cleaning the studio...

...and other adventures in art

I just took a large-scale drawing workshop taught by my friend and fellow artist Claire Thorson. It was a wonderful class, and Claire is truly a gifted teacher. She created a classroom environment in which it felt safe to experiment, and gave us the tools to do so.

People ask, “why take a class?”, but that’s precisely why…to be given not just the freedom but the imperative to explore new directions, with no thoughts about how it might fit into my other work. Whatever it is that I explore in a class will end up in my studio work in some form or another. I always find something that ‘sticks’.

So what ‘stuck’ from this class? First and foremost, I was reminded of how much I love to draw. I do draw regularly, though not as often as I have in the past. I’m not sure why that is, other than that whole thing about painting being a jealous mistress.

What I love about drawing is this: the feel of charcoal on paper, the mark-making, the line and tone and limited color.  That evocative sense that comes so naturally to drawings. As with many people, drawing was my first love affair with art-making.

We worked on big drawings, starting with 38″x50″ and progressing to 5’x12′! I found that I was so very comfortable drawing in a large format.

Here’s my first drawing from the workshop. Claire provided us with several different photocopies to use as source material, immediately removing us from our usual working methods. I looked at all the source material at the same time, but specifically looked at hat shapes in a Bruegel piece. I was working in a non-figurative manner, but I kept seeing a figure in it, so I turned it upside-down and it still looked like a figure. At that point, I shrugged my shoulders and made myself consider it purely as a drawing, whether or not it was going to be figurative, and upside-down became right-side-up. But if you turn your screen upside-down, maybe you’ll prefer it in the original orientation?

Original artwork by Barbara Downs, Untitled Drawing, Chalk Pastel on Paper

Untitled Drawing, Chalk Pastel on Paper, 50″ x 38″, 2011