Sunday, March 10, 2013

That skull had a tongue in it and could sing once.

I have to finish drafting a light plot for a production of Hamlet I’m designing, but the main question is: how can I procrastinate to avoid doing it? I know! I’ll post something on my sketchblog, and make it relate to Hamlet, so it sort of feels like I’m actually thinking about the play.

Here’s a drawing of a skull I did at the drawing studio. They have a couple of skeletons around, and sometimes I draw them when there’s a break or when I’m not interested in the model’s pose. Also, I often attend the weekly anatomy class, and sometimes these bones get passed around. Skulls are a lot smaller than you’d expect, as well as the skeleton in general. People are a lot smaller when you take off all the muscle, fat, skin, and organs!

In Shakespeare Our Contemporary, Jan Kott wrote that Hamlet “… is one of the few literary heroes who live apart from the text, apart from the theatre. His name means something even to those who have never seen or read Shakespeare’s play.” I think everyone recognizes the image of Hamlet with Yorick’s skull, and the famous line, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well.” Even though that’s not quite the line.
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. —Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite chapfallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.

This is a student production of Hamlet. Whenever we have our students read Shakespeare, they complain about the language. As one of my students put it last semester regarding The Tempest, “I read the play, but I don’t get it.” I know many, perhaps most, of them just read the Sparksnotes “No Fear Shakespeare” version, which ‘modernizes’ the language. I actually don’t completely object to that. I know I didn’t learn how to really read Shakespeare until I was much older, and I still struggle with it at times. Also, a lot of my students have English as a second language, and regular contemporary vernacular is challenge enough for them. But I think it’s a shame if they rely solely on the Sparksnotes. Here’s the No Fear Shakespeare modern version of that same passage:

Let me see. (he takes the skull) Oh, poor Yorick! I used to know him, Horatio—a very funny guy, and with an excellent imagination. He carried me on his back a thousand times, and now—how terrible—this is him. It makes my stomach turn. I don’t know how many times I kissed the lips that used to be right here. Where are your jokes now? Your pranks? Your songs? Your flashes of wit that used to set the whole table laughing? You don’t make anybody smile now. Are you sad about that? You need to go to my lady’s room and tell her that no matter how much makeup she slathers on, she’ll end up just like you some day. That’ll make her laugh.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think just a little bit is lost in this adaptation. “You don’t make anybody smile now. Are you sad about that?” Well, are you?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Amanda's back

I don't know exactly why I have so many drawings of this model's back. It's from a human anatomy life drawing class, so maybe the focus that day was on the back?

Oh, here's her front . . .

Monday, March 4, 2013

On Stinking

I went for a run today, and it stunk. Rather, I stunk.

Now, I'm not a serious runner by any means. I don't run very fast or very far, and I don't have anything resembling proper form, and I don't run on any regular schedule. I'm not training for anything. I don't have any interest in testing the boundaries of my limits or any shit like that. I just decided to inject some exercise into my life about a year ago. So I try to get out once or twice a week and run, depending on my schedule and the weather (cuz I ain't gonna get up extra early to run if I have to be at work at a certain time, and I ain't gonna run in the rain or a heat wave).

I usually do about five miles, a stretch from my apartment in Clinton Hill to just past the Williamsburg Bridge and back. Today I set out to do that typical run. I just finished reading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, so I had a vague notion of pushing to better my pace and/or my distance. But pretty quickly I realized I just wasn't running very well at all. I'd barely gone a mile before I started to feel like quitting. I was going very slow, and just felt lethargic. I kept pushing on, thinking I'd hit my stride, but my stride never hit. I usually take some walking breaks, but I found myself taking some long walking breaks, and by the time I turned back from the bridge I was just done, and mostly walked the whole way back.

That's the way I felt the last time I went to a life drawing session. I went to my usual spot, Spring Street Studios, last week, for what's become my usual Wednesday afternoon session, with the full expectation of getting some good drawings done. But three hours later, I just had several pages of bad drawings. As usual, we started with a series of quick one-minute sketches to warm up. I usually don't expect much out of these; they really are just warm-up exercises. But like today's run, I never warmed up. As the session went on, pose after pose, I couldn't get my hand to make my pencil do what my eyes told my brain it wanted to see.

Just like today's run, there was nothing obvious to account for my poor showing. A lot of times I go out to draw and I'm hungry, or I'm sick, or I get there late and can't get a good seat, or I'm not particularly keen on going in the first place, or the model is bad, or whatever whatever whatever. But none of those things were true this time. I started to pick up on little things: the monitor - the guy who keeps time for all the poses - was new and kept losing track of where we were in the session, I wasn't able to score my usual favorite spot, there was one person in a seat that kept squeaking loudly every time he shifted his weight. Today, running, I kept thinking, maybe I hadn't eaten enough, or warmed up enough, or maybe it was the cold wind. But in both cases, none of those things were really enough to throw me off so badly. I was just trying to think up excuses. But the truth is, for some reason, I just didn't have any juice.

In a typical drawing session, I produce a lot of bad drawings that I just toss away. But at this point, I usually have a better ratio of decent-to-shit drawings than this. These aren't the worst drawings I've ever done. But I think they're pretty stiff, and the proportions are off on most of them, and I couldn't get a good sense of light-and-shadow or volume. A bunch of them look like quick one or two-minute poses, that were actually five or ten-minute poses where I'd usually get a much more developed sketch. The model was a lovely young woman who gave us graceful, dynamic poses that I just couldn't capture. That last pose had a lot of foreshortening that I failed to portray.

These last two were alright. I captured something right about the way she was hunched over in the first, and the second one I don't completely hate.

Later on today, despite my lame-ass run, I did feel better, a bit more energized, my lungs a bit more clear and strong, a little bit like I do when I run well. And when I looked at these drawings afterwards, I thought, "Eh ... they're not as bad as I thought when I was doing them." Doing some activity, whether it's exercising or creating, there's something you achieve just from the doing, even if you don't perform as optimally as you'd like, even if the bulk of it is crap, even if you're not aware of the benefits as you're doing it. Tomorrow I'll try another run, and I'll probably do better, and before long I'll be back at another drawing session where I hope to draw better. I'm not too worried about it.