There are eleven students in my class. A couple of them have definitely taken art classes before but most have rarely picked up a pencil for anything that wasn’t homework since they were little. I wrestle each week with how much or how little to tell them about this thing I’ve been doing almost all my life.
I bring in a Bluetooth speaker and play music to cut through the studious silence of the room. I’m impressed how seriously these kids take what they’re doing even when they barely have a clue. I see them sneaking a look at their phones now and then but for the most part they look from the model to their paper and back again and do all they can to render what they see.
There’s a syllabus for this class that lists many drawing materials and exercises like drawing from the skeleton and various anatomical measurement schemes. I haven’t had my students do any of that. I just want them to look at a seated person and try to draw them. I’m hoping they can come away from the class with some inkling of a different way of reckoning with the world than they’re used to. I don’t want to burden them with a bunch of theories and formulas which will likely kill any joy they might derive from this thing that humans have been doing since we lived in caves.
A couple weeks ago their homework was to draw their left hand with their right and their right with their left. When they put their drawings in the hallway for the end-of-day crit it was hard to tell which one was made with the dominant hand. The thing about drawing is that it uses a totally different part of the mind than writing so the little they know about technique etc is often an impediment. I told them about how the first time I tried to do an opposite hand drawing I found out I was probably born a lefty.
They have to do self-portraits this week. Next week I’ll probably make them do them with the other hand. Or maybe not. I’m making this up as I go. I want to keep their attention and present a bit of a challenge but not so much that they want to give up.
I sit in the corner week after week listening to whatever music I brought in and watch them draw. Talking to them sort of breaks the spell. I think my job is just to set up the room and create an atmosphere that allows them to work.
I wonder how many of them will ever draw again when the class ends. It’s not any tragedy if they don’t. It’s a thing I can’t imagine living without but that’s not the most common feeling.
I read the first few pages from George V. Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle and John Fante’s Wait Until Spring, Bandini into a microphone.