Penny Hanson and Julie Peters invited me to guest teach for their art class at North High School again. I really enjoyed my experience working with the students last year, the kids are talented and well behaved. This year was no different and as a bonus, several parents joined us. I’ve taken the direction of introducing the students to short, gesture poses. There is a tendency to get too focused on details and get bogged down in their drawing. So my goal is to create an environment where they don’t think so much and just draw. At first there is resistance to the short poses, but as the class progresses, they start to get comfortable with the idea of gesture drawing. We had dance students model for us and they were wonderful. This year I took some time to talk with the class after the drawing about my approach to drawing. I’ve been mulling over some ideas of drawing and Butoh that needed to be shared. In all of my teaching experiences I’ve learned more about my subject through preparing for the classes. Thanks to the students and teachers for giving me this opportunity to get my ideas down on paper, organized and shared.. Below is an edited version of the class notes.
Class Notes For Guest Teaching
North High School, 9-28-11
We all tell our stories through various forms of communication. These stories come from parents, ancestors, friends neighborhoods etc. Over the years, I’ve become very interested in how drawings in particular and art in general tell these stories.
We are usually not aware that we are telling stories, and if we are; we carefully edit the stories to a version that we want others to hear. Underneath the façade, the carefully crafted image we think tells the story we want our friends or the world to hear lay the real stories. We may be aware that we’re creating a persona, and are very much aware of our perceived shortcomings, dreams and thoughts that scare the hell out of us. But even deeper in our souls, there lay the real stories. This is the territory of Butoh; this is what I want to draw.
Of course, my drawings are a reflection of my own stories as well as my subjects’. My movements, my perceptions, my tastes, my “style” come from some place deep within. There is a process working that allows a particular drawing to “speak” to me, inviting me to pursue and develop that image as a more finished print. If a drawing or piece of art winds up on a gallery wall, the stories of potential viewers come into play. It’s this intersection of the model, artist and viewer’s stories that interests me. This confluence of sitter - artist - audience hopefully creates an environment where drawings (or art in general) become an interactive experience, not merely a casual viewing. It’s not a matter of being shocking or making social / political statements, it’s facilitating interactivity at a core, human level
So how do we get there? Is there a process?
Like most things esoteric, the magic happens when you’re not striving, not trying to achieve a particular goal, but rather you’re just doing, without much thought. So I think it’s best to draw at a brisk pace. Don’t analyze too much, dive in and just do it. This is why I had you doing two-minute gesture drawings for the entire session. I didn’t want you getting hung up on details; I was hoping to set up a scenario where your minds would be wrapped up in visually measuring the angles, sizes and masses of the model’s form and nothing else.
In terms of unveiling the stories that we discussed earlier, it’s more of a lens through which I evaluate my drawings. During the course of a typical Tuesday evening session at Suncrest, we will do 10 gestures and 4 to 5 twenty minute drawings. Sometimes a particular drawing appeals to me immediately. I review my drawings over the course of the next few days Sometimes it’s a facial expression that intrigues me, sometimes the overall gesture of the body as a whole that catches my eyes. One lesson I’ve learned from Butoh is that the entire body can tell our stories. I’m learning to trust my visceral reactions to the drawings as I work with them. If a particular drawing “speaks” to me I’ll start the process of making a printing plate and go from there.