I thought I’d give a little more info about where I go once or twice a month for figure drawing. Its a place called Platform Studios (http://www.platformchicago.com). The neighborhood is a bit surreal to me, as it always seems pretty abandoned. I’m never quite sure whether to feel nervous as there may be some ne’er-do-well lying in ambush somewhere, or to feel like Will Smith in “I am Legend”, or perhaps a bystander in an Old West saloon when the streets are cleared and everyone is shuttering their windows cause its five minutes till high noon and the shits about to go down outside…
Its the same sort of odd feel I had when I had my condo in the West Loop, one block west of Halsted Street and Greektown’s hustle and bustle. It was soooo peaceful and quiet, yet you could sense that right around the corner was THE CITY LIFE…. was it “electricity in the air” or the “pulse of the city” you felt in your bones? I suppose both areas are similar (they are minutes apart by car) in that they were warehouse districts that are being gentrified. Now that I write this I realize visiting either area I get that same sort of empty feeling in my chest, more of a sadness or a longing I think, cause somehow there is a heightened sense of being an outsider or apart from the group that seem to be enjoying themselves. Ha ha… I am sort of like the kid trapped in the living room practicing the accordion while everyone is outside playing tag and hide and seek.
I have never been the outgoing or paint the town red type of person (everyone reading this who knows me personally likely just laughed out loud and said “no shit Sherlock!”). I really just do not get what the fuss is… closer inspection of people like that seems to me that they try to hard or that the depth of fulfillment is not as one would expect. Still, I do recognize and admit that its silly of me to criticize someone for swimming in the shallow end of the pool and not the deep end, when I am not even in the freaking water! In all honesty my attitude is also the result of a little bit of jealousy.
My sense of sadness does quickly disappear when I enter the studio, and am met by six to fifteen men and women whose ages range from their late teens to their sixties. We are cut of the same cloth, we are here to draw and paint and sketch and hone a shared talent that is really a great part of our identity. We are there for ART. It is not about what brand of clothes we wear, or hairstyles and shoes, or what we are drinking, like many of those people enjoying the city life only minutes before I wished to be a part of. I see now that is all a show, a calculated display of who or what we want people to think we are. Sure, not all of that lifestyle is false, you are often with your friends who know more of the real you, but from what I have seen, the wild nights out are usually less remembered than the intimate and quieter bonding moments.
What we do in the drawing circle seems intimate and bonding to me. I do not really know the others (as the rule is we should pretty much be silent so as not to disrupt anyone’s creative process, and I only see them one or two evenings a month), yet I feel a kinship and an immediate ease and great comfort level with these strangers, because we are there for the same thing. Over time, we chat a little and sometimes a few have time to go out for a beer afterwards. Another thing I sense (I do not know if this is common) is that somehow how and what we each draw/create reflects who we are… that our work is somehow a map of our honest selves.
On the Platform website is a link to a video clip of the Platform artists from Oprah’s network, complete with Oprah waxing on about light and perception:
(It is kind of funny just how clean the space was made for TV, when the actual space in “work mode” is total chaos, with paints and papers and crap everywhere). Oprah finds it amazing that the artists all have a different perception of the same subject. I used to think it only seemed that way cause people had different skill levels, likely because the only previous experiences I ever had with drawing groups was in college, and no one in class was an art major. Few had any sort of learned skills, it was their first times, and they all, like me, were trying to make lifelike or realistic drawings. We were seeing the models, not interpreting or understanding them. Today, I am pretty much the only non-professional there, and the others are all of high skill levels. Yet though they are all practiced, none of the work is the same… they differ in media, technique, level of accuracy or abstractness, and so on. Maybe Oprah was on to something… are we all seeing different “truths” in our subjects and models, or do we all see the same thing, yet the difference (technique and execution) is really a reflection of our own individuality, our own way of “translating” what we sense, thus as I said earlier a glimpse into our true selves? Likely it is a bit of both…. I know that is a cop out, but its late, and all this thinking make brain hurt.