April 03, 2004

Thinking about art school

What was it like in Art School for me? Being at Yale when Josef Albers was in charge? Intense. It was intense. I came to art school with minimal background in the basics of design and theory. I left with a profound experience in the process of making art. The focus was on process, not product. Every class was about understanding how and developing the skills to make things happen, the making of the experience. There were a lot of repetitive exercises, enough to wear out any desire for achievement and promote focus on the process of discovery.

At first, for about the first two months, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. In painting we learned the difference between drawing and painting. How to use color to make form. We used the same subject matter for six week periods—a dozen oranges, clay flower pots, drapery. It was difficult, a struggle, until one day, when the subject was two Indian rubber plants, I began painting the spaces between the leaves and suddenly I saw what it meant to use paint, not draw.

I had a class that met twice a week just on color. One of the classes was about color relationships with an assigned exercise (the ones in Albers book Interaction of Color). The second class was to bring in a free-form color study. These exercises were done with sheets of pure color, color-aid paper, infinite variations of color to work with. I found this very hard at first. I spent one full Thanksgiving weekend with a friend tutoring me about the relativity of color, how just a small fragment of color can change the whole piece, how to manipulate and enjoy color. Everything changed after that weekend.

It was an invaluable experience, art school. It gave form to my love of color and need to paint.

Posted by leya at April 3, 2004 01:33 PM