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“She’s a Good Drawer,” Says Malcolm


I saw this over on the Cycle Jerk yesterday and sent it over to my 5-year-old grandson, Malcolm, who is laid up with some kind of intestinal disorder that I hope he hasn’t passed on to me.

Artist, not dresser

His mother replied, “He liked it. He said she’s a really good drawer. That’s draw-er, as inĀ  artist. Not drawer, as in dresser.”

That brought back the Nightmare of Art 101

Ken Steinhoff Ohio University Art 101 Sketch BookArt 101 was a requirement for Ohio University photo majors.

I was pathetic.

I couldn’t draw a conclusion

One of the first assignments was to fill a sketchbook with renderings of a common object you see every day.

Ken Steinhoff Art Class Sketch Ohio University 1967

We weren’t on the same page

The first problem was that we weren’t on the same page when it came to defining “rendering”

He was thinking, “picture: show in, or as in, a picture; “This scene depicts country life”; ‘the face of the child is rendered with much tenderness in this painting’.”

My work came closer to “melt (fat or lard) in order to separate out impurities; ‘render the yak butter’; ‘render fat in a casserole.'”

Ken Steinhoff Ohio University Art Class Collage 1967My first subject was my desk lamp

After a number of attempts that made primitive art on cave walls looked advanced, I tried to fake it with a collage.

Some of the sketches showed some real bursts of talent

That’s because the girls working on either side of me, recognizing that there was no danger of ME raising the grading curve, agreed to “help” me with my sketches if I’d “help” them with their required photo course. After a couple of contributions, I had to pass on their work. The contrast between my stick drawings and what they were doing, even after I asked them to “dumb it down,” was too obvious.

Here’s a photographer’s workaround

Ken Steinhoff Ohio University Art 101 sketch produced by projecting negative onto sketch book

Then I found that I could put a negative in the enlarger, project the image onto my sketchbook and use my pencil to make the reflected image a solid gray color, ending up with something that actually could be identified.

This, obviously, wasn’t a good long-term solution.

I become an object of pity

Finally, the prof said, “This isn’t working out. You’re trying, but….

“Since you’re a photographer, I’ll accept a photo or a contact sheet of whatever you’ve taken for the day as being your “sketches.”

At the end of the quarter, he pulled me aside and said, “I’m going to give you a passing grade, but, thank god you’re a photographer.”

My sketch book is available for purchase

If anyone sees real talent in my primitive art, I will make my sketch book available to the highest bidder.

12 comments to “She’s a Good Drawer,” Says Malcolm

  • I’m with Andrea: Other than getting to see things I miss on four wheels, the best thing about riding a bike is the head space it opens up when you don’t have to think about anything but pushing pedals.
    I recommend the Lake O dike rim or one of the islands at night (Jupiter or Palm Beach) for the”nothing to do but think and enjoy” rides.

  • I didn’t hear a bid for my sketch book.

  • I’m interested in what your motivation was behind the collage. Besides, a passing grade.

  • I was fulfilling the requirement to render a common object in as many different ways as possible over a finite period of time. My primary motivation was to pass the class.

    Let me see if I can help you explore the spiritual motivation behind the literal image like I learned to do in the Fine Arts program.

    Note the calendar in the background to remind us that every minute is precious and fleeting. I used a monthly calendar in 1967 because I was young and time moved more slowly. At that age, time has no urgency.

    If I was doing the artwork today, I would show a whirling second hand, driving home how quickly my remaining years are being erased.

    Even though there is light spilling down on the object on the desk top, a closer examination shows that the the plug hanging free, receiving energy from the cosmos, not some polluting coal-burning power plant.

    The bank check between the spiritual plug and the light spilling down is a subtle acknowledgment that nothing in life is truly free.

    That was expressed poetically by the bumper sticker popular on the back of VW vans: “Cash, ass or grass, nobody rides for free.”

    See, I may not have completed my BFA, but I mastered the BS part of the degree.

  • mark S

    I’ll give you $20 for your sketchbook. Bring it home with you when you come in October.

  • mark S.

    You’re the high bidder so far.

    Since it doesn’t look like my Presidential Library is going to need it, you’ve got a deal unless someone swoops in and steals it out from under you.

  • […] The school was presented with a print of Wasserberger’s Sad Clown. Sounded like kind of a strange choice to me, but I barely made it out of Art 101 in college. […]

  • Ken, I’m glad that Mark has made a bid. Hopefully, he’ll be responsible with it and stash it somewhere… I’m kidding.

    I feel your pain. I’m taking a graphics class but can’t draw my way out of a paper bag. My stick-figure birds look like something you’d pull out of the lint trap. Thank God for computers.

    I do like your blog, though.

  • Thanks, Amy,

    Mark, indeed, was the high (and only) bidder. He’s holding on to it in hopes that it will appreciate in value after I’m dead.

    I suspect that I’m $20 richer from the exchange than he’ll ever be.

  • […] I may have to think twice about that. Maybe he DOES deserve it. He appreciates fine art. After all, he bought my Ohio University Art 101 sketchbook for $20.June 2nd, 2010 | Category: Photos around Cape Leave a Reply […]

  • Toni Eftink

    Ken, That is awesome. Did you end up selling? :)

    • Miz Toni, Mam,

      Of COURSE I sold it. Twenty bucks is twenty bucks.

      The only thing is that he has this theory that it’ll be worth more after I’m dead, so he’s been trying to do me in for years.

      If you’d like to own this priceless (oh, yeah, I guess it HAS a price – $20) piece of art, I’m sure he would entertain a bid.

      I’d sleep a lot better if you owned it. I don’t think you have designs on my demise. You’re young enough that you can wait, unlike my brother.