Art exhibit shows teaching process

Most Homer art exhibits consist of finished work after months or even years of preparation. That’s often the case even in student shows. A show that opened last Thursday at Kachemak Bay Campus focuses not on the end work but the process of art itself.

This semester’s Student Art Showcase includes pencil and graphite drawings by students in Asia Freeman’s Beginning Drawing class. Most of the works come about from techniques Freeman uses to teach new artists the steps in drawing: perceiving edges, spaces, relationships, lights and shadows, and the whole or gestalt. Labels accompanying sketches explain how students develop a certain step.

Freeman uses as her text the classic drawing book, Betty Edwards’ “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.”

“It’s more process oriented,” Freeman said of the approach.

Drawing on brain research that suggests logical thinking comes from the left side of the brain and creative thinking comes from the right side of the brain, Freeman teaches her students to switch form left mode to right mode.

In one exercise, students copy a sketch by Picasso by looking at the sketch upside down.

“You’re trying to get your left side of your brain to quit bossing you around and draw what you see,” said Kim Sweeny, one of Freeman’s students.

In another exercise, students do a blind contour drawing, where they look at their hand and without looking at the page, draw lines like those in the palm of their hands. That gets them to focus solely on lines.

To get students thinking in two-dimensions, Freeman uses a piece of clear plastic with grid lines on it to flatten perspective. Using an erasable marker, they trace things like their hands held underneath the plastic. On a “toned” piece of paper shaded with graphite, the students then trace that image of a hand. The grid lines help them copy the outline.

“That invokes the first perception skill, lines and edges,” Freeman said.

Students then erase away everything outside the outline. They then draw lines, erase away the light areas and darken the darker areas. That leads to the skills of lights and shadows.

In another exercise, positive-negative spaces, the drawing students use the same clear plastic grid, but this time drawing an object away from them, like a chair. Again they draw the outline on the plastic, transfer it to a toned piece of paper, and erase everything outside the outline.

“We think of them like the shape Bugs Bunny makes when he jumped through the door,” Freeman said, referring to the cartoon.

Eventually, students will sketch straight to paper, without the tool of the clear plastic. That pushes them to use their pencil to measure the subject and transfer the length of a line to paper.

Most of Freeman’s students haven’t taken a drawing class before. Some are lifelong learners and others are degree-seeking students, shen said. The joy is in watching them become fluent in the new language of art and seeing those “aha” moments.

“Every one of them was very intimidated,” she said. “It’s the funnest class to teach. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle.”

Sweeny said she had always wanted to be able to draw. Now 64 and retired from teaching in the Bush, she said, “I figured this was the time to be able to learn.”

“It’s like learning to read. You put it all together, practice and get better,” Sweeny said.

Sweeny said there hasn’t been one big “aha” moment in her learning, but lots of little revelations.

“Within each skill there have been moments of, OK, I kind of get it,” she said. “Then you go to the next skill and you’re presented with a broader spectrum of issues you need to deal with.”

The student artwork remains on display until April 27 in Pioneer Hall.

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