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Student Perspective – Virtual Marathons: Heidi Chapson

In a previous life, I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art, worked in the music industry, and eventually wound up in the technology space. But the two themes that have remained consistent throughout these years has been drawing and painting. Admittedly, there have been dearth periods, just as much as there are times when drawing and painting were a daily practice. 

My art practice has always been a source of comfort, and now, especially during these challenging times in 2020, it was a serendipitous moment to discover the 10-day Virtual Drawing Marathon at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture. Before applying, I read other student perspectives, and based on the syllabus and video about the school, it was obvious we were going to be drawing fairly large – 5-feet by 5-feet large, at least during part of the Marathon. I rearranged furniture and made space in my tiny Brooklyn studio apartment to accommodate large sheets of paper taped to a wall, smaller sheets of paper clipped to a board supported by a painting easel, a drop cloth to catch falling charcoal dust, and my laptop connected to a 27” monitor. 

The Fall 2020 Virtual Drawing Marathon, led by Graham Nickson, with guest teachers Fran O’Neill, Charity Baker, and Sam Levy, was like nothing I had ever experienced, even during my days as a BFA student. It was intense, exhausting, yet wonderful. Each 8-hour day consisted of timed drawings from a model (or transcription), short breaks, lunch breaks, breakout rooms to chat with other students, individual  meetings for feedback, and group critiques. By the end of it all, we had easily made around 50 drawings. We learned how to really look, really see; and to keep in mind within our own drawings, how the quality of a line, the darkness of a shape within a form, the shapes created by negative space, and the composition, all affect the outcome of the drawing. Does it create density? Does it create space? Is there a sense of different planes?

The experience may not have been the same as being on premise, surrounded by the building’s rich history, but the Virtual Marathon turned out to be a great experience, nonetheless. Now that the 10-days have come and gone, I’m missing that supportive “bubble” of highly motivated students, and dedicated teachers who are there to push your art practice further.





 

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