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A First Quarter Glimpse

Here is a glimpse of the first quarter in our full-time program from a few of our students.

[sc:toggleContainer ] [sc:toggleBox title=”Week 1 – A Candid Look with Gabriel Palma” ]

Being 28 years of age and delving into a full-time study of fine art, the prospect of having the “first day of school” zeal was dim in regards to knowing the challenge that lay ahead.  Once the thought pierced my mind, “Today I’m going to meet some amazing people, I’m going to learn from some amazing instructors, and I’m going to be diving into the craft that I so love,” I suddenly experienced what I have not experienced since…well, never actually; a real excitement for what academically lies ahead.

While driving down Balboa Blvd, listening to Tom Petty at 9:30 a.m. in the morning, hoping that I make it on time to my first class, I began to flash forward in my mind about what type of artist I would be when I finish my time at LAAFA.  Will I do well at LAAFA?  Will I like the people at LAAFA? Will I like the curriculum at LAAFA?  Will I like the smell at LAAFA??

“Worry not about the troubles of tomorrow, for sufficient are the troubles for today.  Tomorrow will worry about itself,” is a quote from the gospel of Matthew that I apparently am horrible at following, because I LOVE to worry. If anxiety had a redheaded cousin, it would be me.  I thankfully arrived 15 minutes early for my first class, which I, of course pat myself on the back for. If you knew me in high school, or college, or potentially grade school…maybe also kindergarten, being early was never my thing.  But upon walking into my art history class, I sat down with a completely new sense of stoic identity, an identity that was ready to be punctual and ready to work hard. The stoic energy I had was immediately directed to my peers whom which were already in the room upon my arrival. Immediately, the sense of camaraderie amongst the core students in my group was so prevalent.  Rapport was built like the simplest of Lego sculptures, warmness immediately fell upon the room like a well-furnaced cabin on a winter night, the jokes and conversations flowed so naturally and I knew that I would enjoy these fellows.

Art History was nothing short of fascinating.  Katherine Zoraster, our instructor, had a tremendous-like ability about her that would engage the most distant mind, or convince interest in the driest of subjects.  Our discussion was thought-provoking in the most unpredictable of ways.  Asking why do we create art is one thing, but when we attempt to place ourselves in the artistic reasonings of cavedwellers’ minds in the Neolithic period, it opened completely new conversation topics that Zoraster so skillfully facilitated. It made a three-hour class seem like it was 20 minutes long…in other words, it was fun (included in the fun-ness was a donation of donuts by a student that made my year).

The following session was our Figure Constructive class taught by Ron Lemen.  By this time, my 20th cup of coffee was leaving my blood stream, the donuts were a sugary thing of the past, and I was more than ready to get my hands on some drawing from the live model.  I am all about simplicity, especially when drawing from a live model.  The most important thing you can do is hang your hat on the sturdy hook of simplicity.  Mr. Lemen was beyond amazing in making things as simple as possible in the most constructively sound way.  To be honest I learned things about drawing from the live model in Ron’s 4-hour class that took me all of last year to only touch upon. I honestly cannot wait to see how much I progress by sitting under his teaching.

I think the energy in the room amongst all of the students was very high because upon completion of our first day at LAAFA, we were getting an idea of how much each of us are going to grow together as artists.  The next morning did not contain a Tom Petty soundtrack, nor did any upheaval of late twenty career angst-y feelings arise.  I was comfortable, I had my first day.  I knew to some degree what to expect when I waltz through the doors into LAAFA’s surprising décor of a 17th century French art atelier…in Van Nuys.

I set up for my next class of Drawing 1B (wait doesn’t A come before B?! What’s going on over at that crazy school?!). Yes, I didn’t understand why drawing B came before drawing A, nor do I know if the chicken came before the egg…nor do I really care.  The minute William Rodgers came into the classroom I can’t state enough how much I love this guy’s energy.  He teaches art like a 1960s football coach ready to win the state champions.  He is the first art teacher that I’m pretty sure could wrestle a bear and win if he had to.  All kidding aside, his skill is exceptional, showing us some of his pieces that hang around the school, I immediately had a deep respect for him.  Our first project of the quarter consists of drawing from old master drawings onto our 18”x24” drawing pad.  I love how in my overzealous “let’s pick the hardest drawing to copy from, because I am on a mission from God,” (i.e. Blues Brothers attitude), Will was all for it and gave me every bit of assurance I needed to get moving in the right direction.

Even in the session to follow, which was the perspective class, Mr. Jon Messer had the same type of zeal.  Jokes and remedies flowed from this man like the Nile River.  At this point, following Rodgers’ 5-hour drawing class, I was beat.  Jon knew that.  He knew we had all been drawing for the better half of the day and his personality and love for art was like 10 trips to the coffee machine.  He engaged us, so that we engaged the material.  How in the heck could perspective be fun?  Two words…Jon Messer.  Not only fun but I actually understand it! –a little bitter from failing it in high school, no big deal, time heals all.

Okay, Friday morning is here and I get what I call the “Friday morning shakes.”  Why do you have the shakes, Gabriel?  Are you nervous about something big and scary??  Well, put it this way, the first name I heard upon arriving at LAAFA was “Rey Bustos.”  As time went on, I kept hearing the name “Rey Bustos” dropped on the regular.  I heard that this man was a man to be taken very seriously.  A man beyond devoted to his craft, a man who has a passion for his craft so much so that he arrives 2 hours early to class, ready to preach the good word of anatomy.   And lo and behold the legends were true.  I arrived to class 20 minutes early and it seems as if class has been in session for 2 hours already.  I was a little intimidated to be honest.  I felt like I just waltzed into a courtroom unprepared.  Rey immediately began with an introduction into his class that was nothing short of inspiring.  Seriously, this guy LOVES what he does and BELIEVES in what does with no exceptions.  I was glued to every word that was coming out of his mouth.  The class commenced and I can honestly say that I will come out of this class a walking textbook under Rey’s tutelage and I could not be any more excited to be challenged by him and his curriculum.

The final session of the week wrapped up with the endearing, thought provoking, hilarious, and just downright cool brother from another mother, Noah Buchanan.  I, like a genius, arrived 30 minutes late because I mistook the start time, but Noah assumed with an understanding demeanor and proceeded to teach.  His humor is right on, his methods even more right on.  Noah’s class is the perfect class to end our crazy week at LAAFA.  He really is someone that you can approach and not be afraid to ask the silliest of questions and have him answer them with astute intellect that does not make you feel silly for asking a silly question.  I drew right alongside him and learned so much by just watching him work.  Still life’s are always a difficult challenge, many theologians believe drawing an ellipse to be the devil itself…that may or may not be a joke. Thankfully Noah made it so understandably approachable with a solid proven method to ensure success upon every little teacup my heart so wishes to draw.

Overall this first week at LAAFA was so fruitful that I would be content leaving now in respect to how much I have already learned.  But it gets better, because that was only week one!  I got 8,999,000 more weeks to go!!  My word, am I excited for this opportunity.  Never have I felt more challenged, but yet so in the right place in all of my days.

[sc:toggleBoxEnd ] [sc:toggleBox title=”Week 2 – Familiar as Completely Unfamiliar” ]

“Our perennial spiritual and psychological task is to look at things familiar, until they become unfamiliar again.” – G.K. Chesterton

The above quote has much to do this second week here at LAAFA.  There is always a gravitational pull towards allowing oneself to become too familiar with what we’re predisposed to. The challenge I faced on the morning of October the 8th was familiarity. I was going to an establishment where I spent 30 hours the week prior. But I failed to prepare with necessary respect for the unfamiliarity of new lessons and concepts I would need to embrace.  As soon as I realized the mental preparation that was needed to be able to fully engage, the familiar as completely un-familiar. I immediately had to metaphorically splash myself with cold water. And since it was a cold morning, the metaphor had some physical realities.

From my perspective, I could see that this was also the challenge for all my fellow students.  The first week was so mentally and physically challenging that a natural retraction into the comfort of rhythmic repetition was tempting; we unmolded pieces of clay are quite a contrast to the refined pillars of strength and passion that the faculty are to us. When we slow, the faculty is ready to give us the strength and ignition we need to engage the new gems of art wisdom that lay ahead.

We all seemed to get through the first week with our preexisting skills and talents. We understood the theories, completed the homework, and understood the logic of the lessons. But whatever we were resting on was wonderfully shattered in Ron Lemen’s figure construction class. Our first introduction to anatomical construction of the abdomen and pectoral attachment while looking at the live model initiated us into a level of drawing that we were likely not adapted to. I personally went through stages of not getting it, getting it, then not getting it again.  As Ron patiently demonstrated again for me, I began to implement sound abdominal flexion in accordance to the models changing poses. I felt as if I learned the steps to the waltz.  As the model moved, the figure on my Strathmore drawing pad began to move as well.

The instructors at LAAFA believe in the importance of understanding the human anatomy so that our relationship with the art we are trying to create can grow a genuine representative intimacy.  In Ron’s class, I felt I was getting to know my friend “the human figure” on a new level.  Coupled with the applicatory nature of Ron’s class, the human anatomy class with Rey Bustos furthers the specificities of our subject with much more scientific terms.  I continuously am awestruck by the first 15 minutes of Rey’s lectures. Rey stated a monumental fact in regards to the early masters of old. In times of Caravaggio, becoming an artist was like trying to become a doctor. You couldn’t just “be” an artist back then. For example, upon realization that an individual wants to be a doctor, he or she doesn’t enter the surgery room and get right to work. A doctor has to be trained extensively, but also has to be good at the work in order to earn a certificate of practice.  In the same sense, back in the time of the great Italian masters you had to know your craft to even earn the title of “artist”.  Rey believes in just that still to this day.  Rey has given me ownership over my time here at LAAFA. Every time I leave his classroom, I feel as though I have re-discovered why I am here at LAAFA.

I think that as I write this, I am beginning to understand that the unfamiliar lies a little deeper than a familiarity of a curriculum schedule as I stated earlier.  We as artists can fall into the danger of becoming too familiar. In art, our familiarity with subject matter or any aspect can sometimes transform it into something that “we just do” rather than something that “we must do”.  What Rey achieved Friday morning in his lecture was that he made art completely unfamiliar to me again. I was reminded of its beauty, its complexity, its mystery, and all this demonstrated in the lesson of the pelvic bone. How much more is there for me to discover! How much more lay ahead as I dive deeper into the trunk, the head, and the hands! I learned a very important lesson as I press onward this week at LAAFA, and that lesson is when art suddenly becomes familiar, open an anatomy book and allow it become unfamiliar again.

–Gabriel Palma

[sc:toggleBoxEnd ] [sc:toggleBox title=”Week 3 – “Harmonic Armature” | Why Do I Need Perspective?” ]

Hi, everybody! “Hi, Doctor Nick!” (any ‘Simpsons’ fans?) Ok, well now that I’ve shown you all how much of a nerd I am, let’s proceed! I am entering into my 4th week here at LAAFA, and I feel more and more confident in the sleepless nights and countless hours of work I have been investing in this. Six more weeks and I will be done with my first quarter! Wow, how time flies *tear. I can only imagine how fast this whole year will end up going by. But let’s “focus on the now” as Dr. Phil would say (he’s a real doctor guys, I swear it!) and dive into this past wonderful week at the Atelier that dwelleth in Van Nuys.

In the last few blogs I have written, I think what runs as a repetitive theme are these re-occurring silver lining experiences that lift me to cloud nine and give me the wings to make it through the week. Fluffy stories of inspiration are not what I am trying to promote up in here! I think when there becomes a reliance upon the “emotional high” of a person in order to march through a metaphorical wilderness, you have placed a reliance upon metaphorical cheap gas (if I charge a dollar for every metaphor I use, I would be metaphorically rich!). I continue at LAAFA, because LAAFA is darn good for me. Even at times when it is hard, and oh my do I sometimes want to press the snooze button on my alarm, this program is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. In the same way an athlete trains when it’s raining, when he is sick, when the monotonous becomes even more monotonous; he presses through because the greatness of the end result far outweighs the current hardship.

But I do feel it is worthy to note these notable rekindlings of passion that I do experience, because in some way, things that are beautiful in themselves will present refreshment in an experiential sense. And that is exactly what happened when I, a downcast lad, stopped Noah Buchanan in the hallway last Thursday to ask him for advice. The night before, I was YouTube-ing videos on 3-point perspective for the sake of review, when I stumbled upon a video of an artist of notoriety giving a talk about how perspective is useless in art. He demonstrated a very easy approach to implementing perspective into artwork but argued against an extensive study of it. I was greatly discouraged by this, being an impressionable lad I began thinking that maybe this artist was right. Maybe I didn’t need to be in a perspective class and I could potentially spend my time in a more constructive manner.

I knew this was false, it had to be false. If I am learning perspective at LAAFA, then there is a good reason. But of course I have to toss and turn about it, cry a little bit (not really…well maybe just a little tear) scream, rant, wonder, ponder, think there yonder (okay I’ll stop) before I actually go to the faculty and ask someone about the importance of the tool of perspective in my artist belt.

So I catch Noah in the hallway and I sheepishly proceed to ask him “h..hey Noah um..Noah, do we like, um have to know *cough uhh perspective and ..stuff.” He graciously smiled and pulled me over to the dry board to show me something that will later blow my mind. He immediately answered my question by introducing  me to the “Harmonic Armature.” Basically, the Harmonic Armature is a relationship between numbers (specifically, proportions) and sensory perceptions that are pleasing to our ears and our eyes. In a word, we respond positively to intervals of one third, one quarter, one half, two thirds and three quarters. Noah proceeded to show me how this diagram would be placed underneath the underpainting in order for a composition to have structural purpose in sensory impact of the viewer (a method used by some of the most famous classical artists, used in some of the most famous classical paintings). The Harmonic Armature gives the artist the license then to become more than an artist and more of a composer. As a composer, the artist can now compose subject matter on the numeric proportions of the grid in order that favorable sensory experiences would then occur in the viewer.

As Noah explained this to me I was in awe, but I was waiting for when the perspective element was to come in. He went on to further explain that with the painting divided into one thirds, one quarter, one half, two thirds, and three quarters using lines; those lines can also act as the horizon lines that we use in perspective (bam, mind blown) so that we can implement perfect perspective into harmonic armature. In other words, not only can a painting now have the intelligence of proper distal proportions, but also those distal proportions can sing in perfect harmony with each other and with our senses; satisfying intellect and feeling.

When Noah concluded, my love for art went down about 10 elevator levels. To be able to fully understand that the curriculum that I am now involved in would enable me to create paintings that would equate to a beautifully composed sonnet or a timeless melody is just so wonderfully pleasing. I’m so thankful to Noah for taking the time to show me that art is so much more than paint splattered on a canvas. What I am doing here is important, and I can say that in confidence, because I know I am being trained for greatness. Every lesson, every hour spent, every class, all leads to a prize that is at the end of the road. And boy after understanding the Harmonic Armature and how vital of a tool perspective is in enhancing it, I sat in perspective class that Thursday evening with not a doubt in my mind.

And YouTube, if you are reading this, stop confusing me with challenging videos of art theory and post more hilarious videos of grandparents rapping. Thank you.

–Gabriel Palma

[sc:toggleBoxEnd ] [sc:toggleBox title=”Week 4 – Interview with student Chris Loree” ]

Hello! This week I decided to take a different turn with this blog and interview one of my fellow classmates. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Chris Loree over the past few weeks, and I must say that he is quite the unique soul. His kindness, meekness, and wonderful sense of humor, has made my time here at LAAFA so enjoyable. The interview only scratches the surface of how cool Chris is. If you ever have the opportunity to meet Chris Loree, I would highly recommend that you savor that opportunity because he is a man amongst men!

PALMA- That is one thing that I have noticed about you Chris. You embrace every one of our peers as your equal, regardless of what their background is. That, to me, is monumental and I think everyone can learn from you. What philosophical lens do you look through in order to see things the way that you do?

LOREE- I have always believed that we are all interconnected to one another. Believing that there is a oneness that exists amongst us takes away any pretenses and animosity that I may have towards others. It really keeps me centered while I am here spending a lot of time with people from all different walks of life. I can enjoy them for exactly who they are, with no need to receive anything in return.

PALMA- That is wonderful, as well as rare. That being said, what brought you here to LAAFA?

LOREE- I began taking an interest in art when I was a young skateboarder. I used to love looking at the graphics on the back of the deck of the skateboard and in many cases tried to design my own. I began taking workshops at 3 Kicks Art Studio as well as at LAAFA, but I noticed my work was not really getting any better. I was left with the conclusion that I needed to commit myself full time to my work. I also needed way more confidence in what I was doing with art. I had no confidence in myself as an artist because I never received any training. If I didn’t have confidence in myself as an artist, how could I move forward in a career in the arts?

PALMA- It would be almost impossible. There has to be solid level of self -assurance in the work you create. If you don’t believe in your work, how can we expect others to?

LOREE- Exactly, that’s what I love about this school. Its only been 4 weeks and I am already so much more confident in my work. I also love how the instructors share their professional experience with us. So as I am learning, I also am being prepared for the world outside, after LAAFA.

PALMA- That is one thing that I have noticed about you Chris. You embrace every one of our peers as your equal, regardless of what their background is. That, to me, is monumental and I think everyone can learn from you. What philosophical lens do you look through in order to see things the way that you do?

LOREE- I have always believed that we are all interconnected to one another. Believing that there is a oneness that exists amongst us takes away any pretenses and animosity that I may have towards others. It really keeps me centered while I am here spending a lot of time with people from all different walks of life. I can enjoy them for exactly who they are, with no need to receive anything in return.

PALMA- That is wonderful, as well as rare. That being said, what brought you here to LAAFA?

LOREE- I began taking an interest in art when I was a young skateboarder. I used to love looking at the graphics on the back of the deck of the skateboard and in many cases tried to design my own. I began taking workshops at 3 Kicks Art Studio as well as at LAAFA, but I noticed my work was not really getting any better. I was left with the conclusion that I needed to commit myself full time to my work. I also needed way more confidence in what I was doing with art. I had no confidence in myself as an artist because I never received any training. If I didn’t have confidence in myself as an artist, how could I move forward in a career in the arts?

PALMA- It would be almost impossible. There has to be solid level of self -assurance in the work you create. If you don’t believe in your work, how can we expect others to?LOREE- Exactly, that’s what I love about this school. Its only been 4 weeks and I am already so much more confident in my work. I also love how the instructors share their professional experience with us. So as I am learning, I also am being prepared for the world outside, after LAAFA.

PALMA- What would be your favorite class here at LAAFA?

LOREE- I would have to say Ron Lemen’s Figure Construction class. The way Ron combines anatomy and live model figure drawing really challenges me on so many levels. I feel like I am really learning the right way to draw when I am in his class.

PALMA- Is there anything that you learned that potentially surprised you?

LOREE- I didn’t realize how much knowing anatomy would help with my live model figure drawing. I see my drawings get better every week. I was shocked at how our studies of the human body would play such a huge role in the way I see the model. It’s insane, it’s like I see the posing figure in a whole new way.

PALMA- What has been the most difficult class for you?

LOREE- I would for sure have to say that Rey Busto’s Anatomy class is the most difficult. Rey’s class is a class that demands more than three hours, so it can feel really fast paced. The complexity of the subject matter demands your full attention at all times. I feel the most challenged in that class. It really forces you to be completely present.

PALMA- What are your plans after LAAFA?

LOREE-I really have no idea. I wish I could say that I have big plans and bright dreams. But I have really understood the value in education and learning. I’ll be honest, I’m not thinking too much about the future. I’m just enjoying the now, the experience of learning and growing. I really think that growth can be stunted when we are not present in what we are doing. The only plan I have for the future is to keep learning and growing as an artist. Whatever career path comes my way as a result, then I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

My conversation with Chris Loree was more than rewarding for me. I’m reminded about how important it is to take the time to find out who someone is. When we meet people for the first time, we are meeting them in the middle of their life. When we take the time to find out someone’s story, we are venturing back to the start. When I learned the story of Chris Loree, I grew such a respect and appreciation for him. It was honestly humbling for me. I began to think about all of the lives that surround me here at LAAFA, and how each of these individuals have their own incredible story to tell. Not only is investing myself in the curriculum here a great priority, I also am beginning to see that investing myself in my friends here is also a great priority. Part of what makes LAAFA the school that it is are the people. That is something I cannot forget. Thank you Chris Loree, you have allowed me to see you and many others in a completely new and fresh way.

[sc:toggleBoxEnd ] [sc:toggleBox title=”Week 5- In the Middle” ]

This is the half way point of the first quarter.  Homework must come first!

[sc:toggleBoxEnd ] [sc:toggleBox title=’Week 6 – Training for Life’ ]

I thought that my test taking days was over when I finished junior college back in 2008. Taking tests was not the most exciting thing for me, nor was studying for them. I wasn’t a huge fan of school altogether back in those days. The only time I deemed it necessary to celebrate during my days at school, was when school was actually over with. I remember throwing a party based solely on the event of me passing my Statistics class (the theme of my party was my triumph over the beast that is mathematics). So you can imagine my restlessness upon realizing that I would need to take a test in Art History, let alone a mid-term. I approached studying with a sort of a frustration. I think any artist can relate to this. There is a strong sense of entitlement that comes with being an artist that I have to really battle with. Sometimes, I think that being an artist comes with an excuse to not have to conform to any kind of way. So it can almost be offensive to my ego when my attention is requested away from my art production to something more mundane like test taking. So in part I will be honest about how much I struggled with sitting myself down and studying for a mid-term exam.

I think it is so monumentally important for me to get past this idea, that I don’t need to do what is required of me, because I am an artist. I think that is why an artist’s most hated term can be “curriculum”. We think that a prescription to anything formulated will in some way damage our creative goals. This simply isn’t true. I have come to realize that part of my training as an artist, lies within the discipline of curriculum. Having to wake up early, and spend 10 hours focused on concepts that are stepping stones, to the next concept, training us for a life of staying on track, and moving towards the goal. If I can’t study for an exam which has everything to do with art, (let alone, do well on the exam) then how will I face the many other challenges that I will run into as an artist in the days ahead?

Katherine Zoraster tested us on our true comprehension of the material, instead of a shallow memorization of dates and capitals. I will be honest right now, and say, that I love that. Developing our comprehension of “why” and “what for” in our study of art production from the past, is most crucial to our art production of the future. I don’t think enough artwork today begs the viewer to ask, “Why?”. All of the artwork dating from the Palaeolithic period, always has a reason as to why it was created. I believe that it’s that reason that gives the artwork its weight, and it’s relevance. So us LAAFA students, need to understand “why,” and we need to be tested and challenged to explain “why”. Otherwise, we become artists who are uneducated, and cannot correlate intellect with aesthetic. In turn, I finished being very grateful for the opportunity to study art history, and not only that, to have received an A grade on my exam. (Go me!)

Since I have started at LAAFA, I had not touched a paintbrush to a canvas. Being in my “drawing year” here at school, I have committed myself to only drawing, and studying anatomy. In Noah Buchanan’s class, the paint brush returned to my hand. Noah showed us a technique that I have never seen before that involved charcoal drawing, but laying in tone using brushes. We began the drawing by marking our measurements and placements of the objects, using vine charcoal. Then, over our vine charcoal markings, we reinforce our decisions with a heavier charcoal pencil, to solidify our markings. Then, like the initial wash onto a canvas, we “pepper” a sanding of the vine charcoal over our established markings (like grated cheese over pasta). Using a brush to sweep the vine sanding back and forth, from one side of the drawing to the other, we created a “veil of tone” to cover the drawing we have earlier made. From here, the drawing process becomes very much like painting. In a typical drawing, we would move from light to dark, in the veiled tonal drawings, we move from dark to light. We draw in the subtractive sense, removing dark to work our way up to our lightest light. Vine charcoal is a very delicate medium, which can be removed with the slightest of touch, let alone the touch of a paint brush. Using the paint brush, we delicately remove the vine in a painterly fashion, creating a drawing that obtains the fluidity of a Sargent painting.

Flash forward to Friday morning and I find myself in Rey Bustos’ anatomy class or as he calls it “Rey’s Anatomy.” I bring in my finished skeletal ecorche model, incredibly proud of myself for my accomplishment. “Accomplishment” may be a strong word-wait, no, it’s exactly the right word, for this beast of a project. Every week, the ecorche model demands 99.8% of my time outside class; and oh my, it’s like being married with ten kids. The tender love and care involved in making, and taking care of this project is a lot like having a child. The students would ask one another through the week, “how is your ecorche model doing?” “What time does he take his naps?” “Our ecorche’s should get together and play some time!” If you think I am joking, then you are wrong. We have all become overbearing and concerned parents of 12 inch tall skeletal children!
[sc:toggleBoxEnd ] [sc:toggleBox title=’Week 7 – The Role of Humanism in Greek Art with Anjali’ ]

In early history, mankind relied on functional art, rather than art for art’s sake. However, this functionality was entirely reinvented with the rise of the Greek civilization. These gifted people were self aware of the works they were creating and questioned their reason for creating it. Duality was an existing part of the Greek philosophy on life, and the idea of rationality versus idealism permeated throughout the civilization. Where reason and logic were unable to answer, intricate mythology clarified. Reason influenced the Greeks heavily, and they held themselves responsible for their society politically, religiously, and socially. Due to this, there was an uphill struggle to better oneself; man was obligated to constantly outdo himself and his community was expected to do the same. Man placed himself at the center of the universe, and held his gods in the same respect. This delicate balance of reason and theology was called upon by philosophers such as Plato, who not only desired to answer the weighted question of human existence, but also tried to use these ideals when defining the role of art within the Greek world. With the introduction of the philosophy that beauty mimics nature, Greeks began their strife of recreating reality and naturalism within their art. At the same time, the political and social reality of Greece was constantly changing. Due to the fact that humanism and mimicry were the goals of Greek art, their works evolved alongside their society, and paralleled all aspects of Greek life.
During the Orientalizing period of Greek artwork, there was a large influx of colonies being established in Greece due to political stability. In addition, this prosperity brought in many travelers. Soon enough, outside influence began to permeate throughout early Greece. Before this intermingling, the era known as the Geometric period held very little naturalism and relied mostly on basic patterns and shapes to assemble the form of figures and animals alike. However, because of the the influence of Egyptian and Mesopotamian art due to this stable period within Greece and the rise of colonies, the artwork also began to evolve, showing signs of a yearning towards naturalism. This reflects the idea that times of economic stability arouse a flourish in art as well as a shift in perspective. The evolution of Greek art from the Geometric period into the Orientalizing period is very apparent when comparing the Griffin Head, created around 650 BCE, to the various wine and ceremonial jars that were created before this date. A popular example is the Dipylon Vase, created in 750 BCE, a large, belly-handled vase used for burial purposes. The styles of the characters on the vase are extremely angular and have little attempt towards naturalism. On the other hand, while the Griffin Head is a very obvious recreation of the Mesopotamian hybrid figures, it still has a much more obvious attempt at a natural and believable look. The piece inherently reflects a period of rapid urbanization and expansion, leading to the stability that allowed the Greeks to find a new direction with their works. This later evolves further towards humanism as well, as later Greek artists within the Classical era rely on naturalism in recreating man as accurately as possible. The Orientalizing period was the foundation for the works that the Greeks later become famous for. It was a period where the Greeks first began to toy with the concept of naturalism, the roots of humanism in art, in a time of prosperity.

Once again at a time of rapid expansion was a period of philosophical enlightenment within Greece. While naturalism was now an idea that was a solid foundation of Greek artwork, the Archaid and Early Classical eras marked the point where the Greeks now wished to interpret themselves in the most artistically satisfactory way. To them, this now marked the beginnings of the journey towards obtaining the most believable figures possible. In thriving socially after a recent battle won against the invading Persians, a new sense of pride once again pushed the idea that man must achieve his ultimate potential. They saw within their art this same potential for greatness. Although Egyptian Kourus statues and the ideas of youth and beauty still heavily influenced Greeks, they sought to experiment with more realism. This attempt towards humanism paralleled economic and cultural expansion once again, and in turn, Greek artwork continued to evolve. Though figures were now rudimentarily accurate in their representation of the form, within sixty years the Greeks had managed to create an even more realistic human figure and this idea of humanism thrived further. The sense of pride that came with the strength of the Greeks (and in particular the Athenians), only further reinforced the confidence that the people had with their republic form of government and their ideas of individual strength and achievement. The Kourus statue, created around 540-525 BCE, in the Archaic period is a piece that visually represents the change in ideals from early Greeks. Later versions of this statue evolved rapidly, such as the famous piece known as the Charioteer made in 450 BCE in the early classical era. These pieces showed a true attempt at capturing the stories, works, basic facial features, and actions of the subject in an attempt at centering the piece around the idea that humans were the center of action. Compared to the pieces from the Geometric and Orientalizing period, there is a very obvious and more refined understanding of human anatomy, as well as a heavier importance of the idea of capturing the form, weight, and balance of the human figure. Once again, the development of the human figure pertains to the development of Greek civilization.

Running into the High Classical era, the Greeks at this point acheived near perfection with the enigma of the human figure. Relying on their concepts of duality, Greek artists managed to combine both their vision and measurements of proportion to create a canon for the human figure. This travelled beyond the human form as well: Greeks also created an order for architectural design and pottery flourished as well. Once again, the high classical era was a period of extreme economic prosperity and the Greek society flourished. Following the Kritios boy, which was deemed to be the epitome of naturalism, the Greeks now had another goal altogether: achieving humanism through the idealization, balance, and harmony of the form. Sculptures were now exaggerated yet conservative at the same time, maintaining the duality of Greek culture, yet still under the influence of the human ideal. It was only after the Late Classical Era, when the Peloponnesian War created a rift within Athens and pushed the once-flourishing city backwards, that the styles of Greek art began to grow more modest. This was due to the fact that the Athenians were humbled and chastened back into their place. The pride of the High Classical Era no longer existed among the Greeks, and although the civilization was not struggling too badly, they were humbled nonetheless. This newfound humility infiltrated into the artwork of the era. Because the nature of humanism was to reflect the ongoings of man, the Greek statues were no longer displaying athletes winning a fight or gods with immense power, both equally strong. Instead, the statues of the High Classical Era were engaging in everyday activities with modesty and ease. The piece of Alexander the Great from the Late Classical Era, although maintaining an expert understanding of human form, is portrayed modestly, as were many of the gods as this point in time, quietly reinforcing the philosophy that man and god were on the same scale. This contrasts the earlier piece from the High Classical era of Heracles, who is over exaggerated and has a heroic posture.

The idea of humanism led the Greeks to reflect through their artwork the political, economic, and social structure of the time in which the work was created. Through naturalism and duality, humanism truly reached its greatest heights, and gave the world some of the greatest works of art and architecture. Today, western civilization strives for the ideas that the Greeks maintained about politics, and the individual, as well as his role within society.

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Off for the week! Let’s keep drawing…

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In the week before the final week of school, teachers began to gear up and prepare for the ending quarter. Loose strings were tied and whatever lessons we’d been learning up to this point had slowly followed through full circle.

In our final Art History class, we took a cumulative final exam, as well as turning in our 5 page essay due for the class based on our trip to the Getty Museum. All in all, although the class is at times challenging, it is always enlightening and always applies in some way, directly or indirectly, to what we are learning in the other courses at LAAFA.

It was also the final day of Ron’s figure construction course, in which we were required to draw a figure which was partly from life and partly drawn from the imagination. It had to be drawn opposite to what we saw in front of us, almost as if we’d left our seats, walked around the figure, and drawn this instead (but from imagination). This was one of the most difficult yet informative exercises we had completed, and being on the final day, managed to draw the class to a great conclusion, although this was barely the beginning.

The rest of the week flew by in a similar manner, and although for these remaining classes, there was still one more week, the teachers pushed us to continue learning and maintained the end-of-term atmosphere in the classroom. Perspective with Jon Messer and Drawing 1B with Bill Rogers were two classes that I knew the lessons were far from over in. Although we have class with Bill again next quarter, it was important to retain the information regardless. The same is said for Perspective class, where I knew that the lessons would remain significant for the rest of my art education.

On Friday, we attended Rey’s Anatomy, which is always an extremely entertaining and highly engaging class. It was within this week that I realized our quarter was very nearly completed, and looking at my ecorche, I realized how much anatomy I had learned in such a short 10 weeks.

The day ended with Noah’s Drawing 1A, which was a great finish to the week. We worked on another charcoal piece, drawing still life objects and working on honing the skills we had learned in the weeks prior. This week truly allowed the things we learned within the quarter to settle and sink into our work more than ever.

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The last week was one of the most exiting weeks of the quarter for me, where all the elements and theories that we learned about drawing and art seemed to reach a single destination. In the drawings from Figure Construction class by the amazing Ron Lemen, there is a sense of rhythm in the poses and anatomy seems to be making sense. Finally the drawings are looking believable and expressive! Overall, I see a great deal of noticeable improvements in my drawings, as well as in my peer’s drawings. All of the hard work and the making of, overall, 250 structural drawings has paid off remarkably well.

The Art History class was highly interesting, and the exam was challenging. It makes me realize the extraordinary journey this art field has taken throughout the centuries (from Mesopotamia to Egypt, Egypt to Greece, and from Greece to Roman) and to me it seems like, I have been taking this evolutionary journey in a micro personal sense since the day I started drawing. Also, all of this knowledge surely makes me look fairly intellectual.

The Cast Drawing class, taught by William Rodgers, has been highly enlightening and our casts are ‘coming to life’. The class has engraved upon us a sense of the concepts of shapes and shape recognition when “blocking in” forms, as well as light and its play on the forms we see. I feel it has also subconsciously taught us discipline and meditation. William Rodgers, who is not only a great art teacher but a supreme philosopher, made us understand the importance of treating our art as an honorable job that requires discipline and hard work, like any other.

John Messer’s surprise test on drawing a “described indoor and outdoor scenario in perspective” gave most of us an arduous time. If it had not been for the great ‘client east wood’ and his brilliant guidance throughout we all would have failed. Fortunately, John had armed us with an in-depth understanding of perspective (almost about all the things) and we all managed to pass the test.

From a single piece of wire to a skeleton and from skeleton to solid muscles, the ecorche looked alive and ready to be graded. I hope my ecorche (named Harvey dent -two face) didn’t cry when he was graded. The last class with Rey bustos was aweinspiring. He showed and explained some of the most phenomenal artworks of all times by great artists like Michelangelo, Lorenzo Bernini, JC Leyendecker, and more! The art presentation was overwhelming and inspiring all at once. It was mainly about realizing our unique strengths as artists and pushing it forward to excellence.

The last class with the phenomenal Noah Buchanan was a mixed finale of knowledge, endurance, and dispirited emotions, as it was our last class with him at LAAFA. The class worked more on our still-life, which we started last week. The drawings showed great three-dimensionality and believability. They looked like the structural understanding of the forms is sinking well in our minds. All in all the whole quarter showered us with a great deal of information and knowledge, and I feel that the holiday will allow this new-found knowledge to fluently weave deeper into our consciousness before we dive into the next term. I eagerly await the next quarter!