Sunday, November 24, 2013

At the Fire Barn Gallery Wednesday Drawing Class, the Focus is On Drawing as a Means to Seeing with the Artist's Eye. Enrollment in Grand Haven Still Open!

Make little question that drawing is an end to itself for Chris Protas and Tyler Loftis, who lead the Wednesday night drawing class at the Fire Barn Gallery. The evening cannot be confused with those painting studios where wine is one of the art supplies. Refreshments are limited to stemmed glasses and a few bottles of sparkling water. Music isn't provided to summon up creativity. This drawing class is taught among the quiet of the Fire Barn Gallery, with thick cement floors that muffle ambient noise. Quiet went well with the struggle to see and the struggle to depict what one sees. When a local writer showed up and executed a series of drawings, Protas leaped to look at them, exclaiming excitedly, "I've never seen you draw before!" Usually, Protas is not the excitable sort; bring sketches if one wishes to see that side of him.

Last Wednesday night, Loftis and Protas had given all the creative input necessary by setting up a tableau of interesting objects surrounding a pleasing-to-look at model, Meghan Hindenach, a popular member of the Grand Haven Art Walk community. Hindenach upheld the tradition of modeling for artists well, holding perfectly still for more than four sessions of drawing, each pose the same. The tableau included a beach umbrella. If one knows Hindenach's art, one knows umbrellas have become a symbol for her. She had brought the umbrella from her personal collection.

Protas and Loftis built their still life scenery around her, including a wine bottle, a coffee pot, a draped side table bearing a Tiffany lamp and a draped side table bearing a snipped tin hurricane lamp. Also guarded by a few statues, including the bust of a Grecian goddess, Hindenach held a vase upright with her swept back left arm. Keeping with the tradition started long ago at New York's Art Student League, the two instructors were protective of their model, giving her an extended break in the warm catacomb below the Fire Barn Gallery and setting up a ceramic heater to fend off chills.

Loftis delivered a simple lesson; great drawing can be accomplished by following the lesson, "Show what is in front and show what is in back". That's why the tableau was constructed in the round, surrounded by art students on chairs circling the scene. From all directions, objects obscured aspects of Hindenach from view and Hindenach obscured aspects of objects from view. 

Loftis reinforced his lesson continuously. While Hindenach was resting in the warm basement, he opened pages from his collection of monographs kept on a long table, showing how artists from Titian to Cezanne to Monet accomplished great effects by clearly depicting which objects were in front and which objects were in back, especially when those objects opened up dynamic space between them. As the students drew in charcoal or pencil on boards or on pads with sturdy backs, he circulated, seeing in the drawing what the student couldn't yet. "The objects in the horizontal middle are drawn to scale; the ones toward top and bottom are not", a helpful comment given in a gentle and encouraging voice. Oftentimes, Loftis paused and merely looked as the drawing student progressed, encouraging in itself.

Chris Protas modeled the drawing process by participating with his pad, struggling with the tableau as the students struggled. Students arrived throughout the evening, and Protas made them feel welcome. He kept up a banter with Loftis, often recalling drawing sessions from their time at the New York Studio School, and imitating the diction of a British professor they loved. 

After the last drawing session, the pair lined up the chairs on the eastern wall and students set up their drawings for criticism and discussion. All of the comments were positive and constructive, even upon the early efforts of a beginning student. "That's a lot of drawing", encouraged Protas. Loftis often held a composition upside down so that its use of the lesson became clear, showing the tension between objects in front of another object without direct recognition. He also obscured sections with his hand to show how an object had set off the drawing's power. One student had modeled the under structure of a chair well, and when Loftis covered this with his hand, the composition lost all effectiveness. In many drawings, his hand traced and pointed out "beautiful moments of sheer poetry".

The course continues on Wednesdays until Winterfest, culminating with a class exhibition. The week of Thanksgiving might be skipped. To know the schedule adjustments, write to to be placed on the class listserve. The course is affordable; one can pay eighty dollars for all the remaining classes or pay by the session at ten dollars an evening. As Loftis chanted as a mantra all evening long, "One can only learn to draw by drawing, and drawing from life is the best lesson of them all". 


The Fire Barn Gallery  is starting up its Winter Drawing Class beginning on Wednesday, Nov 13th.


We will draw periodically from the model and from still life, and discuss the process of drawing from observation.

Suggested materials (no paint):
-drawing pad (no newsprint)
You can find materials at Hofcraft (mention this class for an extra 10% discount), as well as Hobby Lobby and Meijer.

This is a 10 week course, open to all levels of experience.  
We will meet on Wednesdays from 6:30-8:30pm, with schedule adjustments to accommodate holiday weeks.

The classes are designed to build on each other over 10 weeks, but jumping in at any time is fine!

Classes are $10 a night or $80 in advance for 10 weeks, and will be taught by gallery director Chris Protas.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Fire Barn Gallery
fb: The Fire Barn Gallery

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