As an artist it is not only important to focus on one’s progression, but also on that of other masters throughout history. For our most recent project in Design I we were instructed to remove a character from any famous work of art and then place him or her in an unfamiliar environment. Although there was a wide range of chosen subjects, I noticed that generally, the artists chose their subjects based on their own genders.
For example, Brooke Schultheis’ piece depicts Venus from Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus standing on a beach. This Venus, however, has a different appearance than the one in Botticelli’s masterpiece. Schultheis’ Venus is not pale but instead full of color and vibrancy. Her hair has a rich, blonde quality that is absent in Botticelli’s. These qualities, interestingly, can also be attributed to Schultheis herself. Perhaps these stylistic differences are due to a reflection of her own person within her chosen subject.
My painting depicts Dr. Samuel Gross from Thomas Eakins’ The Gross Clinic. Rather than during an anatomy lesson, Gross is seen moments after murdering four people. I did not realize until its completion, however, that every character in the painting is indeed male. This was not a conscious decision, but rather an unplanned source of unity, which is actually one of the main themes of the project. It was interesting to observe how I, along with my fellow artists, chose my subject – consciously or subconsciously – in accordance with my own gender.
Many people keep journals or diaries throughout their lives to record their thoughts and feelings. The expanse of language makes it easy to record every significant detail in a quick, but precise manner. As an artist, however, I choose to record my feelings with nothing but a drawing pencil and a sketchbook. Sometimes I simply record my surroundings, while others I draw whatever is on my mind. The drawing process allows me to capture a moment in time; a moment not only full of imagery but also of emotion and substance.
The above image is one of the first drawings in my sketchbook. Although it is a rather quick sketch, Long Line at Versailles is as full of personality and movement as the scene it depicts. The loose, gestural quality of the line in the drawing captures the constantly moving crowd of tourists as well as the agitation felt by the figure in the foreground. His arms are crossed as he looks over the swarm of eager tourists that stand between him and Versailles. In the distance, a gestural ghost of the chateau can be seen. This adds to the uncertainty of when he will reach his destination. These features, of course, are directly related to the way I felt while standing in the same line.
Unlike Long Line at Versailles, the above image was drawn over the course of a couple hours. I did not actually draw the Florence Cathedral in person, but rather based on a photograph once I had arrived back home in Arkansas. I yearned to be back in Florence; to walk down the city’s historic streets and catch a glimpse of this massive cathedral. This desire is shown by the slow, realistic quality of the line and value in the drawing. This naturalistic feel allows me to experience the same thrill as when I first set eyes upon the cathedral. When I look at the image, I do not get the sense that I am looking at a quick sketch of Il Duomo but rather a true, planned representation of the structure.
I have always heard the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”; however, I did not fully grasp the concept until I began recording my thoughts and feelings through drawing in my sketchbook. Drawing directly from observation allows me to pay attention to all details, and then make conscious decisions about which to include in order to capture the essence of the scene as well as my thoughts. Drawing from a photograph, on the other hand, allows me to fully explore the image and create a piece nearly as real as my own memory. Though it is less personal than a quick sketch, the developed nature of each drawing instantly places me back in the chosen scene. Through these varied drawing methods, I have been able to effectively express my thoughts and feelings using only the power of the image.