Sunday, November 4, 2018

My college sketchbook discovery

Looking for something on my bookshelves yesterday, I came across several black bound sketchbooks from drawing classes and painting classes, taught by professors Alex Minewski and Alex Martin (I adored them both), during college in the early 1970s, in New Paltz NY.  The sketchbooks are filled with drawings such as the articulating cube study of a couple of boots, above.  But what especially intrigued me was discovering a number of assignments written on the inside covers of the sketchbooks. 
We were never given a finite number of drawings to do; instead, we were told to do "endless" articulating cube studies of hands, or drawings of the bases of trees, etc.  Whatever the topic, the number of required drawings was always "endless".  Many drawing assignments refer to the book The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolaides.
 *By the way, the paper in these sketchbooks is white, though maybe a little discolored by time.  But nowhere near as yellow as they appear in these photos.

Along with drawing assignments, I evidently wrote down assignments for a Freshman Studio class in the same sketchbook.  I remember finding them very obscure and confusing.  I didn't like the teacher.
I  recall doing a vividly colorful abstract painting based on the work of Hans Hoffmann, And then, suddenly, I was instructed to tear open a hole in the painting, for a reason I never totally understood.  I'm guessing it had something to do with getting us to understand that our work was not so precious, and not to be afraid to explore how it could be transformed.  But I had really liked the painting, and the transformation never sat well with me.  I got rid of the painting after the end of the semester. 

If I ever did the drawings of ears, I must have been so embarrassed by them that I made them magically disappear, because they are nowhere to be found in my bound sketchbooks.  But there's plenty of gestures and cube studies of hands...  Even then I was smitten with Flair pens, one of my drawing tools of choice.  I also favored soft pencils and charcoal.
 The sketchbooks have lots of drawings - gestures, cube studies, weight drawings, contours, etc, done of friends doing yoga in the lounge my roommates sleeping or hanging out, and so on.

I especially recalled some of the weekend painting assignments, such as drawing and painting in the old Huguenot cemetery in the town, and a weekend painting assignment based on a still life of a (very smelly) fish on a platter in the painting studio.  But I have no idea what ever happened to most of these paintings, or most of the drawings and paintings I did in college, both in class or as out-of-class assignments. 

I did a bunch of Rouault studies, as well as studies from other artists, in my sketchbooks.  Somewhere in my house I actually still have the self-portrait that I did working in the style of Rouault. 
 And then there's this bit of wisdom, straight out of Mr. Minewski's mouth to my sketchbook.
The sketchbooks of that era were vastly different than the much more journal-based sketchbooks students do today, and I suspect the drawing and painting classes were vastly different as well.  While we were asked to research various artists, we were not asked to keep written notes or reflections in our sketchbooks.  We did absolutely no copying of images from magazines or books or photographs, other than studies of the work of famous artists.  And of course we didn't have cell phones or tablets and such, and honestly, I am glad that we used observation as our primary source of inspiration.  Other than the famous artists studies, ALL of our drawing and painting was done from observation, or at least based on observation with expressive interpretation of what we saw.  We learned, in painting class, to model form using color.  We learned to manipulate the weight of our line and to explore the way forms bent and twisted.  While a lot has changed for me in the decades since my college education, I'm glad that this was the way my education as an artist began.  I'm working to rediscover the skills I learned at that time! 
I hope I haven't bored you too much!!


  1. I enjoyed reminiscing with you-we are of the same era and I wish I had kept more of my work. However, you had a much more intense drawing education than I did. I followed up my college work with drawing classes at community colleges, and lots of life drawing sessions.
    Drawing is still my favorite.

    1. Somewhere I think I have a folder of some of the full-size drawings from those classes, but the paintings are sadly almost all gone.