The Awesome that is Carl

Halloo dear readers out there in blog-land!

I have been meaning to leave you some sketch-blog love but between school and work and ::GASP:: actually having fun, I haven't had a moment to sit down and update you all on the art school hijinks and hilarity. Because it has been hilarious... in fact, I'm glad I didn't find any time because my post this evening is all the better for today's fantasticness. (Though it is going to be a long one...)

Tonight I'm going to switch things up a bit and tell you about Carl, the professor for my Materials' class.

Art school thus far has been a crazy, mind-blowing, shifting life-gears sort of experience, but Carl's class is pretty much the reason I decided to come to SVA. For all you non-art-school type folks out there, the entire goal of a materials' class is to step outside a narrow way of thinking and to try experimenting with EVERYTHING - mixing the various ways and materials in which you already work with all kinds of new things and perhaps even trying to use the things you're familiar with in completely different ways.

The course started out with a monkey, er baboon to be precise. Carl gave each of us a tiny yellow eraser in the shape of a baboon and told us to draw it - draw it from all angles, top view, front view, looking down at it, looking up at it; draw it in different settings; draw it with different materials... just play with it. The idea was to take an entirely mundane object and find something exciting in it. For a few of our classes, Carl papered the entire room with brown paper and having told us to bring EVERY type of art supply in our arsenal let us play for three hours just drawing/painting/stamping/inking/sketching/etching baboons.

Action shots!

Carl would be the paint-covered, chuck-wearing, beard-y dude with his back to all of you.

And finally, my baboon.

But back to Carl... Carl reminds me a lot of Lee, my sculpture professor/adviser/mentor/guru-in-all-things-cool-and-absurd-and-random at Smith. (A quick note about Lee - he was and has been a major influence in my young and adult life. At one point in his life, he was in school for a PhD in physics - if memory serves me - and he ditched his program to go to art school for sculpture. Naaah, that doesn't sound at all familiar... anywho, whenever I visit Lee up at Smith, he never ceases to amaze me. He pulls out everything that he's been working on during the past year or three, give or take a few months. To give you an idea, the last time I visited, I saw a bunch of wooden burls, was shown drawers brimming with mutant 3 and 4 chambered black walnuts and the tools used to cut them into cross sections, and learned out to break open the back of Master lock and figure out the combination. I know... A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! But alas, I digress...) Carl reminds me of Lee in that bearded-constantly-covered-in-paint/charcoal/plaster/clay-exuberantly-excited-about-what-he-does-let-me-show-you-EVERYTHING-I've-ever-worked-with sort of way.

In a nutshell: discombobulated enthusiastic art awesome.

But finally let's get to today...

Carl just assigned us our final project. We're making - building and illustrating - a four panel folding screen. The basis for the project is Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and each panel is supposed to represent one of the four seasons in both a non-objective and a figurative way. The top half of each panel is supposed to be the non-objective representation, as in colors and textures - more of a mood than anything else - while the bottom panel should feature a figurative representation of the season, an object or something - plants, food, toys animals, anything really. My ideas thus far are nebulous at best, if not entirely unformed, so I decided to use class time to experiment with some color and texture for the non-objective bits.

This semester, one of the materials we experimented with in class was scratchboard/home-made wax boards (colored crayon under black wax), which I really enjoyed working with. (I even did a project for my digital class using wax board... post and image to come at a future date.)

Wax-board still life.

I think one of the things I like most about it is this idea of pulling light out of a dark background. Most methods of drawing/painting are additive, but this is entirely different. This in a sense is more like carving or etching. You carve the light portions of the piece out of the dark. We actually had a similar assignment for another class but using dark water color. We covered a white board with dark brown watercolor, let it dry, and then - using just a brush with some water on it - worked into the dark paint to remove the pigment from the background.

Sepia watercolor.

Anywho, I figured I might as well experiment with some wax board for Carl's Vivaldi project, so I prepped a board for winter (blues and purples) and one for autumn (reds, oranges, golds, browns) and got to work. I scratched some snowflakes into the winter panel, got bored, and moved on to autumn.

I wish I had the stages that this thing went through, but you'll just have to put your little imaginations to work...

I started by scraping up big patches of color from the wax, and when I was done... meh. But just at that moment, Carl waltzed over, took one look at my board, and asked me if I was finished. I shrugged and replied, "Not really. It's not done, but I'm not sure what I want to do with it."

"I don't want to touch it, but..." Carl began.

"If you want to, I don't mind. I don't have any ideas really," I interrupted.

It was as though I'd given a five year old the key to Willie Wonka's chocolate factory. He ran away only to return with a sponge entirely saturated with red, ochre, and gold acrylic paint.

"You know this could ruin it."

I shrugged. "What fun is leaving it alone? It was just an experiment."

"Well then let's experiment!"

Carl started by dabbing the paint all over my already-carved wax. After letting the paint dry for a bit, he ran away again and came back with some steel wool for me to play with. I scratched into the pain with the steel wool, beat it up, and when I was done torturing it, Carl took over. He covered the whole thing with black wax again and then with an x-acto knife started carving back into it. Oh, not to mention he did something with a round stencil, dabbing blue and white acrylic onto the board... just wait for it. Then I carved into it further, threw down some more colored wax crayons and some more black wax crayon, and finally finger painted on it with the leftover white and black acrylic... and... TA DA...

From autumn texture to Lunar Landscape.

Carl in a nutshell... there really are no words to adequately describe...


Allison said...

One comment and one question.

Comment: I would like to disagree that a yellow baboon eraser was ever an "entirely mundane object." :-)

Question: How thick did your lunar landscape end up being with all those layers of paint and wax?

Silverman said...

I love the boy juggling although something about him scares me, like a little kid flying a kite at night in a rain storm, don't know what he is really doing, but he is definitely up to no good!

Lisa Anchin said...

You mean you don't carry around a yellow baboon eraser in your pocket? ;)

The lunar landscape isn't as thick as you might imagine because I scraped off a bunch of the acrylic with the steel wool. Most of it is still actually wax neopastels - the whole colored foreground and the black sky - though there's also a thin layer of sponged/finger-painted white and blue paint over both.

Elizabeth Baddeley said...

The Lunar Landscape is beautiful! I know this is an old post, but I've been pouring over your blog after having just received my acceptance into this program for next year! I'm really enjoying your accounts of your classes...and so glad that professor of your made you start these blogs! I have a lot to think over, but they are making it so much easier for me.

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