Drawing Logic – Teaching Fundamental Drawing at Mizzou from 2007 to 2018

Examples of various line manifestations from my foundations drawing course.

I’ve taught hundreds and hundreds of students beginning observational drawing methods for over a decade at Mizzou. This is something I’ve been stimulated, encouraged, and challenged by. It’s wonderful to be a part of an ancient tradition.

One of the main points of the first few weeks of my Drawing: Materials and Methods course (foundations level drawing for beginning students) is the notion that line, in and of itself, doesn’t make an illusion of space (fig. A). Rather, value – the quality of light and dark – creates a perception of space (fig. B, C). To develop value we accumulate lines, adjust pressure on the tool, or blend the material with which we’re drawing (among other actions) in order to attenuate or amplify the line quality. The coalescing lines form a varied superstructure representing – in 2D form – the perception we have of 3D space (fig. D). These and many other lessons are certainly intuitive and, though they are not an exclusive method, do help novices recognize space and how to translate it. The first few drawings my students make are centered around these concepts. It was Professor William Itter’s Fundamental Studio Drawing text that I used in developing my own pacing, scope, and sequence in the teaching of Beginning Level drawing.

At Indiana University, Itter was a strong force. Having taught there for more than 35 years when he retired in 2009, Bill crafted and then honed a foundational drawing system that influenced me and many of my fellow grads. Over the years a number of the projects he either developed or adapted have been a part of my teaching. In particular, I have been inspired by his Cornice Combo and Linear Topographic Contour projects. Most of us ended up with physical copies or PDF prints of Bill’s collection of projects and syllabus materials (pictured above).

I think you can see the through-line of intention when you see Bill’s project examples and compare them to what I do in class. While I no longer directly reference Professor Itter’s text, it is a strong part of the pedagogical lineage I claim as an educator. Below you can see some of Itter’s Radial and Lateral Extensions, which were influential in my own Atmospheric Beams project.

Atmospheric Beams by Robert McAnelly. 18×24 inches.

Of all of the various projects crafted by Bill that I used back in the early days, only three are truly and deeply connected to my foundations drawing teaching today. Of primary importance is Meandering Band, as well as the aforementioned Atmospheric Beams. You can see that Professor Itter’s example images are still being reiterated through time in the work of my students.Notice how this Cornice Combo image relates to my recent students’ Meandering Band works:

Photo Aug 31, 10 54 11 AMMeandering Band by Hannah Westhoff. 18×24 inches, graphite on paper.

Professor Itter used many examples of gradients in his projects, and he began by asking students to conceptualize line quality through the idea of space and physical pressure upon the tool (at least that’s how I integrated his ideas into my thinking). So sample studies from Itter such as this one (which I use as a first class ice breaker project)…

…translate into more formal Meandering Band works such as this:

Meandering Band by Katie O’Russa. 18×24 inches, graphite on paper.

…or this:

Meandering Band by Seth Steinman. 24×18 inches, graphite on paper.

My ultimate aim in carrying on a very truncated version of Bill’s foundational drawing projects is really an attempt to establish the importance of observational iteration in my classes. All of my classes are, at their deepest center, about attention and awareness. My hope is that continuing to use a few of Professor Itter’s projects my students gain an understanding of what their eyes are doing in the world. The way we amalgamate visual and material structures into meaningful ideas is part of what makes us human. Now that we are living in an age where algorithms designed to manufacture our purchasing consent drive much of our cultural events and expressions, it is so important to grow in our awareness of how we are being manipulated by these systems. This understanding begins with a knowledge of visual dynamics and the ability to take command of how our eyes operate. I think Itter knew this when he created his foundational drawing projects, and I try to bring that tradition of thoughtfulness into the 21st century.

 

 

Barry Gealt: Embracing Nature at the IU Art Museum

Yesterday my wife, daughter, and I made an epic 17 hour round trip to Bloomington, Indiana. We left our home at 9am and returned a little after 2am the next morning.

It was a long, rainy drive, but it was worth it. We went to the opening reception for Emeritus Professor Barry Gealt’s retrospective exhibition Embracing Nature at the Indiana University Art Museum.

Barry was my main professor while I earned my MFA at IU and has continued to be a mentor and encouragement. It was the least I could do to be present for this opening and evening of celebrating Barry’s life and work as both a painter and an educator. Below are a few fragments from the night.

The text just inside the doorway to the Special Exhibitions Wing of the IU Art Museum.

Detail of Greenwich Beach, Prince Edward Island, 2009. The top layer of a living document.

Detail of Condon’s View of Corea, Maine, 2011. Brushmarks are alchemical – both entirely surface and entirely illusion; both/and.

Prince Edward Island, East Point (2009), commands a wall in the gallery. The works spill and splash; their air inundates viewers.

A detail of the majestic edge of Indiana Vista, 2001. Paint as light, matter, air, and presence.

A detail view of Owen County Vista from 1994 – compared to Barry’s more recent work this is pretty smooth. Even so, it’s tremendously worked and amazingly saturated.

Beautiful density in a detail of The Cave, 1994. This painting is incredible in its color and level of surface development. Evocative.

Robert Shakespeare’s Light Totem saturated the area outside Barry’s show with energy – my 2 year old loved it.

There’s Barry waving to me from across the Atrium during the post-reception dinner. A beautiful space and a beautiful evening.

Here I am (sporting my Indianapolis Colts Marvin Harrison #88 jersey) holding the book that was published in tandem with the exhibition. It is AWESOME. You can pre-order your own copy by clicking here. Do it! The essays are wonderful, the reproductions and details fantastic. I was able to have a significant correspondence with the author, Rachael Berenson Perry, in 2011 which resulted in many of my thoughts and reflections on my time with Barry being used in the book. I was extremely honored to be included in this text; it’s really more than I could have imagined. To get to be a part of this celebration of Barry’s life and work is humbling and truly a highpoint of my life as an artist.

If you can get to the show, DO IT. It’s worth it.

Barry Gealt: Embracing Nature will be on at the IU Art Museum from October 6 until December 23, 2012

IU Fine Arts Student Association Submission

IU’s Fine Arts Student Association recently solicited postcard sized works from alumni, like myself (MFA, Painting, ’05). Below is what I sent them.

Water From a Stone (Ballou, 2011 – For IU), ink on moleskin page.

Here’s a link what a fellow IU alum, Stephen Cefalo, submitted. The whole thing is to support FASA’s “Making Art Work” symposium on careers in the Arts. Click here for more information about it.

Classic Studio Shot #1

me, in the studio 2004

Me in my studio during grad school – Indiana University – sometime early in 2004. Upper right corner – my Lionel Richie “Patron Saint of Painting” icon, collaboration between Maximillian Hernandez and my collage. It’s hanging in my current studio, too.

“VOLUME, NOT FEATURES” …words to live by.