Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pen and Ink...and Angst

The class assignments this week would have been so much easier had I just worked ploddingly, diligently, and faithfully day after day. Instead, I missed two classes and didn't work for a week due to daughter's wedding followed by an illness.

Had I realized what I was letting myself in for, I could have just asked for death by firing squad.

The work I missed in my Art History class was hard enough: 2 days' worth of slide lectures from the Fauves to Kandinsky. Post-Impressionism to the first genuine Abstract Expressionist. Okay, I can deal with that.

In Pen-and-Ink class, however, I missed out on two major projects, one which could have been done with a team in class. The big one was to do a BIG pen-and-ink drawing, minimum of 11"x14" but preferably something more along the lines of 36"x24". Okay, I can deal with that. I got a huge slice of paper and brought it home with me, and I have just the picture in mind.

What I was totally unprepared for was producing a copy of a master drawing: selecting a well-known artist (Rembrandt, Durer, Michelangelo, Manet, Van Gogh, etc.) and reproducing AS CLOSELY AS POSSIBLE stroke for stroke a drawing of theirs, down to the last detail, color of ink, color of paper, etc. Okay, I can deal with that too.

Not so easy.

Looking on line and through all my art and drawing books I realized how badly this assignment was going to kick my butt. Every artist of every era of any reputation whatever was a master draughtsman. Intellectually, I knew this before I signed up for a drawing class. It was precisely for this reason that I chose the class, so that I could be challenged to sharpen my skills and really stretch as a draughtsman.

Intellectually, it makes sense that artists throughout the ages have learned by copying their betters.

If you examine what most master artists have left behind them in the museums of the world, for every oil painting or finished sculpture there are literally hundreds of drawings whether they be in pencil, chalk, pastel, or...pen-and-ink. One cannot be a master artist without first submitting the ego to the battery it takes to learn to draw. It was my ego's turn today.

So after being well and thoroughly intimidated by all the pictures by Goya, Raphael, Millet, and all the rest I figured I ought to turn to an artist whose work I enjoy so much that, if I managed to produce a credible copy, I would look forward to having it on my wall as a reminder of the labor required to perfect my art.

Van Gogh. That stinkin', crazy, lopsided, quirky-handed, mad-eyed, looney-tune who searched throughout his life for someone to admire and buy his work. That inimitable, curly-pen-stroking lover of country scenes made convoluted by the wild way he saw the world. That angst-ridden, up-in-the-night bi-polar guy who ate yellow paint. Yep. Him.

He's the one whose drawing I copied. And he kicked my butt. Thanks, Vincent, for the genius. I will awaken every morning for the rest of my life a humbler artist, certainly more learned and a much better person for the experience trying to follow in your blue penstrokes. I will put our drawings up on my studio wall as a reminder that there is always something more to strive for, more to achieve, and more to attempt. I will celebrate what you accomplished in your short life, knowing that there is no way I could ever produce a Vincent Van Gogh.

I will also take comfort in knowing that it was enough for you to have produce them, and that it is now my job to learn to produce the best artwork by Doriene Marshall that I can produce in whatever time is left to me.

No, I don't get how you held your pen or how you saw the world, but that's OK. I just hope I have the chance to run into you someday and you can tell me yourself.

1 comment:

Sue said...

What a wonderful reflection on the angst of assignments (in the midst of life) and the blessings of learned from the masters!