The Drawing Year @LAAFA

Week 1-  A Candid Look with Gabriel Palma


Being 28 years of age and delving into a full-time study of fine art, the prospect of having the “first day of school” zeal was dim in regards to knowing the challenge that lay ahead.  Once the thought pierced my mind, “Today I’m going to meet some amazing people, I’m going to learn from some amazing instructors, and I’m going to be diving into the craft that which I so love,” I suddenly experienced what I have not experienced since...well, never actually; a real excitement for what academically lies ahead.
While driving down Balboa Blvd, listening to Tom Petty at 9:30 a.m. in the morning, hoping that I make it on time to my first class, I began to flash forward in my mind about what type of artist I would be when I finish my time at LAAFA.  Will I do well at LAAFA?  Will I like the people at LAAFA? Will I like the curriculum at LAAFA?  Will I like the smell at LAAFA??

 “Worry not about the troubles of tomorrow, for sufficient are the troubles for today.  Tomorrow will worry about itself,” is a quote from the gospel of Matthew that I apparently am horrible at following, because I LOVE to worry. If anxiety had a redheaded cousin, it would be me.  I thankfully I arrived 15 minutes early for my first class, which I, of course pat myself on the back for.  If you knew me in high school, or college, or potentially grade school...maybe also kindergarten, being early was never my thing.  But upon walking into my art history class, I sat down with a completely new sense of stoic identity, an identity that was ready to be punctual and ready to work hard.  The stoic energy I had was immediately directed to my peers whom which were already in the room upon my arrival.  Immediately, the sense of camaraderie amongst the core students in my group was so prevalent.  Rapport was built like the simplest of Lego sculptures, warmness immediately fell upon the room like a well-furnaced cabin on a winter night, the jokes and conversations flowed so naturally and I knew that I would enjoy these fellows. 
Art History was nothing short of fascinating.  Katherine Zoraster, our instructor, had a tremendous-like ability about her that would engage the most distant mind, or convince interest in the driest of subjects.  Our discussion was thought-provoking in the most unpredictable of ways.  Asking why do we create art is one thing, but when we have to attempt to place ourselves in the artistic reasonings of cavedwellers’ minds in the Neolithic period, opened completely new conversation topics that Zoraster so skillfully facilitated that made for a three-hour class to seem like it was 20 minutes long…in other words, it was fun (included in the fun-ness was a donation of donuts by a student that made my year).
Figure Construction with Ron Lemen

The following session was our Figure Constructive class taught by Ron Lemen.  By this time, my 20th cup of coffee was leaving my blood stream, the donuts were a sugary thing of the past, and I was more than ready to get my hands on some drawing from the live model.  I think by instinct, or by lack of practicality, I love to make things as complicated as possible for myself.  If you couldn’t tell I was being sarcastic, I was most definitely being sarcastic and I am all about simplicity, especially when drawing from a live model.  The most important thing you can do is hang your hat on the sturdy hook of simplicity.  Mr. Lemen was beyond amazing in making things as simple as possible in the most constructively sound way.  To be honest I learned things about drawing from the live model in Ron’s 4-hour class that took me all of last year to only touch upon.  I honestly cannot wait to see how much I progress by sitting under his teaching.
I think the energy in the room amongst all of the students was very high because upon completion of our first day at LAAFA, we were getting an idea of how much each of us were going to grow together as artists.  The next morning did not contain a Tom Petty soundtrack, nor did any upheaval of late twenty career angst-y feelings arise.  I was comfortable, I had my first day.  I knew to some degree what to expect when I waltz through the doors into LAAFA’s surprising décor of a 17th French art atelier…in Van Nuys.  
Bill Rodgers' Class

I set up for my next class of Drawing 1B (wait doesn’t A come before B?!  What’s going on over at that crazy school?!).  Yes, I didn’t understand why drawing B came before drawing A, nor do I know if the chicken came before the egg...nor do I really care.  The minute William Rodgers came into the classroom I can’t state enough how much I love this guy’s energy.  He teaches art like a 1960s football coach ready to win the state champions.  He is the first art teacher that I’m pretty sure could wrestle a bear and win if he had to.  All kidding aside, his skill is exceptional, showing us some of his pieces that hang around the school, I immediately had a deep respect for him.  Our first project of the quarter consists of drawing from old master drawings onto our 18”x24” drawing pad.  I love how in my overzealous “let’s pick the hardest drawing to copy from, because I am on a mission from God,” i.e. Blues Brothers attitude, Will was all for it and gave me every bit of assurance I needed to get moving in the right direction.
Even in the session to follow, which was the perspective class, Mr. Jon Messer had the same type of zeal.  Jokes and remedies flowed from this man like the Nile River.  At this point, following Rodgers’ 5-hour drawing class, I was beat.  Jon knew that.  He knew we had all been drawing for the better half of the day and his personality and love for art was like 10 trips to the coffee machine.  He engaged us, so that we engaged the material.  How in the heck could perspective be fun?  Two words...Jon Messer.  Not only fun but I actually understand it! --a little bitter from failing it in high school, no big deal, time heals all.  
Rey Bustos' Class - Example of an Ecorche.

Okay, Friday morning is here and I get what I call the “Friday morning shakes.”  Why do you have the shakes, Gabriel?  Are you nervous about something big and scary??  Well, put it this way, the first name I heard upon arriving at LAAFA was “Rey Bustos.”  As time went on, I kept hearing the name “Rey Bustos” dropped on the regular.  I heard that this man was a man to be taken very seriously.  A man beyond devoted to his craft, a man who has a passion for his craft so much so that he arrives 2 hours early to class, ready to preach the good word of anatomy.   And lo and behold the legends were true.  I arrived to class 20 minutes early and it seems as if class has been in session for 2 hours already.  I was a little intimidated to be honest.  I felt like I just waltzed into a courtroom unprepared.  Rey immediately began the class with an introduction into his class that was nothing short of inspiring.  Seriously, this guy LOVES what he does and BELIEVES in what does with no exceptions.  I was glued to every word that was coming out of his mouth.  The class commenced and I can honestly say that I will come out of this class a walking textbook under Rey’s tutelage and I could not be any more excited to be challenged by him and his curriculum.
The final session of the week wrapped up with the endearing, thought provoking, hilarious, just downright cool brother from another mother, Noah Buchanan.  I, like a genius, arrived 30 minutes late because I mistook the start time, but Noah assumed with an understanding demeanor and proceeded to teach.  His humor is right on, his methods even more right on.  Noah’s class is the perfect class to end our crazy week at LAAFA.  He really is someone that you can approach and not be afraid to ask the silliest of questions and have him answer them with astute intellect that does not make you feel silly for asking a silly question.  I drew right alongside him and learned so much by just watching him work.  Still life’s are always a difficult challenge, many theologians believe drawing an ellipse to be the devil itself...that may or may not be a joke.  Thankfully Noah made it so understandably approachable with a solid proven method to ensure success upon every little teacup my heart so wishes to draw. 
Overall this first week at LAAFA was so fruitful that I would be content leaving now in respect to how much I have already learned.  But it gets better, because that was only week one!  I got 8,999,000 more weeks to go!!  My word, am I excited for this opportunity.  Never have I felt more challenged, but yet so in the right place in all of my days.

No comments: