I saw an ad in a local art publication recently which said "Life Drawing... spacious, well lit studio, friendly atmosphere, 2 sessions per day, short poses 10:30 to 1pm, $12/10 per session... no need to book..." So I thought I might go. When they say life drawing, they really mean naked-people drawing, and that's cool, 'cause you have models in front of you and you draw them. I thought, "Maybe I could do some really good drawings and get some practice at drawing people. And maybe the other people in the class would see my work and think, mmmmm, he's good. And the models will be naked."
me outside the life-drawing place
So I went along to this life-drawing thing – I got up pretty early in the morning for it and went to the first session on Tuesday. I brought along some charcoal and some white chalk and some clips, as well as my biggest art folio to carry the pictures home in. When I arrived there, people were setting up the easels and the ladies in charge told me where to get paper and stuff.
There were two models on the scene – one of them was a very small Asian woman, the other was a large white elderly man. The head of the class said "Two minute poses," and the life-drawing started. It was kind of difficult – I tried to get the outlines of the human figures and draw them both, but with that two-minute time limit I felt kind of rushed. I was not sure if this was one of those classes where the teacher comes around and tells you what technique to use, and good advice about drawing. But it wasn't like that – it was untutored.
The advantage of that was, that we could use whatever style we wanted and whatever medium we wanted. There were some people doing little ink sketches in sketch-books, some standing at easels using charcoal like me, I think there was even one person using paint. I glanced at the person's work next to me on the right, and then on the left – both were better than me. So already I was feeling a little out of my depth.
We did about ten of the two-minute sketches, and later (after the models had a rest) we did some three-minute sketches. The models were very professional, and sometimes very creative in their poses. They did some things you wouldn't expect, like at one point the old man picked the woman up and carried her on his shoulder. I don't know how well they knew eachother – but later the man sort of leaned right forward and the woman somehow climbed up on top of him and lay on his back, and she was facing upwards. When the artists saw it, they giggled for a second.
Later they did some ten minute poses and I finally created some half-decent pictures with shading, but it was nothing compared to the work of some of the other artists. In between drawing-sessions the models came around to look at our work and sometimes they commented on it, saying things like "I like that." But they didn't say anything about my work, and nor did anyone.
I thought to myself, "I'm sick of using charcoal. From now on, I'm only going to do tiny-little cartoon-like drawings with a biro. And I'm only going to draw the woman, 'cause the man's not pretty enough." So for the final short poses, I folded the A1 paper into eighths and sat in a chair, drawing little outline pictures with my pen. But the results were not much better, and I couldn't always avoid drawing the man 'cause sometimes he was in front.
you wouldn't recognise her in the street
I don't think I'll go back to life-drawing – it's not worth the money really, for an untutored session. I'm not good at drawing stuff quickly. I have to take my time over it. The lighting in the studio was very good with the sunlight and I was thinking "I'd rather take a photo of this scene, not do drawings of it." But I don't think photo-taking would be allowed.
I took this photo later, when everyone was fully dressed
I went down to the shopping district in Carlton and bought myself a new digital watch for twenty dollars. I sat on the footpath and figured out how to set the time on it. My old watch still works but the strap is broken. Then I went home, took some photos of my drawings, then put them all in the bin.
Later on that day, I went to an art exhibition opening in Collingwood. The artist Graham McKenzie was exhibiting. I don't know who Graham McKenzie is, I'd never seen his work before, and I certainly wasn't invited to his exhibition. So why did I go? Well, it's all to do with my July Plan.
click to enlarge
You see, I like to have a few glasses of wine now and then to become half-way drunk, but I very rarely buy liquor when I'm in hotels and clubs because it's so expensive. It would be cheaper to buy a cask of wine and drink it at home alone, but that's no fun. I happen to know that at art exhibition openings, they nearly always serve free wine. And you don't need an invitation – they just serve free wine to anyone who shows up. Therefore, to be an opportunist and take advantage of this custom, I decided to obtain a copy of the Art Almanac and make a list of all the exhibition openings I could find in the July edition. Then I would attend every exhibition opening that I could, in July (if I do it for longer than one month then people might think I'm a little obsessed). So that's my plan for making July the happiest most light-headed month of 2003, and I won't have to pay a cent, except a tiny amount for transport. I'm not an alcaholic, you know – I only drink in moderation. I just like getting free stuff.
click to enlarge
The Graham McKenzie exhibition was not bad – of course I had to spend the whole time looking at the art-work, so that people would think I'm an art-collector and I'm trying to figure out which paintings to buy. The paintings were of aerial shots of outback landscapes, with odd colours – you might almost think they were abstract paintings 'cause the landscapes he painted were almost featureless. Apparently he was trying to explore the differences between humans' need to structure or compartmentalize the landscape, and the unstructured space of the outback. Once I read the little piece of writing about the meaning behind the paintings, I was able to appreciate it better. I'm sure the artist appreciated me coming to his exhibition, even if the free liquor was my sole motivation – the more people see his artwork, the more popular he will feel.
Later on that night, I worked on my own artwork. I'm doing this large painting and it's coming along very slowly – I'm reluctant to paint any details before I get the proportions of everything just right.
I would've gone to another exhibition opening the following night, but I had to miss it (and I had to miss my usual karaoke as well) because my band had a practice that night. It was frustrating, because the exhibition I had in mind was just five minutes walk from the rehearsal studio. But it was a good practice – we accomplished a lot. We sounded better than usual because we had this new drummer who had just come down from Ballarat, and he had recently been in a band which had similar aims and aspirations. We also had our old singer back, Vincent, and that was a surprise, 'cause I thought he had quit the band. He was ninety minutes late, however, so I had to fill in for him vocal-wise on the early songs.
Tonight I went to another exhibition opening, this one was just near my house so I didn't have to catch a train or anything. The exhibition was by two women, Simone Millman and Ruby Mackenzie. One of them had just been to Vietnam and some of her paintings contained images from Vietnamese culture in a highly symbolic and stylized way. As for the other woman, the one who hadn't been to Vietnam, I couldn't understand her work at all – it was just sort of abstract lines and shapes. There didn't seem to be any piece of text on display to explain the work. But this exhibition differed from the previous one, in that there were a couple of speeches. That's how I knew about the Vietnam thing. No one spoke to me personally, except the lady serving the free wine. She said she recognized me from when she was working on a movie a couple of years ago and I was an extra in the movie. Well that was the last thing I expected.
The hardest thing to understand about art, is why anyone would pay so much money for it. The way most paintings are made these days, they look very easy – the artists just sort of splash the paint on any old how, they don't need to be very technically skilled. And the way they explain their work, they're often just talking a bunch of rubbish with a lot of long words to make themselves sound so smart. Maybe I should have an exhibition one day. But hardly anyone would come to it because I don't know many people. And it's very expensive. There's no point in having an exhibition, anyway, when anyone can see my work on the internet.
If I keep going to exhibitions throughout July, chances are I'll eventually see something cool to inspire me.
Flash animation – roll your mouse back and forth across it.
That show Life Support, on SBS TV, is a send up of infotainment shows. It gives funny advice on things like cooking, renovations, relationships, and health. Some of the comedy is funny because of the way the advice is so weird and outrageous, like the one about covering up homeless people with decorative fabric covers to make them less of an eyesore. Other times, the advice sort of makes sense in a way, like that one about getting into nightclubs for free by figuring out what "stamp" to put on your wrist, but it's the kind of thing none of the real infotainment shows would tell you because it's against the rules. They have this character named Penne who's a rebellious young person always advising us on how to do illegal dangerous stuff to "scam the man" – she's my favourite. And sometimes they make comedy about serious issues like racial prejudice and domestic violence, so as to satirize our way of life – it's edgy.
Historical drawing of the week:
Sixteen years old. There were no photos of me taken that year – I can't even be really sure that I was sixteen when I did this self portrait, but it looks about right.
That guy Weird Al Yankovic is funny. What he's especially famous for is taking a well-known song and changing the lyrics to make it funnier. And no one does it better than him, really – he manages to achieve the same rhythm and "feel" as the original songs, but with a completely different meaning, and the results are hilarious. I recently bought his album "Poodle Hat", and just reading the lyric-sheet made me crack up because the words are so funny. Listening to the actual music was not so funny, but still worth doing. He also writes original comedy songs, some of them are lame but I liked the one called "Why Does This Always Happen To Me?" which makes a satirical comment about the way people are so selfish and uncaring, like when there's a fatal car crash on a busy road and people only think about how inconvenient it is, making them late for work.