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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Barbara Bradley
Who wishes Deda many years of enjoyable and productive Drawing!
- that's what she wrote on my book. La Signora Bradley.

She was my dream and my nightmare for one long year. I do remember taking Animated Figure 2 with her and then decide to enroll in Animated Figure 1 as well... having nightmares the night before the class started.
In the nightmare I dreamt she would go around class, as usual, looking over student's shoulders and stop at my bench, saying:
- Deda, what are you doing?
With this upset look on her face.

See animated figure 2 was fun, a summer class, and I learned so much but being outdoor, getting to draw kids and animals it was much more relaxing and less technical than taking the actual Animated Figure class. It was a sketchbook based class so it was all about catching the moment, being able to tell a story and use nice linework.
Animated Figure 1 was a whole other story, you had to submit portfolio in order to be able to get in and you'd have to forget about many things you thought you knew from other classes.
Barbara had her approach and it was most important to follow the rules.
Knowing I had been accepted was pressurizing enough, the fact the she knew me already did not make me feel any more relaxed about it. It was scary.
She knew me, she knew exactly what to expect from me and being any less than myself would be the end of me.
So... nothing actually happened on that first day in class but oh the disaster as the class went along. After the first assignment - the emotion assignment - i couldn't get any other assignment right.
Legs, hands, ethnical features, folds... One should say, come one, having to copy from pictures should be easy enough but, there was something I could not grasp as I was drawing those homeworks: why?
I mean, I knew why it was needed and why they should help but why doing it that way? For what purpose?
I kept getting C's, C + and B - but nothing more than that and I had been an A student in her previous class. She called me one day to talk to me and said, exactly like in my worst nightmare:
Deda, what are you doing?
I'll get it. - I answered. - I am slow but I always get it eventually.
Well, that's fine. - She said. - but do it quickly... you see I am not grading you compared to what else I see on the wall, i am grading your work compared to what I know you can do. This is not like you.
She was implying I was getting some sort of performance fright... and she told me I should relax and don't be scared of being myself.
The famous sentence: that's okay but it doesn't work.
It was okay to be me it didn't work all the way, that was the only problem.
- you put too many details, it's as if every details has a voice and you hear all of them shout with equal strength.
I needed to keep it simple. I heard it, understood it but to actually do it... that was a whole other thing.
So then one day she presented the final project. Half semester was already gone and I had not done a single progress. Her finals had always been fun so I hoped: please let's do costumes.
So she said: you have to draw 3 characters, a hero, a heroine and the villain (male or female). They will be place in a time period so they can be: Ancient Greeks, Italian Reinassance or Native Americans.
I grinned but she turned around and said: No, Deda you are not doing Reinassance you already did it for the previous final!
Dang, she had good memory. Then I thought, she is so good with Native Americans, I'll pick cool ones, study them very well and blow her mind! But she knew I came from history school as well and said: You'll do the Greeks!
Man! Greeks? You mean those guys who go around wrapped in a bedsheet?
The something enlightened me: Signora Bradley, may I do Minoans?
- Yes you may.
The first pass consisted in having to draw the 3 characters naked or almost naked.
Well I drew them naked then taped some fabric over them like Daniele da Voltaterra the "braghettaro" did with the Final Judgement in the Sistine Chapel... you could lift up the fabric too and see them naked underneath. ha ha ha.
I did 4 characters because I meant to have 2 male and 2 female figures and have one of the male figures as a sidekick to the she-villain.
Then and there while I was drawing them I was thinking about all the thing we were doing in class... Ethnic... so they needed to look Greek but ancient greek therefore, the bone structure of the facial features needed to look correct. The anatomy and legs and arms and heads in perspective... and i simplify the details too and then draped the fabric properly too.
I didn't realize it since it came flowing through me in a very instinctive way... without thinking. I knew I had to work that way but i didn't realize I had been training all the while for that task.
Turns out all the people who had been doing much better than I did had not realized that at all and so the drawing came out with their style and with all the vices and problems in their style with no correction - that's what I think went wrong with them... although I honestly thought their drawings looked, once again, great!
She walked across the room and look at all of them pinned on the wall and stood in front my panel, touched it with her tiny, curved fingers and turned to look at me:
Deda, where are you... there you are... Deda!
And I thought: dear Lord, what went wrong now?
Prepared myself to her the blow but she said: well, congratulations... you got it. She got it.
She turned around and explained my classmates that although I did indeed exxaggerate with the rhythm of the legs and the muscles (don't look at the reinaissance too much, but then I told her "no no, signora, I looked at the Minoan frescoes")... I had applied all the thing we had learned so far and she said that my legs looked great: they were locked, the figure were grounded, in short they worked!
You know... this lady used to draw the most beautiful legs in the world... she knew exactly what legs were supposed to do at all time and she was always stressing the importance of getting legs right.
When somebody like that tells you that the legs you drew work you know, then and there, that you finally got something, maybe a 3% of what she told you just sank in in the right way and that's a good start.
I think that was the right push... I kept having problems drawing necks and shoulder but I couldn't stop drawing my Minoans.
Once, looking at our sketchbooks she said: Deda is a humanist, she likes to tell little stories with her drawings.
She smiled while she said that and I thought: that is my strength maybe.
Another time she came and sat with me and I asked her if it hurt to draw with fingers bent by artritis. She smiled and said something like that for the sake of drawing she could endure it.

She liked drawing and she liked talking about drawing and teaching drawing... even if she didn't do it professionally anymore and she tried to retire sooo many times she just couldn't do it.
I wanted to be like that too...
I am sorry, Barbara, forgive me I didn't honor your teachings...
You pushed me off the nest after you taught me so well how to fly... I should have known how to soar... I don't know why I went to the ground and started crawling.

I can't do this to you if I want to keep you alive. I was sure you were going to live for ever... you didn't. A part of you will keep living in my drawings and I that is how I will keep you in my heart for ever.
Thank you, Barbara... Signora Bradley

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