These sessions started from a random conversation on where we were as artist followed by a promise to work together until we figured out some of the answers. I had followed Aisha’s work long before I met her and admired greatly the emotionally articulate content of her work. The aim of the sessions is the up keep of a consistent life drawing practice once per week for 6months. Both Aisha and I rely heavily on the faithful recreation of the human form in our work. These sessions are meant to be a space of exploration, support and focused study. They have been kept alive in our living rooms through the help of the people we found there.
11th September 2015
Model Ralph Dyette. Ralph is a Statue: pure discipline. He does not move.
18th September 2015
15min poses with a live model. The study at the bottom left done with a 6b charcoal pencil was the first and sought to use the natural softness of the instrument to quickly mark form. Smudges and heavy darks are inevitable with a 6B. The sketch on the right employed a 2B charcoal pencil which allowed for more control of the line than the 6B but less immediate satisfaction of form. The emphasis became communicating the weight of the left hand resting on the table. The drawing to the top was done last with a conté pencil. The gestural treatment of the body was utilized to resolve the entire composition of the page and unite the previous studies. This is the second Friday Studio session.
25th September 2015
The old man did well. He did not stay still but also did not tire or fidget: Blind in both eyes and a double amputee it was clear that it was a courtesy extended to us. We progressed through the session with 10min poses- a return courtesy to him. The challenge with this session was in not knowing how much time we really had on each study; at any given moment he would shift his pose. They were not disruptive but they were major enough to abandon a drawing.
The approach became gestural captures -Quick reference marks of form and features. Another strategy was to establish a composite of head poses; each of which would be returned to in concert with his adjustments.
The instruments were conté pencil and graphite pencil.
2nd October 2015 Session Cancelled.
9th October 2015
She fidgeted and did not stay still for longer that 5mins but even with that she was remarkably co-operative for an 11 year old. There was always laughter. Aisha has doing a remarkable job at raising her daughter and it comes out in the child’s curiosity and compassion. Considering that the week before we flirted with the idea of taking the Friday evening session to the airport, a resting 11year old did not daunt us. I needed to draw. These sessions have been protecting a practice weighed down by a hectic semester of teaching at UWI. More than that Aisha is great company.
The instrument for the evening was a 2b graphite pencil. In hindsight the conté pencil would have been a better decision. I was working small so I needed line (hence the graphite) but the conté would have provided some softness to the forms. The evening ended with no real resolve to any of the attempts; a consequence of disparate factors -not least of all the density of the day. However, three wonderful things happened that evening. Firstly, we made it to a fourth session. That is a major accomplishment given Aisha’s stressful workload and the challenges the semester had been throwing at me. Secondly, I wasn’t afraid to make a bad drawing. That may sound like nothing but trust me it is a big something. I fought for each line, mentally, but I enjoyed the struggle. My hands knew what they had to do. The directions from active mind may have been foggy but I felt the looseness in my wrists. It was a good feeling. Lastly, I became hungry for it again. The failure to get it “right” made me, once again, want to always get it “right”. I left hungry to draw; redrawing every line in my thoughts. There was a point Aisha, at the request of her daughter, sat as the model. I did not capture her successfully on the paper: not in the way she sat nor the way she looked and that burned in me.
16th October 2015
It was a strange coincidence that in this studio session cultural identity would also be the topic. Earlier, I was having a similar discussion in a gelid classroom with fifty university students. With Aisha, in what would be our fifth studio session, it was with an eleven year old by a wooden dining room table. In class the students the students passionately debated the idea of culture being like a mosaic of influences. In our studio session it was a quieter conversation, almost spoken in whispers. The words were softer because they went deeper and were more personal. Aisha is reading for a Master degree in Arts Education and is building a model for teaching complex issues to children through art. Not wanting to break the momentum of the studio sessions we decided use the time to flesh out her next assignment. It is a win-win really. There is the danger of a few sessions being sacrificed for something otherwise. That is all it takes for the growth to stop. Momentum is important. With each question to her daughter Aisha opened the door to go deeper into the story of their heritage together. Each question became an object placed for her daughter to feel around the vast space of her personal identity. She learned there, that night, that she was of substantial Amerindian ancestry. I sat witness to her discovery, guided by her mother, that Spanish, European and African civilizations made up who she was. She sat listening to her mother’s stories of mixed heritage experiences and her journey of figuring out who she was.
The debate in class was centered on whether a mosaic could aptly represent these complexities-these overlays and mixtures. Aisha, quite simply, found the resolution of that representation in the assemblage pieces of Bahamian artist Lillian Blades. For her it was not sufficient for the various parts to fit side by side like a mosaic. For the picture to represent who she was they had to be seemingly erratic yet have resolution of some kind. The pieces had to interact with each other-side by side; one over the other; some hidden; some larger-they had to be a picture of how things can be made to work despite their differences. Aisha reveled to me later in the evening that the idea of the assemblage became stronger for her after the racist outburst that followed the last general election. It affected her. The assignment was for the following day so we made do with what was at hand.
At 7:21pm I received a text message from my wife which read that our apartment in Brooklyn had burned down.