Abstracted, distributed drawing of changing figures in interior by Kathy Paul Yesterday I posted an introduction to the most unusual art class I’ve ever been a part of. I talked about Cezanne’s approach to recording a scene by using short lines distributed across the page, and how this can be used to integrate abstraction, time, space, and movement in a piece. One of the students in this very unusual class was Kathy Paul. Kathy had been in IT, and during a training session with the department manager everyone was asked to say what they wanted out of life. Kathy thought “I want to make art.” She realized she’d always loved art, she’d always wanted to make drawings and paintings. She was 50 years old, and she figured if she didn’t start making artworks now, she was never going to do it. After that moment of realization, she reached for her dream, and started taking art classes right away. Kathy was a voracious and dedicated art student. She took all the classes she could. She took a lot of classes at at Gage, and learned from private instructors like Margaret Davidson (whom she enjoyed) and others. Then one day she found the League, and she said she “immediately felt like I’d found a home.” Elizabeth Mitchell and Kathy Paul, reunited after 45 years Topic Detour: At a recent League workshop, Kathy started chatting with another student, discovered they had some things in common. They continued to chat, asking about where they grew up, where they want to school. She then realized it was her old friend from grade school, Elizabeth Mitchell. The two friends had known each other when they were little, and had lost touch. Each had wondered what had happened to the other. And now here they were in a painting class together! Reconnected after 45 years. (I wish I’d taken a picture of the black and white grade school class photo Elizabeth brought in later!) This paragraph has nothing to do with this unusual class, it’s just a happy little side story. I will now return you back to the topic. Abstracted, distributed drawing of changing figures in interior by Kathy Paul Kathy’s first venture at the League was one of my Sunday afternoon figure drawing classes. I admired her drawings every time I came around. She had an uncommon and interesting way of recording the figure. It captured my attention and my admiration. I always loved looking at her work, and posted several as my favorites. Then one week I came around and her drawing wasn’t as good. This was puzzling to me, but everyone has off moments, so I waited to see what would happen with the next drawing. The next drawing wasn’t good either. One after the other, something was missing. She seemed lost. I talked to Kathy about it, and she told me she’d had a stroke in one of her eyes, and she was having trouble seeing. I couldn’t imagine how difficult that must have been for her, but she kept on drawing, that day and the next. She kept coming to draw, so I kept teaching her. Abstracted, distributed drawing of changing figures in interior by Kathy Paul Over the next few months I had kathy in several classes, and as the weeks and months went by, her eyesight changed. Each day was different. Sometimes it seemed to her like it was improving, sometimes it was worse. Sometimes things would be hazy, sometimes there’d be halos, sometimes double traces of objects, sometimes aberrations. There was a lot of uncertainty. She used the art classes as a source of expression, and acceptance. After a while she started to learn how to work with the challenges of her eyesight, not just accept them, but how to use them to her advantage. She was drawing the aberrations, the tracings, the haze and double vision. She was able to combine her skill and love of making art with her new way of seeing the world. She just kept drawing and painting through it all. If there’s a definition of a “real artist” I’d say this is it. Then, before the first eye had recovered from the stroke, she had a stroke in the other eye. She was now almost completely blind. She needed help getting to class, but Kathy was determined, and she kept showing up to draw. She found that if she concentrated, she could pull things out of the air – a bit of light here, and a bit of dark there, the curve of a figure, of a sheet, the line of a shelf. In this “Figure in Interior” class, she pulled her floating shapes into abstracted drawings; a modification of the distributed method we were working on, and I was absolutely floored. I couldn’t believe the beauty in what she was able to create with her limited vision. Did it actually make her a better artist?? She rediscovered the scene abstracted into a collection of fragments. They were succinct and beautiful compositions of movement and depth. Kathy’s vision was a little different every week. You can see the changes in her drawing styles as she adapts to what her eyes can do each session. Astounding, and inspiring. Abstracted, distributed drawing of changing figures in interior by Kathy Paul Kathy Paul: “I went all around the room looking at interesting lines and shapes. During the class break, I started doing a drawing in my living room, going around the room making shapes. Every hour I’d go around the room, then I’d stop and do something else, then go back after an hour and go around the room again, playing with it and seeing what comes about. I really enjoyed it. I’m really looking forward to the next class. I feel like I’m in contemporary art rather than back in the Renaissance or medieval times trying to do realism.” KP: This class was a lifesaver of a class for me. …I think psychologically and emotionally it saved me. It kept my spirits up. I counted on it every week as a creative outlet for me that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. RV: How do you feel if you don’t make art? KP: I’d feel lost. I felt something missing from my life. An excitement. Art is very exciting to me. Art is full of life. I’d be bored and pretty dull if I didn’t make art. Kathy Paul and the Thursday evening class I’ll post more work from this class in the coming V. Notes. Stay tuned. If you’re interested in seeing what happens in the next very interesting series of Thursday Intermediate Studio, join us! BLACK FRIDAY SPECIAL: Nov 28 – Dec 1 buy one get one gift certificate for 50% off! Get one for a friend, and one for yourself. Happy holidays!