Labor Is Prayer

At Studio Incamminati, student work is always pinned up on the walls for other students and visitors to see. It can be intimidating especially in the first months a student is studying here. It doesn’t matter if you are taking a day class once a week or studying here full time. Your work is on display.

I have come to find looking at the art on the walls a really valuable learning tool. The drawing, below, for example, was one I walked by, and then had to reverse my steps and visit the drawing for a longer period of time in order to absorb the work as well as the lessons it had to teach me. There was clearly something for me to think about in it. It is in vine charcoal on Strathmore paper. The paper is toned with layers of charcoal, until a nice middle tone was achieved. (After toning in this way, the artist can work going from the darkest values to the lightest by adding charcoal, or pulling charcoal off, respectively). Although charcoal has its limits in the number of values that can be achieved, the artist here clearly and sensitively used a broad range–both lights and darks–and managed to create contrast in values between the plaster cast of a young girl and the aging violin. Charcoal drawings also have their limits when it comes to precision, but the artist Alex Soukas was able to capture the intricacies of the braids of the young girl in the 18-24 hours he worked on it.

6 hours into the drawing.
Six hours into the drawing.
12 hours into the drawing.
12 hours into the drawing.

The composition is intriguing. I don’t usually enjoy drawings or paintings that might be characterized as “sweet,” a characterization that might pertain to this drawing. But I like this drawing. As I later found out, the class instructor selected numerous objects and arranged them on a table top about 4 feet off the ground, and about 2 feet wide and 5 feet long. The students were free to pick from the arrangements, putting in as much or as little as they thought appropriate for their compositions. In this case,  Alex was able to edit the objects on the table to capture a narrative, create a sense of depth, create interesting diagonals and a sense of light and shadow.

If he’d had more time, I expect Alex would have worked more in the middle value, perhaps lightening the bottle towards the front left of the drawing, or worked more in the folds of the cloth so that they really looked like form turning. But when a class is over, a class is over, which is usually okay because you know you are going to start another drawing very soon!

At the bottom of the drawing (not shown in the photo), the artist has added the words “Labor is prayer.” Perhaps he did a lot of both as he worked towards the completion of this drawing!


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