Here, there and sketchywhere

We headed up to Nyala on Saturday to celebrate Jon’s birthday party. We were a little nervous about crashing the place as the guest list had spiraled up to 30+ people. The restaurant probably fits 50 or so people, so once dinner got into full swing, we took up more than 2/3rd of the restaurant. People were asked to submit their orders in advance, but what with Facebook being an unreliable sandstorm of change, the email directing us to do so went awry. I only ordered my meal at noon, same day, so I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t get what I ordered. Too late in the festivities did I bother to check the menu to ensure I remembered what I had ordered online (a mere 4 hours earlier). By that time, the noise level in the restaurant had risen significantly and I was starting to lose pieces of conversation. I was very frustrated when the meals started to arrive and I lost track of who was saying what while still trying to figure out which menu # corresponded to the description I had read online. When orders were sorted out, I ended up with a very yummy plate of Gomen Watt (which turns out to be a Spinach dish – don’t trust the online menu on this one), this fantastic saffron rice, platters of huge portions of tabouleh and lentil salad, and an unleavened bread which had a spongy consistency with the flavour of sourdough. All vegetarian items were vegan and spectacular. I would 100% recommend this restaurant to any diner, but I would be hesitant to offer it as a “party” or event venue. This is not to say that there were any hiccups at dinner. The service was fast, kind and knowledgeable. I heard that it’s a single family that runs the restaurant, and they do a great job. It’s just not an ideal layout for a large group of people.

Cas got a last minute invite to the Sub Humans & Jello show that was happening at the Rickshaw and joined Jon for the rest of the evening. As I had class early the next day and Carson’s red rimmed eyes were telltale signs of an impending bedtime, we both called it a night around 10 and I headed to bed with pre-dream anxiety over what would happen tomorrow.

Getting me up at any hour is a chore. I won’t deny it. I am the queen of the morning grognards (watch you, I have wicked aggro and a very low drop rate).

7AM came waaaay too soon the next morning and as I swung my legs out of bed, the first thing that came to mind was the inconvenient bus trip that would get me to Emily Carr in time for class. If you follow my twitter and Facebook, you have been assaulted by my verbal attacks upon the 84 bus route for starting after 8:30am on Sunday and ending before 10PM during the week. This is inconvenient only because it takes 15 minutes from my front door to the entrance of Emily Carr in 1 direction, but an hour in the other. This rain cloud followed me around the apartment while I chugged a pot of black tea and made my fourth mental inventory of my art supply bag which I had packed the prior evening. The clouds dissipated as I headed up the hill to catch the 99 over to Granville. The sun was going to start shining any second, the air was clear and I was officially a student.

This thought has been foremost in my thoughts since Sunday. I am a student. It’s so awesome to say. I’ve had it backwards in my head for the past month believing that I was working part time as an ice cream maker and was taking school part time. In actual fact, I am a student that is working on a contract that will help pay for my education. Semantics sure. All the same, this realization has put a bounce in my step over the past few days.

I arrived on Granville Island at 8:30. The signage at Emily Carr is on par with the rest of the signage in British Columbia, so 20 minutes later, I found my first class. The room was set up in a circle with a large ottoman style table in the centre. Once the instructor arrived, we set up our easels and started to draw lines. In fact, we drew lines for 2 hours.

The instructor was trying to create connections between student and materials, and to help us understand that a material was not a mark or technique. It was fun to try the various media from my supply list, much of it still in the packaging. I learned that compté pencils can be sharpened by sand paper. This same technique can also be used on compté crayons. Towards the end of the class, we all came about in a semi circle and reviewed a scattering of sketches and ink drawings that our instructor had placed about the low centre table. We were instructed to pick up a piece that we liked. We were specifically supposed to review lines. I picked up this one. During attendance, we were asked to announce our names, professions, motivations for signing up for the class and why we liked the lines of the selected photograph. I have a very eclectic mix in my class. A few people in the legal profession, a treaty negotiator and someone who works in health and safety. It’s pretty awesome. The ages vary from high school to retired so everyone has a very different reason for being in the class. I will take a moment to giggle about one introduction in class. Our instructor is an illustrator himself and he’s very good. One of the students in the class, when asked why she had selected the piece, told the instructor that she had chosen her piece because she thought it was the one that she was most likely able to reproduce. She said it looked easy. IF that wasn’t enough, when the instructor fussed up that it was his piece, she laughingly told him that she didn’t really like it either. Honestly, I don’t know if she was joking or not…I’m having a hard time reading the situation. In any case, I’m MEGA interested in what the homework produces this coming Sunday. Here is my response to our homework:

Assignment 1

Collage 18? x 24? – No white paper showing, erasable black media. Bring glue stick.

We were instructed to make rubbings, select and cut out areas of texture, mark and tone, and arrange them. The subject was open.

We were then instructed to put the piece on the wall and look at it from a distance. Is there enough tonal contrast to make it visually powerful?

After putting this on the wall, I wasn’t really convinced everything went together. I also thought that I should try using more of my kneaded eraser and make details from the negative space. I made use of the edges of the the paper (as we weren’t to glue anything down) and highlighted edges with compté.

I really enjoyed making this piece. We were instructed to also make use of the pages of line and mark trial we had done in class. It was cool to see something visually come together after I had all the elements, rather than planning the composition before I started to make the marks. I assume in the following weeks, we’re going to discuss how composition is separate from form and work on composition before putting pen to paper.

Chalk and Charcoal class was an hour and a half after Drawing Fundamentals. I headed over to the Island Market to grab some lunch and even amongst the hustle and bustle of weekend shoppers, I was able to get a bagel and get back to the school in under 15 minutes. So I arrived at my next class more than an hour early. I didn’t really mind as I had the internet and a sketch book but less than 20 minutes after arriving, my instructor arrived with all of his supplies in tow. Seems he also arrives at 9 to teach another class and he was equally frustrated at the long break between classes. Once everyone arrived, he asked if anyone would be opposed to starting a half hour early (and thus finishing a 1/2 hour early as well) and so starting tomorrow, I have class from 9-4 rather than 5.

As the instructor went over the supply list and I had to laugh. His published supply list had been the lightest ($38) so when he told us that we should also bring more paper (ugh), a spray bottle, some watercolours, and a water container to class, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. The extra paper is a drag since getting the paper on the bus (with the additional detour walk) is a major pain in the ass. The edges get crumpled and they are hard to manage when I have a pack full of supplies. However, I am excited to see him combining watercolour and charcoal, so I will bear the additional load and cost in payment for a new skill learned.

The class make up is, again, pretty interesting as the students tend to be much younger than those my drawing class. In fact, the girl who sits to my left (my hearing side) is 17 and is taking a certificate program while in high school to help her get into university. The fellow beside her, whom I estimate to be in his late teens/early twenties, has never drawn anything in his life and is taking the class to help him graduate from another program. This floored my teacher a bit as he stated that the class was about exploring the medium not drawing and was surprised at the composition in the class. That being said, I think that Continuing Education gets away with some things because it’s an ungraded class. It’s probably not that big a deal to the teachers if students are not producing work that is pushing the envelope nor is it a particular disappointment when students don’t have a technical foundation. That being said, once we tested the medium on a few pieces of paper and were tasked to make a gradient chart, he set up some paper boxes for us to sketch. Our task was to draw the different stacked boxes and to take particular notice of the different colours. The goal of the exercise was to stretch our ability to translate colour into greyscale. I had a hard time creating a contrast between the blue, red and green boxes because I was taking so much time reviewing the differences between the black and the white. At the end of class, I called my instructor over to ask what he thought of my assignment. I tried to laugh off the fact that I had done my drawing in the centre of a horizontal paper, rather than vertically like the boxes, but the instructor took the time to fold off the white space on both sides of my sketch. I was also nervous when he muttered that this wasn’t a drawing class and trailed off into an awkward silence. Finally he informed me that I still needed to work on the colour contrasts and patted me on the shoulder. I left that class a little less confident than my drawing class, but I am most excited at what it’s going to produce. I am going to bring in a few pictures of my dog (who is all black with some patches of white) as she has great contrast and should be good subject matter for any in-class assigments. He has also asked us to bring him fruit next class – so I assume more still life will be examined.

I caught my bus home (a breeze at 4:30pm) and gushed to poor Cas for a few hours about how excited I was about class. I don’t think I have ever been so excited for a Monday.

When Monday afternoon rolled around, I asked to head out for class early. I headed to Jugo Juice to fuel me up for the next 6 hours and popped into Opus once more to ensure I had all the supplies for my class. The instructor asked for a 5? utility paintbrush, but it was proving hard to find. I use a 3? for applying gesso and primer to my canvases, so I brought that along in hopes that it would work out. The 5? brushes at Deseres and Opus were listed upwards of $60 and I just wasn’t really to spend that on a paint brush without some direction from my instructor. I headed to class, in the south building this time. Since it wasn’t a weekend, the campus was filled with people at 5:30. I weaved in between the herds of students, slumping in grey hooded sweatshirts and bright coloured socks, and headed up the huge stone staircase. I dodged frowns and skipped past scowls until I found signs that actually started with 4 (rather than all the entrance level signage in the 300s) and located room 434. The room was filled with easels and large rectangular tables. I was a half hour early for class (again), so I got to watch Emily Carr staff and my instructor rejig the class to his liking.

My “canvas” is the one on the wall (right). It’s still too wet to stack along with the other student’s paper.

Our instructor held court at the rectangular tables and chatted us up about painting. His style is a little erratic, jumping from painter to painter and style to style, but his speeches are encouraging and thought provoking. He started class by telling us that we were to take large pieces of craft paper ($5k a large roll btw… 🙁  ), tape them to the wall and then cover the surface with gesso. The lesson being one of fractal application, not systematic (which has typically been my technique when prepping a surface), we were instructed to cover our sheet with gesso using paper towel and avoid creating any distinctive marks. Looking around the class after our initial application, I see that my style is a little more long (from the shoulder) and I use more paint that my comrades in the class so far. The composition of this class is similar to my drawing class and the ages range from teens/early twenties to people in their 60s. The two ladies on both sides of me have never painted before; however, one women has worked in architecture and has a developed skill for drafting. When we returned to our seats, our instructor started to wax poetic about what made a painting a painting. He distilled the definition to be either made up of lines or mass. He encouraged us to find a painting that didn’t include either and while the class began to stray into the land of theoretical physics, I felt my brain grow a few sizes bigger :p When I came home that night, I took some photographs of prepared stretched canvas with different light sources. Since light didn’t have mass and only created a line when the contrast was high, was a blank surface painted by light pushing his definition? Can one paint with light? I’m still undecided and look forward to a continued conversation next week.

Before the class ended, our instructor asked us to take on some self-directed study and look into composition. He also instructed us that he would like us to bring the best possible reproduction (following the tangent conversation on art books and their lack of quality when it comes to printing) of a painting that we particularly liked. We were to examine the lines, mass and composition of these paintings to share with the class. The homework for this class involved the least amount of physical interaction with media, so I admit, I left this part to the last. I am currently writing to you from the library, surrounded by books on composition, the theory of colour, and dozens of art books on Cezanne, Matisse (a personal favourite) and the group of seven. I figure that I will be able to narrow it down by Monday. Currently, I’m researching Rousseau, with whom I have never had an interest, but after spying “Edge of the Forest at Fontainebleau, Sunset” I can’t take my eyes off of him (contrast and colour choices). 2 more hours before the library closes for the day. Better get a move on.

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