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Student Perspective: Irene Cole, Virtual Certificate
April 6, 2021 · Student Perspectives
My painting practice for years has been to paint when I had spare time, fitting it in around family and work schedules all the while dreaming about going to art school to dive deeper into the process. The need to spend so much time away from home to accomplish my goal has held me back but I feel that I found what I had been looking for in the Virtual Certificate Program with the New York Studio School. I first learned about NYSS on Instagram through a post about a summer Drawing Marathon. The timing of that Marathon did not work out for me so it was not until a year later in a much different pandemic world that I was able to attend… virtually. I was attracted by the description of Dean Graham Nickson’s Summer Drawing, “students will learn the importance of drawing as the basis of understanding one’s experience of the world.” I am continually learning what this means.
During my first Marathon, my drawing skills were rusty having been working abstractly for years and I had not drawn with charcoal since college. I found myself struggling to understand how to draw the figure and the space it sat in that I was viewing on my flat computer screen. At one point, I was in an individual critique with artist and instructor Fran O’Neill and she explained about finding relationships and something clicked for me. By the end of that Marathon, I was physically exhausted but my mind was excited about the experience. At the end of the summer, I saw another Virtual Marathon was being offered with Graham, Fran and artist Charity Baker and I did not hesitate to sign up. I thought I knew what to expect going in, but though similar in format, this time instead of drawing full figures in spatial surroundings, we spent the days drawing only the human head in any way you can think of viewing one. We would spend the morning drawing and the afternoon wipe that away and draw again while bouncing back and forth between a small drawing a large drawing. The challenges were new to me and I didn’t want to stop learning. I applied and was accepted into the Certificate Program and in a whirlwind of finishing the Marathon and ordering supplies, I started my first semester virtually in the fall of 2020.
For me, the pandemic provided the opportunity to not only attend NYSS virtually, but my work slowed down enough to be able to make the switch to painting on a full-time basis. Now in the beginning of my second full-time virtual semester and with my third Marathon behind me, I find myself seeing the world around me with new eyes. I study facial features when looking at someone and look for angles and overlapping shapes in my surroundings. Courses like “Drawing at the Metropolitan Museum with Clintel Steed” are teaching me how to transcribe master works and why that is an important part of an artist’s practice. And Lourdes Bernard’s drawing class got me back in touch with playing with materials and creating synthetic images.
I am thankful that I can experience working with other artists in a studio setting while being in my own studio. It seems a strange way to work, but during a time when social distancing has been the new normal, I feel a connection with the models and with the NYSS community as well as a stronger connection with my own work which is the most exciting part for me.