“Fine Art” and Figures (Or: That One Time I took an Art Class in College)

¬†When I first went to college I wasn’t certain what I wanted to major in but I knew it would probably involve three of my favorite subjects: English, Art, and Theatre. My high school instructors had told me that it was better to not declare a major than to choose one I wasn’t entirely sure of — well, it turns out only majors could get into most Theatre and Art classes. So in my sophomore year of college in 2006 I declared myself as an Art and Theatre double major. When I graduated from college I ended up with a major in English and a minor in Theatre; it also turned out my minor wasn’t printed on the certificate.

So for one brief semester in 2006 I was an art student. The one drawing class I took was entitled “Basic Drawing” and I nearly failed the class. Part of it was due to my bad attendance — the art building was a long ways away from my dorm and the trip was an even slower one in the snow. The other, bigger part, however, was that I’m a mostly self-taught and stylized artist. I’ve always preferred to draw stuff in a more whimsical way than realism and as it turns out, the Basics of Drawing are all rooted in realism. My instructor tried to teach me things, but most of it came out sounding like it was in an alien language to me and went right over my head. I felt pretty much like the class dunce.

At one point, near the end, I was told that I’d need to do a ton of extra credit if I wanted to pass the class. Luckily, there was a local figure drawing group that met a few times a week in the art building and I would get extra credit for every hour of the group I attended. I forget offhand how many hours I needed to pass but I recall it being close to twenty hours. This ended up being the best part of the art class for me. There was a great leap in improvement in the quality of the figures of my cartoon characters after going through all of this. Another fun part was that I wasn’t tied to my teacher’s instructions so I added a bit of surrealism to my drawings by coloring them colors they weren’t in reality. At one point the group leader came up to me and said, “My, that’s some creative coloring there!”

But the reason why I’m bringing all of this up is because this previous weekend I was digging around in my parents’ attic for some of my older artwork. I managed to find one of my sketchbooks from that class — one with the drawings I remember most fondly.

Figure Drawings.
Alex Hinders. 2006.
Figures 1-2 done with charcoal; Figures 3-6 done with pastels.

These should probably be treated more like sketches than complete drawings. They’re also not perfect. Check out that long arm with the Popeye muscles on the green lady in the last drawing; Or the bird beak nose on the lady in red. The second figure was probably an open rebellion, I’ll admit. But overall the compositions of these drawings are kind of neat and I like them.

The funny thing is I started figuring out some of the things the teacher had been trying to teach me while working in that drawing group. I realize now that one problem I had was that I mostly ignored light and shadow and only perceived them as variations in color. Shadows had never been an element that interested me much and were largely absent from my cartooning. But the highlights and the dark points were things I could wrap my mind around when working with color. To me, this really underscored how important color was in my artwork.

It was also that art class that made me realize that if I was going to grow as an artist I was pretty much going to have to do it on my own. A lot of the things I value in art aren’t things that are valued by mainstream artists as a whole. And cartooning? My instructor admitted that he was a cartoonist as well and that cartoons were looked down upon and had some stigma attached to them. But that’s okay. I learned some important things from that class and I’ve gone on and continued my art and I will continue to continue my art. I don’t want to come off sounding as if I’m overly bitter about the class or the experience; it was a challenge, and a bit humbling. But it hasn’t stopped me.