I’m not drawing it from the outside, from the skin; I’m now thinking about the skeleton and how the body really works.

It (almost) makes the first two classes worth it!

2 thoughts on “Drawing UnFundamentals”

  1. Who makes a good teacher? Someone with a masters degree and tons of experience in their field? Not always. It is one thing to, in this case, be a successful artist, but quite another to have the skills to pass that knowledge on to others. This is a current arguement I have with the hiring policies of post secondary institutions. I have a fair amount of experience being an artist, 2 degrees, a couple diplomas, many extra courses, but no actual masters degree. Thus I can’t apply to be a teacher at a college. Yet I believe my 10 years teaching experience in the public and independent school systems has given me the knowledge to be able to successfully “teach”.
    You are right, there are some fabulous people working at our colleges and universities, but they lack the skills to plan, implement curriculum, and evaluate student progress. I would love to help them in this. Should colleges require new instructors to take a class in pedagogy?
    It’s fun to get to know people, but the class was about drawing, and with only 6 sessions I would have got students to set pencil to paper right away. It also seems odd that you’d step into anatomy so quickly. Seems disjointed.
    You can see this is a topic I could talk about for quite awhile. I would love to be able to teach enthusiastic adults like yourself.
    I hope the last half of the class went better than the first.
    Thanks for commenting on my Eagles in the City blog entry.
    Tiana

  2. Hi Tiana,

    Thanks for commenting & I have to say, I totally agree. I’m on my third class at Emily Carr now & the second two have been nowhere near as good as the first one.

    The first instructor I had taught real lessons and techniques that we could apply to our own work right away. It was very “hands on”, but before we pulled out our own paints, she would let us watch how she does it first.

    She was always quick to say that this is only one way of doing it, her way & not all artists do it the same way etc. etc. What’s been driving me nuts about the next 2 instructors I’ve had is their refusal to teach us any rules or techniques because they don’t want to influence our own style.

    I understand where they’re coming from, but if I just wanted to work on developing my own style without learning the rules of perspective or figure, I could sit at home & just practice without any external influence. The reason I’m paying for instruction is to *learn* from the instructors!

    Being able to teach well is such a special talent. I’d love to see institutions hire based on teaching ability rather than credentials.

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