Each fourth-year student at the atelier chooses a thesis that they work on in and out of class. My area of focus is portraits. Because one of the things I’d like to be doing is drawing portraits. Ppeople fascinate and confound me, and compel me to try to understand them. And drawing them helps me do that.
In college a million years ago I studied theatre, which is really the study of humanity, magnified by over-the-top drama, stage makeup, and masks. Theatre, and the people attracted it, can be a risky business. It can be quite painful. So one year I gave up theatre to study horticulture.
I did that because—aside from being obsessed with plants—I found that studying the sciences of botany and soils had a certain kind of safe roundness in which I could wrap myself. There were no lumpy inconsistencies and thorny disputes of the kind that make humanity a hard garment to wear. And so for years I immersed myself in the study of horticulture.
During that time I had a dog. She was a great dog, but she didn’t really know she was a dog. She’d really never been around many dogs. Then we moved into a house where there were two other dogs. Much to her surprise and delight, my dog discovered her canine heritage. And she loved being a dog. So much that for a few months, she would barely speak to me. She just hung out with her two biggest, bestest doggie buddies.
Like that long ago dog of mine, about a decade ago I suddenly found myself in a place full of people. It was hard going at first. But slowly I’ve discovered that I am, indeed, a human, and that other humans are fascinating. Maybe I like being human again.
And so I’ve come back around to studying humans. Don’t get me wrong. I still love the green world, and seek refuge among forests, meadows, and gardens when the human world gets to be too much (and it does, believe me, it does). But I’m learning to deal with the humanity of the world.
And I find that drawing helps me figure people out. That’s a plus. And when I’m drawing a portrait, I can sometimes connect with the person I’m drawing in a very deep, intuitive way. I really like that.
And so, I’ll be drawing a lot of portraits, and studying the where’s, why’s, and who-to-fores of portrait drawing, along with the study of all my other fractured interests. I’ll share what I learn here on this blog.