For four evenings last spring, I could survey Bolton Hill from the third-floor corner classroom in MICA’s main building at Mt. Royal and Lanvale.
It was not simply a new perspective of the neighborhood but also my first experience taking a MICA Open Studies course. About 20 classmates joined me from all kinds of backgrounds for all sorts of reasons for the Drawing Techniques course, where we came to each two-and-a-half-hour class with our drawing pads and other art materials from the syllabus.
The studio instructor, David Little, was engaged and enthusiastic to share his knowledge of the craft of drawing with us. With the help of artists’ drawings and videos, he taught how well-known artists handle the fundamentals such as drawing a line or adding contrast. Our medium was charcoal sticks, which along with a chamois pad and puddy erasers, were a forgiving combination for a beginner like me, who last took an art class in middle school.
After introducing the specific topic of each session, he would demonstrate it himself and then walk around the easels of everyone in the room, offering keen and helpful advice as we tried applying it to our own drawings emerging on paper.
Little taught my classmates and me to sketch grid lines to help draw believable spheres and cubes and how to gauge the proportions and positions of simple still lives of bottles, balls, and towels to translate them to charcoal on paper. He encouraged us to create art by actively observing and discovering; squint to reveal the essence of a subject; focus first on drawing the main lines and save the details for last; do not be reticent to erase and try multiple times to draw accurately. As Little would say, “practice equals progress.” And even by the end of the four-class sequence, I felt more capable of drawing what I can see in front of me.
Open Studies students represent about a third of MICA’s student body. The Open Studies program provides art classes for children, high school students, and adults throughout the year. Click here for more information and the latest course offerings.
– David Nyweide