Friday, September 25, 2009

100 Figures

Dear Seniors:

I am using this blog to formally assign the workshop project to which I have vaguely referred, from my perch in the Detroit airport.

You are to produce exactly 100 figure drawings/pictures of humans between 1:00 today, Friday, and Monday morning at 9:00 am, when your new week begins. These drawings should be at least 11” x 14”. The figure must dominate the picture–no “scenes” with teeny figures. And 100 drawings means 100 drawings.

I will conduct a walk-through midday Monday to confirm completion.

You may find this surprisingly difficult. All of your usual approaches will wear out within 20 drawings. You’ll have 80 to go. You will scramble to find another medium, a different way of thinking, and then you’ll have 30 done, with 70 to go. You may go bonkers. Nonetheless you will have to deliver 100 pictures of humans on Monday. The vexation you will experience is part of the process, and of significant value. If they take too long to produce, alter your methodology to speed things up.

My students have confronted this project for a dozen years. Some of them–Mssrs. Zettwoch and Flynn come to mind–generated frightful amounts of variation and quality. Others gasped and limped to the finish line. But all gained insight about their working methods, and always after the fact.

So do not think, behave. We’ll figure out what happened later.

Which reminds me of a story.

When I was in college, I had a brief and unsatisfying experience with a Greek organization. During “Hell Week”, which really did sort of have quotation marks around it, we were subjected to mostly lame but somewhat taxing rituals. In one of them, we were expected to remain quiet as doofy incantations or instructions of one sort or another were read aloud. To be honest, I don’t really remember the content. But I do clearly recall my friend Alex receiving a scolding from an upperclassmen named Mike, a peach of a guy who was nonetheless working to set the right tone.

Alex is goofing around, cutting up with our mutual friend Bill. Mike observes these shenanigans.

Mike reproaches my friend. “Alex...” he corrects, at notable volume, with a parent’s sense of modulation and across-the-room control. “Behave.”

Without missing a beat, Alex looks back and replies, stone-faced, mimicking, seditious, absurd: “Mike...Beehive.”

Have a productive weekend! Survivors of the 100 Figures project from previous groups who frequent this blog are invited to submit notes of encouragement or hectoring graphs.

Image: a very early Al Parker for Ladies Home Journal, May 1934.

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