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.


Bob Flynn said...

I'm having a hard time resisting not chiming in, folks. So I will. I'm a survivor of the 100 Figures assignment. It's surely one of the most insane things you'll ever be required to. But at the same time, one of the most useful/practical things you'll ever do.

Some tips:

Switch your medium every 15 or so drawings. It'll free you up. Use media that allow you to work fast.

Look everywhere for inspiration and let your mind wander.

Use it as an opportunity to rethink how you draw the figure, and don't be afraid to sample a few styles.

Figure out how to make an image every 15 minutes (think about it, if you can do 4 an hour that gets you 32 for 8 hours of work...over 3 days, that's almost 100). You won't necessarily be able to do that, but it'll be good to estimate how long you're spending on each one so you don't get into trouble.

You won't like every image, and that's okay. Out of the 100, I remember liking maybe a quarter of them.

Spend the extra time on the ones that are going well. Don't dwell on the ones that aren't exciting you as much.


It's something I think I would personally benefit from doing again—mainly because we all fall into habits...and this exercise is geared towards exploration and discovery.

DB, I may dig up a dozen images and post them on Drip!, but I'll wait until Monday night.

Above all else, GOOD LUCK everyone!

DB Dowd said...

Thanks, Bob! I'll look forward to your post on Monday night, if you get to it. We meet as a group on Wednesday afternoon, so the time to recover and reflect will be of value. Your post will add to the mix, I am sure.

MikeC said...

As one of the aforementioned Gaspers and Limpers, I don't think I've heard so much cursing in the studio as I did that weekend. With that in mind:

-Ditch the pencils. Don't even touch them, or open the drawer that contains them. They are by nature a small and nit-picky tool that will cripple you in a project like this. I pulled out the charcoal and conte for the first time in years on this one.

-Salvage every drawing: do-overs will ruin what little sanity you manage to retain. There will be time for them later.

-Get out of the studio regularly. You need to reload your visual artillery and if you don't, 30 of your drawings will look exactly the same and you won't even notice. Note that this will require time.

And finally, towards the end, you'll need this one:

-Vary your obscenities. Like Bob said, we all fall into habits, relying on dull and lusterless profanity when a little creativity will produce striking results. Alter your target to keep things fresh: denigrate Doug's taste in fashion, or his athletic affiliations, and it'll help get you through, even if we know you didn't mean any of it.


DB Dowd said...

Mike, thanks for weighing in. We'll provide a recap of sorts after we meet as a group on Wednesday.

Making fun of my athletic affiliations at this point is, shall we say, like shooting fish in a barrel. A bad year at [what was once] the Jake, and the Browns look horrendous. Sigh.

alex eben meyer said...

i have nothing particularly useful to add, other than, good luck seniors! and while you be cursing DB now, you'll thank him for this project in the future!

(or just hold a life long grudge...also a useful learning experience)

James Thornton said...

Sensational exercise! My brother has been making art based videos. Let me know the next time you make this assignment--could make a great little film.