This semester (Fall 2018) I taught my favorite class ART 3555 Mixed Media drawing. The class was originally created a hundred years ago by my mentor, friend and rock star Paul Hartley. About 50 years ago he scheduled me to teach that class for the first time and told me that the most important thing that students had to learn from that class was to play again. The reason I said “again” was that for the first three years of the curriculum, our students are drilled and critiqued and questioned to the point of exhaustion and sometimes even hating what they are making. Paul taught me, and what I hope my students take away from my class is that you have to give yourself permission to see the world as a child sees it. You have to try to look at a problem (any problem) without the blind, jaded adult filter on.
When I say adult filter, I mean the schema, framework and lens you have built in your mind to move you through the world toward the goal(s) that you have set for yourself or that others have set for you. The adult is supposed to be efficient and practical and get the job done. Have you ever heard of efficient or practical creativity?
ART 3555 is for juniors, seniors or first year graduate students because most of them have built up a healthy adult filter to survive the amount of work, and the repeated critiques of the quality of their work required to progress through an art and design degree. Those students have become efficient, practical and occasionally lazy with the pre-fabrication/brain storming/rough ideas for problems because they do not have a lot of time to complete assignments. They have great technical skills if they made it to this class, but the pre-fabrication/brain storming for the assignment is the most import part of the process and the easiest to skip. They have forgotten how to play.
I have observed that most students will use the first idea that pops into their head. If there are potentially an infinite number of solutions to a problem that I give, why in the world, would anyone assume that the very first one is the best? It is clearly the most obvious solution, but more important to this issue is that this is the way that we tend to look at any problem we encounter. We assume there is one answer and that the sooner we find, the sooner we can move on. That is a practical and efficient way to look at life.
On the first day of class, I say (basically) the following out loud, “In this class it is your job to play and have fun. Do not misunderstand that to mean goof off. You will work your ass off if you expect to pass. As long as you try to solve the essence of the problem, I give you permission to draw or paint or sculpt or video, etc., whatever subject matter you want and no one can criticize you for that choice. We can ask you why you made a particularly bizarre or even inappropriate image or object, but we cannot make a value judgement on your choice(s). If someone does challenge you, all you have to say is “Scott said I can do whatever I want”. That means you can paint unicorns, lighthouses, pirates, puppies, kittens with laser beam eyes, etc. It also means that if you make an image or object and you do not know why you did it, that is okay. You have my permission to say that you do not know, because I have learned that very frequently I make something and I cannot say what it means or why I did it. When you are really in the moment of making and spontaneously create something without the adult filter on, it is just like waking from a dream. It takes time to figure out what it means, or if it means anything important. And, most importantly, because it is your PERSONAL problem, we have no business placing a value judgement on what you just did.” I then give a demonstration and usually draw a unicorn with a lighthouse for it’s horn.
As you might imagine no one believes me at first. It is only after I enforce the play laws during the first project, that the most creative and/or sometimes the quietest students surprise us with amazing, or funny or bizarre things. Trust is the foundation of this course.
I also make things for this class (I do not hang my work at critiques) and require periodic trading of work with the possibility of not getting it back. I put my own artwork in these trades as well as former student’s work from this class. The image above comes from my solution to a problem called MULTIPLICITY;
Using the image you are working on for either the LIMINALITY project or the KRYPTONITE project; or both; or a project from another class; you will produce at least 10 variations of that image(s) using the techniques and technologies and parameters introduced in class.
WIDE open. There are an infinite number of ways to use digital printing, traditional printmaking, photography, transfer techniques, scanning, and Photoshop, etc. as techniques for mixed media drawing, painting and ideation. The objective is to use creative improvisation, new techniques, scanning, Photoshop manipulation, printing and/or any other duplication means on a variety of surfaces. Your goal is to encourage accidental and novel combinations of surfaces, techniques and images.
I will demonstrate several techniques in class and provide you with links to others.
Your starting image should have a protagonist and antagonist. If you are working with a nonobjective image, a pattern or an abstraction, you will have to decide what is the protagonist and what is the antagonist before you begin.
1. At any size you wish, re-create the antagonist (or part of the antagonist) using techniques you have never used, using transfer techniques, by collaging, and/or by making it out of other things and taking a picture of it. Do at least 5 of these. WORK FAST!!!
2. Create an image where the protagonist from your original image is surrounded by, overwhelmed by, confused by, etc. different versions of, copies of, transfers of, etc. the antagonist that you created in #1.
3. Remove the antagonist from your original image then print the remaining image leaving room to redraw. Recreate the antagonist using a technique that you like but have never used before. Find a tutorial of this technique and share/submit to me.
4. Edit out the protagonist from your original image and redraw that image using a technique that you like but have never used before. Find a tutorial of this technique and share/submit to me. This can be a completely digital image.
5. Create a new image using any part(s) of the original.
6. Recreate or print the previous image on a new surface that either relates conceptually and/or changes the image’s meaning or readability
7. Recreate part or all of your original drawing in the real world. You could make a diorama, draw with masking tape, recreate as an installation, etc. You will record/submit this drawing as a video or photograph. It could be as sophisticated as this or as "simple" as this.
8. Combine the image created in 7 with any part of an image from 1-6.
9. Combine any part or all of an image from 1-8 with any part or all of a different image from 1-9
The image that I started out with was called The Lifecycle.
When I got to number 7, I decided to use just the skeleton’s skull.
I started doing several of the numbers again using the the skull. For example, I took a photograph of a skull that used to hold the license plate to my car. See below.
Then my friend Vik Sexton http://www.pwartware.com/ said that I should make a geranium in a cranium. So I did.
Then I thought about the series of severed heads that I did when I turned 40 about 15 years ago, like this one.
Since I just stepped down from being an administrator last semester, I thought it quite relevant to visually let that part of me die so something new and hopefully beautiful could replace it. The images below are some of the things I made.
Then I started this larger pencil drawing. I got to the point below and really liked it but wanted to try something a little crazy with paint. I did not want to ruin what I had done so far, so I scanned it into the computer with the intention of printing a high resolution image to paint on instead.
I decided to clean it up a little.
And then I decided to see what a little color would look like.
I liked the color so I added a little more. I had planned on using a day lily for the flower, but the eyes seemed both alive and dead. I jokingly named the file for this the “human bean” because the shape of the head reminded me of a bean. That also related to the idea that a seed, or bean, is a tiny corpse that eventually is reborn as a plant.
I added even more color. Bean rhymes with meme which is an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.
• a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.
A meme is like a dandelion in the way that it spreads so quickly and easily across the digital landscape. The head that I created looks like it was once human, but it has now been invaded by something malicious. That thing has mutated and taken on the characteristics of its host.
So why is this a Twitter meme?
Twitter is designed to spread encapsulated ideas, opinions and news rapidly and in one direction; forward. In my opinion, a great deal of that information has been malicious, and frequently false or misleading. Twitter has allowed for the propagation of a virus of intellectual laziness that has infected our entire culture. If you look closely at the human bean Twitter meme, you will see why IT is so dangerous. It has already begun it’s journey to a new host. Is that you?