Saturday, 30 July 2011

Learning to draw in Canada

As promised in the posting ‘Ability to draw’. Two recollections:

Groups of 4th year architecture students at Carleton University, Ottawa, would spend a term in Rome. I heard an account of one such trip from a student who’d been on it. The students made their way independently to Rome and met at a pre-arranged time in a pre-specified square. When the tutor, Tom Dubacanik (not sure of spelling -- Serbian in name, I believe, and un-PC in speech), arrived after all were gathered, his first words were , ‘Draw, you fairies! Get sketching! What do you think you’re here for?’

Their work was every day of the term to complete 4 drawings, double-elephant size, which I think was like A1 in the Napoleonic hemisphere, the largest standard size of cartridge paper. Tom D’s aim was that they should draw as readily as speaking -- no conscious processes between ‘hand and eye’. By all accounts it worked -- whatever their deficiencies they ended up able to draw -- though what they learned about architecture I didn’t gather. The displays I saw over the years in the School of Architecture were graphically stunning. I don’t know how far the tradition continues now design has become such a computerised business.

Second recollected story: Steve Fai had a 1st year group. He set them to draw self-portraits in front of a mirror. Each week one assiduous and dedicated student brought his work in and Steve, recognising the effort, awarded him 2 marks -- out of 20 -- with the instruction to do it again. One week (5? 6? 7? don’t remember) the lad came in and said, ‘I've got it!’ and he had. Steve gave him 18 and there was no looking back.

I don’t know if learning to draw is like that for everyone for whom it hasn’t already come naturally. Perhaps for others it’s incremental; perhaps that kid was unusual. I’d like to know.

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