We are learning a very precise method to recreate an image to, to be an exact copy. To begin with we are copying sketches of the old Masters Leonardo, Michelangelo. Later we will do the same exercise working from live models. The idea: to make an exact copy, a reproduction like only a photograph could create. We use thread to measure points, lines, angles. Make a mark, re-measure, erase, make a mark again. Over and over and over. Now the width of the thread is enough to throw off my measurement along the line of the eyelid. The result - disastrous! The minuscule discrepancy changes the expression of the face from "serene" to "tired". In a moment of frustration I say to myself, "In the grand scheme of things why does it matter? It's close enough!" But then I stand back and look at the reproduction of a sketch by Michelangelo taped to my board and I think, "it matters because it mattered to these masters, and this is what i have come here to learn. How to care about the finest detail, how to be disciplined in every element, to be - Perfect."
There is an old saying "You need to know the rules before you can break them. Here this is true, but you need to not just know the rules in theory because you read them in a book, you have to actually be able to follow the rules by hand, perfectly before you chose when and where to break them.
It gives me such a new respect and sense of wonder for these old world painters; who did not have photography, projectors or even lead pencils with erasers! They dedicated a life time to their skill and trade.
Although I am happy to be born in this day and age (for if I had been born in Italy in 1450 as a woman I would not be painting), all the same I feel a little sad at the lose of attention that is given to detail now a days. As a society we don't expect it, nor do we demand it. As I am discovering daily in art class, the more I push to reach perfection the more I amaze myself with what I can do. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.
So yes, "perfection" makes me cringe and has me knocking my head against the wall some mornings yet I am driven to continue to get closer to it. And along the way I am very pleased with my results and what I have learned so far. There is always room for improvement, but there is also room to feel pleased with the process along the way.
Here are a few photos of my drawings from week #1 in school. We will see how they progress.