The Ear Listens

Every artist, no matter what their medium, absolutely needs to work through the Charles Bargue Drawing Course. Whether one is using charcoal or paint to present figures, words to express emotion and stories, sound to express music, all artists must learn that to effectively execute their art they must exercise their sensation.

The course begins by presenting students with casts and molds that are to be duplicated on paper with charcoal or pencil. The students learn by framing then enveloping the form of the object drawn. They work from general to particular, picking apart the larger shapes from the smaller ones, distinguishing shadow from shade. The course teaches the hand while training the eye to see. One of the arguments is that it provides students with still models that lets them value light and shadow on surfaces. Such molds enable the student to see a clarity in form. Another argument is that, "copying casts of ancient sculpture develops good taste."

Samantha Chang told me two things along the same lines at the UI Summer Writers Workshop. The first one was a piece of advice. That I should read and re-read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Chekov. They were master story tellers, she claimed, and reading them as often as I was able to would help me learn what a well told story looks like. The second thing she said was an off-the-cuff comment during the workshop. She relayed the story of a creative writing teacher she once knew, who would assign his students to type The Dead by James Joyce.

These sorts of assignments dedicated to seeing form and developing good taste are crucial to the artist, for art begins outside of the self. It might be true that to create something original or develop one's own style the artist ought to reject a conventional understanding of good taste. But no human being contains all things within themselves. Knowledge of the natural world comes from nature herself. Knowledge of the divine comes from God. To be capable of expressing stories/images/sound with beautiful artisanship, one must look beyond the self.

What then?

The writer exercises their reading. The musician - their hearing. The painter their seeing. But all artists exercise their looking. Beautiful artisanship begins with a meek face adoring creation. By this logic, more than the Charles Bargue Drawing Course can be recommended. A practice in music or cooking would benefit anyone desirous to exercise the art of looking.

There's more to the artist, however, then fulfilling assignments to learn to see, taste, or hear. The artist must live and experience. The art of looking requires travel and hardship, fear and joy. The artistic world view is principally a human one. Only the rational soul imposes order on what is perceived, for the divine nature already knows it. The struggle of the artistic world view is to align itself with divine knowledge. "Blessed are those who hear..."

The fullness of this advice might be most pertinent to the writer (at least in practice). It is only the writer who takes up the cross of presenting the entirety of the human experience with words - something which is dependent on convention and does not exist alone in nature. I say this only as a suggestion.

What is the beautiful world in your head, artist?

It is your beautiful thoughts retelling, "In the beginning, there was the Word."

- Jose-Hector Guardiola


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