18 March 2017

Drawing my surroundings

On the first week of January, I took on a new task: I started teaching a 10-week course at UCLA, for the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (i.e., the library school), a Young Adult Literature class for the students getting their masters degrees to become a librarian--hopefully a teen librarian, like me! That class met for the last time this past Wednesday, which explains the long hiatus from posting on this blog; I worked 40 hours a week at the library, and spent every Saturday and Sunday writing a lecture, creating a powerpoint, and preparing myself for each week's class.

It was extremely intensive work, since I had never taught the class before and had to make it up from scratch as I went along. I had some help from some mentors in the field--Michael Cart, who wrote Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism, and who was one of my own teachers at UCLA when I attended; Roger Kelly, the head of the Children's Department at Santa Monica Public Library, who taught children's services at UCLA last quarter and who, when he found out I had taken on this challenge, immediately reached out to me and offered help; and the now-retired but still completely involved Dr. Virginia Walter, UCLA professor and children's librarian and author of diverse works of fiction and nonfiction. So I had support and encouragement and even some outline syllabi, but ultimately I still had to go it alone.

Although it was stressful, it was also fun and satisfying and inspiring for my own library career all over again; I learned some things myself while doing research to present all the facts and theories to my 13 graduate students, and I hope they found it inspiring as well. All that's left to do is to grade their final papers and projects, and I'm not allowed to do that until after today, because they had a time period following the last class meeting to go online and evaluate me as their professor, and no grades are turned in until that process is done. So today is a time-out-of-time day as far as work is concerned.

Because of all of this, I have made almost no art during the past 10 weeks. I thought about it, I planned some things, I yearned to break out the paint palette, but there was simply no time. So the only real pause I had in my schedule was, ironically, every Wednesday morning when I arrived at UCLA. I live 12 miles away, but those 12 miles are on the dreaded 405 freeway over the impassable Sepulveda Pass, so to make it to a 9:00 a.m. class, I found myself leaving at 6:30 a.m. and still struggling with traffic for 45 minutes to an hour to go those 12 miles.

Once I arrived, however, I then had between 60 and 90 minutes before my class was due to start. So every Wednesday morning, my ritual was to buy a big tub of oatmeal with brown sugar and walnuts and a super-size coffee with cream, park myself at a table in the commons, and read whatever book I was working on. (My leisure reading suffered too; for more than three months, I read nothing but young adult literature, in preparation for both my class and my three teen book clubs.) But a few times, I brought my sketchbook along, and if there was sufficient time, I tried my hand at sketching others having their breakfast while waiting for their first class of the day.

First of all, I'm not great at people. Part of that reason is lack of practice; but part of it is that people, for the most part, do NOT like to be looked at that intently, in my experience. Every time I would start drawing someone, they would feel my eyes upon them, become uncomfortable, and either glare at me until I pretended to draw something else, hoping they would become distracted again by the contents of their cell phone, or they would get up and leave before my drawing was complete. I now understand why so many artists who draw people either do super-quick studies or draw from photographs!

Anyway, long story to say: Here are some quick and dirty drawings that I made at UCLA and then watercolored in a hurry later that same day (or week). I hope that, now my class is finished and the weather has warmed up, I will be able to spend more time every weekend out in my patio room, drawing and painting all sorts of things.

This was breakfast: Oatmeal, coffee, my banana snack for later, my book (Jackaby, by William Ritter, for 8+9 Book Club), and my specs.

 This guy caught me looking and got up just as I had finished his head, which is why his body came out so lame and so out of proportion, because I had to make it up and did a poor job of it. This is a great spot in the commons, because there's a fireplace, and the week I drew this, it was in the low 50s outside, so a fire was a welcome sight. I never got around to painting this one.

This girl spotted me too, but eventually, after I looked fixedly to her right and drew all the background stuff, she went back to whatever she was doing on her Mac, and I was able to get a better likeness of her, though still not good--I doubt she'd recognize herself, which is what people should realize when they see you sketching them! Their own mother wouldn't know them. I haven't yet mastered the down-glance, where they are looking down at a book or a computer--she looks like her eyes are closed. Oh well--practice, practice.

Hopefully better is to come!