Saturday, December 01, 2012

PAFA MFA1: Bye Week and week 14

 The Bye Week of the Thanksgiving Holiday and it's gravy induced happiness, the fog of the carb overload, has gone along with  the turkey carcass to make a soup for the soul in my second to last week in my first semester in the MFA program.

This has been a complicated semester for me at times, frustrating and I honestly welcome the end of days and a time to reset and work "off grid' for the winter break. I have mixed feelings about the first semester in the program. I am happy with the progress of my ideas and thinking, and feel I have opened up some great avenues to my work, fresh avenues that come directly from my work in the undergrad. I've fallen back in love with drawing and have been doing more of that than painting, but want to take these ways of working in my drawings back into--or combine them with painting. I am digging deeper into themes of the loss, the shift between two states, the collapse of memory, the collapse of mans dominion over nature, the collapse of the urban and the suburban. The home or the house as a symbol, and this all came out of my love for painting urban themes as well as painting in plein air. Just now I feel these things are all like fresh ingredients tossed into the soup. Will the soup be any good? Or will I have to dump it  and go back and start fresh. How can my technical process change or grow to reflect these ideas, does it need to, and if so how can the mediums chosen execute or hinder?  The biggest frustration for me has been time, I haven't had even 2 days in a row to work, so I hop from  student to teacher to cartoonist and professional. Sometimes all in one day--so the break will give me more time to just work on my studio work, and maybe even get back out to nature and plein air paint.

 I enjoyed my critic Martha Armstrong very much and feel I did get some good feedback from her, but I will not have her next semester so I am frustrated with that because I won't have a continuation of the discussions we started this term. They like to mix up your critics in the program which I suppose has a plus of getting a lot of thoughts on your work, but the downside is that a good conversation gets cut short. I will try and sign up for Martha again if she has any open slots in the spring. I also don't think that "more thoughts" are always better thoughts either. The wrong critic or someone who doesn't get your work, or like the type of work you are into will not always end in feedback you can find useful. I wish we had more painters as critics and more figurative painters as well.  A lot of the critics work in the program I just don't feel a great kinship or response too. I suppose it's my continuing issue with much of modernism, I just don't find a lot to love, and craft wise too much of its is non-retinal and that is an excuse for crap. There, I said it!

Luckily I will continue on with Michael Gallagher as a critic, and I've had Mike as a critic and  a friend  for a few years now and we have a great repor and the history of many great conversations. Since the core of the program at PAFA in both the undergrad and the MFA is based on having the critics and their feedback on your work, having at least one long term critic for me is essential. Having a critic who has watched you grow and change over a long time is also for me an essential thing, to be challenged is also a great thing, the back and forth in a long conversation is essential dialogue for solid artistic growth and the development of your work. New ideas, new stratagies are the "Mother's Milk" as old Prof. Gimley world say-- but to not get anything you can use is a waste of time and a lot of money and is surely spilt milk.

 In my Drawing Seminar we brought in our drawings we were working on in the studio or where ever we are working, and then Michael Moore had us do drawings of each others drawings. Mmm, ok. I did a bunch of sketches of others peoples drawing and they did some of mine, I suppose to walk a mile in another artists shoes. But I am not quite sure the why of it ended up as anything useful. I have worked in many other "styles' and worn many other shoes as a cartoonist, especially in animation. The ability to work that way is actually essential in animation. So I can draw something as a riff, like the first piece above on this post, but for me it feels like "busy work". Maybe for my fellow classmates they got more out of it than I did. It was interesting to see some of their takes on my drawing, but for me I think the exercise would have been more interesting to see everybody do something based on the same drawing--run through their personal process---or not. I mean in an MFA program does that type of exercise bring forth real movement or growth, would you have to do it longer term? I always try and be open and give it a go in school, even when I don't dig the whole assignment or idea. I can always reject anything in the end, jettison it with the zillions of other things I have or keep it in my pocket to use later. I think the hard thing is you become more selective in what you keep and its harder to find those things worth keeping as you advance.

 We lined up the drawings we did of each others work below along the floor. It was like a Christmas of drawing--or like a line or drawings done as an offering or as worship!
 Everybody draws and sketches each others work after Ashley showed us a few scenes from Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.

In my Writing and Research Seminar we are turning in our big research papers and starting to give our presentations to the class. Next Friday is my turn at bat, and my research project is on the Russian Social Realists and Norman Rockwell.

Last night was the big opening at the Rosenfeld Gallery for the Plein Air at Camphill benefit show. I hopped down to Old City to see the work of the other artists and friends and press the flesh a bit as they say. Lots of great work for a great place for special needs kids. You can see more on their website and the show is up till Sunday at Rosenfeld.

There are just two weeks left in the PAFA After School Program that offer college level classes to high school kids from all over the city for FREE! This is the programs biggest year yet with record numbers of kids coming in every day and taking part in classes in Life Drawing, Painting, Illustration and Still life. Once again I am teaching the Illustration class and have two fellow MFA students helping me. Above you can see Ashley helping one of the students draw a portrait using herself as a model. The painting above is one that is just about finished by one of the students who worked every week on the piece, working it up from a series of comps or thumbnails to the final illustration in watercolor. We have even had students come from this program into the undergrad at PAFA this year. It a charge to see artists who are young really grow in these classes and its a great opportunity for any students from any school to come in and have this rare and great chance to work in such a great art school like PAFA. Hats of to Al Gury and the donors for making this happen and giving a lot of kids maybe their only real experience to work in such an environment.

1 comment:

Fred Pittsburgh said...

Thoughtful and honest Mike...