Four out of ten stand at their easels at the beginning of class. A fifth, who had set up earlier and left, wanders in as I finish my remarks.
I conclude: “Tonight we’re starting the final project. We’re copying an old master portrait but changing it five ways.”
Late comers arrive in dribbles to make a full complement of ten. Four have not brought the 22×30″ sheet of Rives BFK required for the final. One asks me where to find it. “Have you tried Sam Flax or Art Systems?” I ask. Art stores are where one finds art supplies. The student looks at me blankly even though I’ve mentioned these establishments many times before. She mutters, “My parents have to take me, and we haven’t gotten there yet. What can I do?” I answer, “You could try the bookstore. They might have something like it there…Or you can tape two sheets of drawing pad paper together.” She nods.
Redirection minutes later: “You need to tape the two sheets together,” I say. She’s got the two sheets stacked one behind the other on her easel. She asks, “Do you have any tape?” “Look on the counter. To the right of the bag. To the right of the bag. Look down. There it is.”
Re-redirection minutes later: “Okay, you really have to tape the two sheets together now. You can’t do the drawing on one sheet of paper.
Re-re-redirection minutes later: “You have to tape your two sheets of drawing paper together.” Blank look. “Come look at Anthony’s. He’s taped his two sheets together to make a larger sheet. See?”
Same student approaches me and asks, “Should I tape my sheets together to make a vertical rectangle or a horizontal?” I respond: “Is the old master portrait vertical or horizontal?” “Vertical,” she says. “Stack your sheets vertical,” I answer.
Another student points to her bag of supplies and asks if we’re drawing on drawing pad or newsprint paper. I say, “A whole sheet of Rives BFK.” I spread my hands apart and add, “22 by 30 inches.” Her eyes squinch tight to express suffering. She whispers tragically, “I didn’t know that I had to bring that.” I answer, “You shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve talked about this and written it on the board.” And she could have read about it in the reminder I posted the week before on the class website. And she could have learned to get the right paper after failing to do so two previous times in the last three weeks.
A guy is working roughly, quickly, and something doesn’t look right about the portrait’s face. “Who’s your artist?” I ask. “I don’t know,” he mutters and begins to page through images on his phone. He pulls up a Rembrandt, probably a portrait of the artist’s father painted in the 1630s, but the colors and texture of the face look odd. I squint at it and say, “Someone photo-shopped a face into the painting. Tom says, “No, it’s a painting.” “Look closely. See the difference between the painted areas on the hat and cloak and the photo of the face.” Tom grunts to concede. “Go ahead and use it,” I say. There’s no point in forcing him to start over.
The student who had difficulty taping two sheets together stops me as I make my rounds. She holds out her sketchbook and points to a homework drawing that I’d refused to grade. I had told the class to draw a figure from one of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes. She had drawn a woman perched on a modern work ladder. She said, “I drew a figure from the Sistine Chapel.” I said, “I don’t think that Michelangelo painted a lady on a ladder. Show me the original.” She scrolled on her phone until she came to an amateurish copy of a section of the Sistine Chapel ceiling featuring an additional figure leaning on a ladder. “That’s a bad copy, ” I tell her. “A student must have done that and added the ladder woman for some reason. See how sloppy the brushwork is? Look at those flattened forms. And Michelangelo was painting Biblical scenes. Why would he have added a ladder?” She frowns. How could she possibly have been able to tell the difference? I say, “I’ll give you a B,” and walk away.