Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jacob Collins Featured in New Yorker Magazine

Personal History

Life Studies

What I learned when I learned to draw.

by Adam Gopnik June 27, 2011

[Find a copy of the actual June 27th issue to read the entire 6 page article! A summary from the New Yorker website is printed below.]

ABSTRACT: PERSONAL HISTORY about how the writer learned to draw. When the writer was in the middle of the journey of his life, he decided to learn how to draw. He was at a midweek dinner party and he turned to his neighbor across the table. His name was Jacob Collins, and he explained to the writer that he supervised an “atelier” in midtown, called the Grand Central Academy of Art. The writer asked if he would teach him how to draw, and Collins said yes. The academy was in the same midtown building as the Mechanics Institute Library, and the atelier was a series of rooms that could have been found in Paris at the Académie in 1855. A cluster of students worked on their drawings. The writer held his pencil tight and began. He had a graduate degree in art history, and he liked to draw, though he did it badly. Jacob gave him a plaster cast of an eye and told him to try and copy it. The writer stabbed at the paper, and he was filled with feelings of helplessness and impotence. He bumped into Jacob later at their kids’ school and Jacob invited him over to his studio to watch him draw. It was an old renovated stable, and the writer liked it there. For the next year or so, he went often to the studio on Friday afternoons, and kept Jacob company as he drew. He would make a mark or two on his own easel as he watched him work. Over time, Jacob had assembled a group of teachers and enthusiasts, all given over to the practice of classical drawing from life and plaster casts, and from that nucleus came this studio and the Grand Central Academy. The best half-serious label Jacob could find for his approach was “traditional realist revivalism.” Jacob and the writer went to a show of Bronzino drawings at the Met. Over the years, the absence of true skill had unmanned the writer’s love for art. Later that week in the studio, there was a nude model named Nate. As the writer stared into the impossible landscape of ripples in Nate’s torso, Jacob said, “Look into his torso and find a new form, another shape to draw. Something outside your symbol set.” The way out was, homeopathically, the way back in: lose your schematic conventions by finding some surprising symbol or shape in the welter of shades, and draw that. After a few months, the writer produced some kind of recognizable rendering of the pattern of light in front of him. It was the best thing he’d ever drawn. He had made it up out of small, stale parts and constant reapplications of energy and observation. Drawing turned out to be like every other skill you acquire: skating, sauce-making, guitar playing. Describes sketching a female nude. The writer stepped away from the studio after the year. He still likes to draw, but the questions that he had come with were mostly answered, or at least quieted.

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