Who is an Artist? By Iver Johnson
Open Figure Drawing Inc. exists to offer the general community an inexpensive, self-instructional drawing experience. We define the
general community in a very special way, to include anyone with the interest
to draw (rather than the present ability). Our approach focuses on the development
of a group of learners, instead of defining artists by their ability to complete
works of art. We seek the development of artistic people, and view the production
of their work as a creative and educational process. The making of art is not
our ultimate goal; success comes in a person's motivation, fostering perceptual
skills, and performance for themselves. We think aspiring artists need a failure-free
environment. We are concerned with the process of creativity; what artists do
when they paint, how a work of art is made. So if you ask us "Who is an
artist?", we would respond: everyone has the potential, not matter what
their ability. The issue of accessibility is also addressed in our low cost
rate structure; figure drawing should be affordable. Therefore we cannot limit
ourselves to a privileged few that study the human form.
The first word of our name, Open, is a statement to our
tenant that art is for everyone. We all need the arts; they are not a luxury. Our open
membership has many people in the process of becoming, but had not yet become
recognized artists. Open Figure Drawing Inc. aims to aid future artists, or
at least, persons whom might become creative artists. We feel that if we give
people time for practice and self-reflection, in an environment that is supportive,
safe, inviting, and rich with diverse skill levels, they will conceive and produce
their work that is part of their developmental process. It is important to note
that we have a range of skills available, learning does not occur from seeing
the best of the best, but in ways which fit with the current skill levels, leading
each person to the next step. The discoveries the full time artist makes are
no less important than those who are exploring the initial stages of drawing.
In short, we value the inexperienced as well as the proficient.
Part of mission statement is to give artists and students
access to a live model. But something more happens at our sessions than individuals
working on their art. There is a sharing by observing others artists at work;
we all can learn something concrete about the act of creation. Our models not
only give us inspiration or reference, but some of the best poses to be the
subjects of our work. There is a challenge of working from life, not available
from statuary, two-dimensional materials, or electronic simulations. Figure
drawing is an expression of being human; people drawing people. Another component
of our mission is to support and train talented models. We provide an important
avenue for entry into the field, literature to encourage and educate, as well
as opportunity for economic and creative outlets.
OFD Inc. provides drawing opportunities without commitment,
on a drop-in basis with a very reliable, long term schedule without breaks.
Although one can become an artist without ever going to an art school, many
aspiring artists make their first serious commitment by enrolling in a class.
Our group allows extremely flexible entry, customized to their schedules without
the time constrains usually associated with educational formats. Our membership
does not need to be committed to becoming artists; many are still in transition,
deciding how this choice fits for them. Some participants have attained a reputation
in the art world and visit us for an occasional practice session. There is a
core membership who attends not only for regular practice, but the social and
educational aspects of working in a group.
Our goal is to create an environment of community support and
networking; about shows, openings, workshops, grants, and other events pertinent
to our varied membership. There are many different careers and interests within
our group. We not only see graphic talent in advertising art, industrial art,
art education, or fine art, but in every occupation in our community. We try
to address the broad spectrum of interest, from those who are just entering
the field and those with spectator's view of art, to the artists just establishing
themselves or with a long term a career in art.
The group show is fundamental part of our mission; to
organize exhibits and promote figure drawing within our community. It is a showcase for
our diversity; young members, high school students, college attendees, regular
attendees as well as part time drop-ins. All levels are welcomed to participate
for a number of important reasons. For some, it may be the first time they are
shown, for others it is a regular event, for all it is the opportunity to take
work it another level of completion. There is an underrated benefit to finishing
a work, matting and framing, and displaying it. The experience may take a piece
of an exercise and develop it into a piece of artwork. The sense of pride and
accomplishment is invaluable motivation. We are pleased to provide an exhibit
of typically monumental scope for figurative work. The public needs exposure
and awareness of our activity. Figure Drawing is often misunderstood and issue
of nudity requires sensitive education on our part. It also serves to welcome
those people typically outside of our reach, into our group activity.
Workshops address the needs of learners beyond the
self-instructional phase. An instructor or guide can provide valuable insights for
practitioners. Special events are not a new avenue for OFD Inc., in 2003 we presented
two sessions each of marathon-drawing events, model roundtables, portfolio
development, and peer critiquing. We also held three themed drawing events as well as
a sculpting workshop, which were supported by contributions of attendees and grant
funding. In 2004 we are presenting lectures by Syracuse figure drawing instructors. The
purpose is to connect participants with mentors, provide diverse insights in
the process, and give an overview of the instruction in our community.
So who becomes an Artist? It is our belief that any one who
chooses to do can become an artist. There are social issues that affect the
fate of artists of any age. We are moving to foster people of all ages and abilities
into world of art.
OFD Inc. is becoming an arts organization, a social institution, and perhaps
a shaper of cultural conditions.
"For to earn a livelihood in our society, artists must
learn to negotiate forces that are often in conflict with their deepest values,
personality traits, talents, and aspirations. The cognitive abilities of the
artist must be adapted to cope with the present socio-cultural environment and
its requirements. As social conditions change, so do the stresses that affect
the manifestation of creativity." Csikszentmihalyi
The Creative Process p7
So our challenge becomes a new form of education; taking in
the community of diverse talent, advancing them in a time honored tradition
of figure drawing, expanding avenues of learning. OFD Inc. is committed to providing
the services that allow these broad new concepts to take place within an open
and affordable venue.