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The Critique

If projection could leave those with woes that would be good because life is a mere visit to realms

By Lisa A LachapellePublished 10 months ago 15 min read
Nonobjective Study of Music Visually. Second Act of Transcendence by LLachapelle

The morning sun shone bright and there was excitement in the air for the start of the year. It was my favorite time for many years, early autumn. When it still felt like summer with all the exuberance for the start of classes. I still get that feeling every fall.

Almost my entire 20's were in school, not because I couldn't get it right or didn't know what I wanted, but because I wanted to learn more and more. I had a voracious appetite for reading and learning. I studied everything I loved. I also worked for years as an academic art model and the learning continued in an old but new venue.

I loved the smell of the room, the scents of oils, chalks, turpentine, and the fresh air. With large windows, the studio was filled with light and it was the happiest place in the world.

I thought I was the luckiest girl alive to be studying under and working for a prestigious and well-loved artist. The alma mater from his past was like living spirits in the room. But back then that didn't even matter. I got to sit and soak it all in, all of the teachings while I meditated. All those lectures allowed me to mentally frame my own understanding. What I saw differently and the same. The mental act of pretend I had done since I was kid.

Sometimes I would open my eyes to watch the students enraptured with their work.

The student at the beginning of the drawing will have their eyes on the subject most of the time. The closer the drawing gets to being complete their eyes are more on their paper or canvas, what have you.

Echoes in the perimeter. No classmate stalemate. My eyes would skim the air so that my eyes never met a student's working gaze for if they did they would get self-conscious and that could affect what they were doing. Subtle things like that make a good art model. A hard stare could mean more to them. A direct gaze or talking to them could throw them off their concentration. No one taught me that. A simple, "it's better if you don't talk to them as they work," and then my observations and intuition gathered the rest.

So I walked to the classroom eagerly at 9 a.m. to get the class schedule and my hours for the semester. The other model was already there and hesitantly, she explained, "everything is different this year there are no hours. Ray is retiring so this is his transition year." My heart fell and my face showed it. A slight panic, now what, I needed this job or I couldn't live. I was going through University. A moment later there was Ray cascading around the corner of the room as if he caught the last part of that and said, "there is a new schedule, she didn't know, it's just not done yet, come with me."

He wrapped his around mine and arm and arm we walked down the hall and he quietly spoke, "there is a new teacher this year. I am retiring but will be in and out throughout the year more to oversee things. The position is being advertised to replace me but we really don't know what will happen with the art department. To fill it the director needs a minimum of a Master's degree or PhD and no one who has that wants to stay around here. Everyone goes to Toronto or the States." He continued speaking as we reached the end of that hall and turned into another hallway. "The new teacher is very good, studied at Windsor U and has had several shows. He has several themes going, one working with carcasses, you will have to ask him about that." I giggled at the thought, having no idea what he meant. I giggled at everything back then.

Then a rapid knock on a door and there stood a Jason Mamoa look alike. Or the closest thing the Ontario art world had seen to him. "This is my model, Lisa, and I recommend her to you fully." I think I swooned and Ray looked at me from the corner of his eye with a mischievous smile as the gentleman shook my hand. "I'll see you in the classroom in 45," and Ray left. Jon Erik then looked at me. His 6 feet of charisma to a 5 foot 2 inches, 20-something-year-old. Not knowing what to do, I said "should I take my clothes off?" thinking he wanted to see the whole of his model. (I sincerely hope my mother does not read this one). "N,n,n,oooo, that's ok," he put his hand up, "just wait for classes." "Okey dokey," I replied. I instantly turned into a non-thinking idiot, all words escaped me. "Sorry, I'm a little shy," I somehow managed to say. He just smiled back, "that's ok."

My world was pretty small. I had my studies, my own artwork when I had time, my boyfriend who I lived with, and our loving home by the beach and this job. The only reason I chose art modeling is because I had already been an art student for two programs, then a 3rd year in advanced drawing and painting as part of the general arts program. So I already knew the environment and teacher(s). No one was allowed in the room except students, this mattered to me.

In 45 minutes we were back in the classroom. It was next to the studio and separated by a middle room with the counter and sink, large storage racks for completed work, a table of art supplies, and a print press. I think back on it now, God I loved that place. It was the closest to home as home could be.

I still hadn't opened my mouth since being introduced. Ray showed the new Instructor around the studio pointing out a few changes he had made since they had last been in there. Then they stood at the corner discussing something or other and with nothing to do for a few minutes I started to daydream which was usual. Then a light touch on my arm, "would you please take a picture of us, I would like one," said Jon Erik. "Of course," and I jumped up and took the 35 mm camera and stood trying to get it just right. Ray cocked his head a little and squinted his eyes, "Lisa, you have the camera upside down." Nervous laughter, I think I was actually shaking. "Of course," I said stupidly, "this one is different than mine," and I turned it around. Every word of this is true. So I took the photo and the morning was done. I got my schedule and left and was happy for the day.

In the back of my mind was the surprise that Ray was leaving us. This shook me. We all expected him to retire someday but I wasn't expecting it yet. He was smart to keep it from us being sensitive to our feelings. Sentiment aside it was a lot to absorb. Later, he told me he and his wife were moving to the east coast, his private model and friend, joining them. This saddened me, but I didn't show it. We promised to keep in touch by mail and we did, for years.

People do what they have to do and the winds grow long in between experiences. What's a girl to do but carry on. The transition from two different teachers of different time periods could fill a few more stories. They were each unique.

The new art instructor, Jon Erik was quite well known in his universe. Had many shows and a following before he had students. They each had their own artistic culture. Made their own new beginnings through their work. I never knew a woman that met JE that didn't lose her mind. He is that strong a presence. He was so naive he was simply unaware of the women fainting and falling over each other as he glided past in the hallway. It took some getting used to.

One of his classes ended each week in a critique. This he invited me to join in. I was surprised but welcomed this inclusion to the class event. The art studio was like an island where no one knew me outside of that sphere. They knew nothing about me at all other than I was going to school. Their perceptions were of a model. That's all I was, a naked thing that reclined, stood, or sat for 3 hours at a time, a subject matter. They did not know about my spiritual side, my own art philosophy that was coming to fruition, or my work outside this, and I didn't care that they didn't know. It was fine by me.

The Critiques brought the class together in a way, (it could also start a small war if not handled correctly but he did, flawlessly.) Teachers have power that way, the students automatically want to please them. I was therefore asked also to do a piece of work. The assignment was to depict music visually, to draw music. We could use a still life or subject or none. Draw music, I loved it, it was so me.

I chose a non-objective approach to the work. Non-objective is not really a style exactly, it is process oriented. It is spontaneous and done in the moment. If you don't know how to maintain a flow then it's not for you. My interpretation of the assignment was that, to visually show music on a paper would be like an EEG of a type of lucid flow that resonated. If writing can be a stream of consciousness then the non-objective approach to drawing is the same thing. The world of mysticism is like a kiss on the corner of the mind with an approach like this.

I chose the music by Pearl Jam. In the day I lived and breathed their work, and listened to it daily. The hard ramming I had to be in the mood for and did not want to use for this subject so I chose the song Present Tense. A little moody maybe, but maybe not, depending if the sun was shining. It always was in my world.

I remember this piece so well. I started it on my drafting table and completed it in my own art studio. I nailed a sheet of masonite onto the wall and that was my easel. I took the paper and taped it on. The rest was a sunlit southern exposure and transcendence.

I swear I had an out-of-body experience working on it. The thing with the nonobjective approach is because it is p r o c e s s oriented; the end result is not a goal, it doesn't matter. It usually comes out looking abstract. I was taking non-objective and putting it together with my newer interpretation of it. It starts with grand scribbles and the moment you start turning those into something visually, you stop. Switch gears, don't illustrate and the finished project looks more like a design of the mind, yet it is not drawn that way, it evolves to design. Then you can shape it to include a conceptual meaning if you want.

I used charcoal, conte and chalk. I worked on it for so many hours the image transformed many times and the paper was like soft felt, it was so thick with charcoal. I was excited to bring this in for the critique, and a little nervous.

The Critique

There were 13 students, at least that day there was. I can't remember all the feedback but this is the gist of it.

A student walked up to the drawing and stared it for what seemed like a long time. "I can tell aaaall your life experiences by looking at this," she exclaimed. I sat at the side of the group, we were all huddled together at the side of the room with the artwork on display at the centre. I just stared back at her and nodded. This was serious stuff, their opinions.

"It's dark like the soul," another girl spoke. Hey, waaaait a minute, I thought...who said souls are dark..."

"The next girl walked up to it, leaned down (it was propped on the chair, still taped to the masonite.) She stood back a bit, looked at me quizzically, and said "I don't get it." "It's non-objective," I started. Then stopped, slightly intimidated by the sharp look in her eye. "It's not for everybody," I finished abruptly.

"Maybe a little colour through it, in the horizon or the corner, just to make it pop, " he said. I opened my mouth to say something and quickly closed it. The young man next to him then started, "but the world is black and white y'know, so maybe that fits."

I raised one eyebrow as I turned to watch the teacher walk into the room. We had started early. I was relieved to see his presence. He sat with his lunch and got comfortable. "Continue," he said to the group as he unwrapped his sandwich. Then the room stilled for a moment, "thank you Lisa for joining in the cri...." and his words fell off and a piece of sandwich fell out of his mouth as he stared at my art. I was on the edge of my seat watching his reaction. Oh goody I thought, that means he likes it. He stared at it a very long time and said one word, "intense." Cool, I thought that means it's ok.

The individual songs that people did their artwork to were played as we observed the work. That had to be done because it was integral to the purpose of the assignment. Did I capture the music well in the artwork is what I wanted to know? The opinions I was getting were emotional blah blah, however, and I didn't expect that.

They continued, some were short and to the point, "it's beautiful," or "I like it." Or a question, "why charcoal?" "I like that it's a smooth texture, it's soft and I can change it by hand."

"It gives me memories," one woman said. I remember when I was a kid I got lost in the woods," she started. Ok, this is getting weird, so did I when I was a kid once. Wait, does that matter, is that the point even? Now I was starting to think. So I just stared blankly at her and said, "really?"

The teacher in true teacher style was to let everyone express themselves, no one is wrong. What each student thinks matters and how we rise to the topic or not matters as much.

"Did you fall asleep doing this one," another replied. "Uhhhh, thanks," my reply.

"Are those supposed to be moons?" Crap.

"I think they are hills, are they hills?" a student asked. I bit my tongue. Then clearly and distinctly I said, "those are more like orbs, I have a thing for, like, orbs. They are larger and in the forefront and naturally show the distance between the frame and the horizon, if anything they depict land. Which kind of draws attention to the meaning - present tense of life. It should root the viewer to see that. Being present in the moment to view and relax and enjoy the view that extends back. The tree obviously was drawn in after the process complete, notice I said process and not drawing." This I made up just then at the moment but it all fit. From the best of my recollection.

My explanation was met with a blank stare by both of them. "Let's go for a smoke." Ignoring every word I had just said the two dudes left the studio for a smoke break. Hmph.

"It's totally about the song, you really got that," a boy-man said. Close, that's close, I exclaimed inwardly.

Then a young woman walked right up to me and earnestly with actual tears in her eyes said, "I know what you've been through, I can tell from this art piece. I've had the same life, it just pulls at me...and on and on she went. But I had a good life; what's she mean? I didn't shrink away from her words that were totally wrong. I got angry. That is not an emotion I was used to. (I never actually felt anger, ever in my life until many years later when I would experience poverty.) But there in the moment I gave a little smile and answered, "it's not really about that, I'm not sure what you mean, it's totally a response to the song," wondering if she would get it, that she was maybe emotionally responding to a nuance in the song. Or dealing with something herself but it was not the place or time. Then the teacher called for a 5-minute break before the next critique. Whew.

So the bigger lesson in this was a year in transition and adapting. There was a new personal studio space for me, and a new teacher in my work-studio space. New teacher, new methods, new artwork, new year.

The more profound, personal lesson was the projection of others. Do they need a starting point or is it all their perception? Is there a present tense or is that a moment of awareness because we are constantly moving? Which also mirrored the approach to the drawing, nonobjective. Yet the response by others is the same - they reflected on it and applied their own understanding (which surprisingly had little to do with the actual artwork and another topic on its own for the next story). Was I trying for that? Not in any way. But it happened.

People go through their lives projecting onto others, so it could be a natural thing to do. I think it would be a good thing to stop and listen to ourselves sometime though because we also maybe, may be just wrong in our opinions.

Life is about learning. As long s we don't let life get in the way then we are free to learn. Blessed day.


My artwork is on Fine Art America, here is the link. This is an older body of work. The newer work is not being shown until my next exhibit. Seeking an art patron, please contact if interested.


More on Ray Robinson, Artist, HERE

This story is an excerpt from a novella style book on art teaching and philosophy. Check back on my website for it's release HERE

Copyright © 2022 Lisa A Lachapelle. All rights reserved.

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About the Creator

Lisa A Lachapelle

Novels in 2012, 2013, 2015. Poems in Library of Congress editions, World Poetry Movement,Great Poets of America. Wordpress,Notes From Caeli's Well; RPI Poets Are Heroes Valiant Edition mag, Vocal.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (7)

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  • Mariann Carroll9 months ago

    Pearl Jam and Jason Mamoa mention in a story. Fantastic story ,enjoyed it 👌

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    Fantastic! Congrats on Top Story!!!

  • D-Donohoe10 months ago

    I couldn’t stop reading! Great piece of writing!

  • Cathy holmes10 months ago

    great article. congrats on the top story

  • Kendall Defoe10 months ago

    An interesting tale...just watch some of the punctuation and capitalization.

  • Excellent article and congratulations on your Top Story

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