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Part of the Art

In the sketchbook, mentioned below [circa 1977, Art Center College of Design], I was to do many, many drawings of everyday things. I was essentially to draw anything that was before me, anywhere I had the time to draw.

In my first term at Art Center, College of Design in February 1977, I had an instructor named Mr. Souza for a class called Head Drawing. I can’t remember his first name, but John Philip comes to mind as an entirely incorrect answer. If memory serves me, he was the first of my instructors that first week to assign a sketchbook for the semester. The first pages of that book are festooned with drawings for him.

Souza was an different kind of guy. He was in his 40s at the time, thick glasses, stout of stature. And he taught with authority. He had a bit of a sarcastic edge, too. It was intimidating to ask him questions because his responses were laced with an air of but of course.

He also had an eye for the ladies. The kind of eye that might qualify him for Congressional Service.

He really liked Paula.

Paula was a gal from the south who was not only genetically gifted with a shapely and voluminous foreground, but who also didn’t think it at all odd or improper to talk about her gifting. To 19-year-old young men such as myself.

“Thirty-six-dee,” she said to me once when I alerted her that one of her top buttons may have come undone. [No she just wore it that way on purpose, I learned]. “And they pass the pencil test.”

I had no idea what that meant, and told her so.

She explained.

I squirmed.

Anyway, one day Paula comes to Mr. Souza’s Head Drawing class in a boat-neck, mid-forearm-sleeved knit top with one-inch, black-and-white horizontal stripes stacked from hem to shoulder.

Not that this made any lasting impression on me.

One glance and I could hear my mother saying women shouldn’t wear horizontal stripes. On this day, I finally understood what that vague rule actually meant. Only I found myself at once understanding yet disagreeing, but really, probably understanding mostly. I was 19 and trying to live virtuously.

But Mr. Souza was sent over the edge when she came in. In the middle of his morning lecture, he had her stand up as an object lesson showing how lines describe form, and how the placement of them, size, and angle conveyed visual cues to the observer as to underlying shape, volume and texture. By this time, he was standing beside her, pointing down with his pencil tip, following her lines like a helicopter following a cliffside mountain road.

I was blushing.

She was smiling.

He wasn’t fired.

I regularly made mistakes in the pages of my sketchbook, and being a kid, for all practical purposes, I was self conscious about leaving mistakes in a hardbound book of drawings that did not allow for tearing pages out and starting fresh. The result was that I commented in writing on nearly every mistake or oddity in my own book.

When trying to draw what was probably a tangerine, but which I labeled “mandarine” (hey, they have the same last 4 letters), I dripped juice or maybe coffee on my drawing. And thus it bacame part of the art. Be sure to click the little picture above to see the whole page.

2 Comments

  1. Wonderful story and well told! And that’s a great scan of your sketchbook, too!

    Now… scan the “triangle” with the dead bee (if you still have it) and tell that story. 🙂

  2. I dropped “The Triangle” off at my mother’s house over Christmas… I set it by the TV on my Dad’s dresser. Just the other day I asked her if I left my reading glasses on Dad’s dresser, since she hadn’t said anything about the triangle yet…

    She was delighted to find the triangle!

    [And, Mom, I did not lose my reading glasses].

    But you’re right. That story must be told.

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