Illusions of Artistry… Now & Then

by Alden Cole on March 9, 2014 · 0 comments

2 pencil drawings on paper, each 11″ x 8.5″ (detail of right drawing below) • mounted on black foamcore, framed in walnut 21.5″ x 27.5″ • collection of the artist $

Illusions1WPSince Mercury is now direct, and I’ve posted a whole series of paintings and photographs requiring few words that portray my view N by NW of the towers of Center City, I think it’s time to get on with IT, to return to the history I started February 24, with As You Like It: where IT all began, the IT being my unconscious personal ‘draw to drawing’ as a teenager, an evolving intention to make Art. The As You Like It drawings were done in 1959, my freshman year at Thornton Academy.

Pirates60WPWith the exception of two drawings from sophomore year — of pirates from a term paper about Treasure Island — there are no drawings to indicate that I tried illustrating term papers either junior or senior year. I did continue to draw however without benefit of training since TA had no art classes. Walter Foster’s How to Draw Children, How to Draw Cartoons, and How to Draw Horses were my only formal guides. Basically I taught myself, studying and imitating the drawings in the Foster books, plus copying free-hand photographs or figures from other books; an early favorite being an edition of Hiawatha, illustrated by Armstrong Sperry, which I had been given as a child. Looking at that book now informs me of where much of my imagery originated — the sensuousness of the male figure as well as aspirations to a more comprehensive world view. With no formal training or goals I drew primarily for my own pleasure, using exclusively #2 pencils, always sharpened to a fine point, so that the drawings were hard-line, ultimately difficult to see unless you inspect them very closely (also very difficult to scan for this posting because of the poor contrast between fine pencil line and paper). A bold loose drawer I was not, but by the end of senior year the subject matter was getting bolder, even if the technique did not experience the same freedom… yet.

GraduationWPI still have a sheaf of 80+ drawings from my 16th and 17th years, prior to leaving home at 18 to launch out on the next big adventure: getting away from the farm, ‘going away’ to school in Providence, a nice medium-sized city, to attend RISD — Rhode Island School of Design — starting September 1962 (with a scholarship to boot). The subject matter of these surviving high school drawings is obsessive — women in fashionable clothes, costumes; which is probably why everyone concluded that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I was still pretty clueless about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but going to NYC to be a fashion designer wasn’t high on my list right then. What I really wanted to do in my secret heart of hearts was illustrate Harlequin Romance covers, those torrid paintings of handsome men pawing at gorgeous women swooning into ecstasies (there, the tawdry truth is finally out about how low-brow was my inspiration). I also realized I had a long way to go, if that was really my intended goal, but I was pretty clueless about how to get there except to keep drawing. A future Picasso I was not. There’s a rigidity to these teen figures that is Egyptianesque, particularly in the 30+ drawings of the female figures in profile (Isis in modern dress?). There are another 30+ of female figures with faces full front, in costumes inspired by the movies I was consuming on TV.

Illusion62WPBy senior year I began to incorporate men into the already simple compositions. Most likely in celebration of being accepted at RISD I penciled todays featured drawing late in my senior year depicting what I thought an artist did in his studio. Comme naif!
With time comes understanding of volition; in 2004, my 60th year, I decided to create a companion piece to my teenage effort, an honest statement of what I understood were some of my contemporary illusions about being an artist. In 2011, the DaVinci Art Alliance celebrated the club’s 80th anniversary with a theme show Then & Now. As my entry I mounted the two drawings separated by 42 years of experience onto a common black background, on which I scrawled in white pastel Illusions of Artistry… Now & Then

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