When I was a student at BYU, I took a couple of drawing classes. The first one was excellent, and used for a text book the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain", which has EXCELLENT exercises to help learn how to really look at the subject, and how to put the right brain to more use. I went on to take the second class which in some ways was good, but really wasn't as good as the first class. But it was interesting, and I wanted to share my experience with that second class.
The teacher of the class was a graduate student in art. As part of her master's project, she was doing a portfolio of self portraits. At the end of the class, she showed us a slide show of her work. It was pretty bizarre, and very abstract. Many of her self portraits were nude. She drew herself in a very strange way, and emphasized and exaggerated her fat. I kind of wish she would have showed this to us at the beginning of the semester, because I would have had a better idea of what "abstract art" entails.
Because of her self portait mindset, she told us that all of our assignments that semester were going to be self portraits. Once a week we were to turn in a self portrait. I don't know if I still have them all, but I took some photos of some of them to show you. Some of these definitely don't look like me, but some actually do. (atleast the skinny, 25 year old me. ;) I'm going to post the worst first. lol Some of these look yellow because of the lighting. I used the same lighting for all, and used auto flash, but sometimes it registered more light than others and didn't flash. I hope you can still make them out.
Part way through the semester, our assignments changed. The teacher told us she wanted us to draw an "abstract" self portrait. I didn't really know what that meant, and I don't think the rest of the class did either because theirs' weren't any better than mine. But here was my first attempt at abstract. I should explain this picture. My idea was that all of these people were struggling within the bounds of their individual space, but I was relaxed and taking a nap. The self portrait of this picture is the person in the top right box. That was about as abstract as I could get. lol
When we presented our drawings that week, the teacher told us that we needed to be much more abstract. I still was not getting this concept, and neither were the other students, but this was my second attempt. This one really makes me laugh. lol
I look almost like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz. :D
When we presented our pictures that week, the teacher once again said that our pictures needed to be MUCH more abstract. I was really having a hard time figuring out what that meant. But of all of the class, she said my next attempt was the closest to what she wanted, although it really didn't hit the mark either. But here was my attempt.
The interesting thing is that I actually kind of like this picture. It doesn't really look like me, but I like the artistic quality of it. Below you will see a picture I drew (not a self portrait. lol) that I drew from a picture in a magazine. While it's an okay picture, it really isn't artistic. To me, drawing something realistically and calling it art is like taking dictation and calling it an original composition. It's our ability to put our own interpretation, or interesting line quality or color that makes our work artistic. It really isn't that creative to just copy something. That is a very mechanical action. Here is the drawing I drew.
Now contrast that with an impressionistic painting. This painting looks nothing like the subject if you look up close at the brush strokes. But the overall composition gives the feeling of the subject without being too mechanical.
I guess the lesson in all of this is that even though I didn't like my assignments for my second class, and I don't think my drawing really improved at all, I did learn more about art.