I was the Summer Class Queen as a kid.
Swimming lessons all morning?
Library Summer Reading Program?
Intro to Pottery?
Fur, Fins, & Feathers? (a drawing class in case you're thinking taxidermy or genetic engineering)
I was there.
If there was a course or program that sounded entertaining, my parents were sure to hear about it as many times as it took until they acquiesced and enrolled me. In reality, they weren't hard to persuade and were amazingly supportive of all my budding hobbies--or maybe Mom just wanted time to herself?
I was a kid with visions of grandeur & several career paths in mind so I think these classes appealed not only to my (basically outlandish) sense of adventure, but also to my search for the meaning of my life. A lofty thing to say about a 7-year-old, I know, but if you could have seen my bedroom, seasonally decorated with different career pursuits, you'd understand. The jungle explorer theme was so on point!
Exploring in general was my jam, and summers were made for it. As I grew older, I still did summer classes, but I missed them more during the school year. I took piano & voice lessons--loved the voice lessons; sorry Mom & Dad about piano...#alostart. However, it turned out that my piano instructor, Ms. Tammy, also taught art courses--what??? While I didn't manage a full swap, I did convince the padres to allow me to enroll in her 3 hour class every Monday.
In retrospect, this sounds like a long time for a 6th grader to sit after being in school all day on a Monday no less, but I adored every minute of it. We started with drawing, moved on to charcoal, watercolor, and some mixed media. It was all very charming and every spring we would host our own art show for the local community.
So cultured for 12 years old!
Or was I?
Sort of. But mostly I teetered somewhere between the finery of the arts and the wildness of preadolescence.
Consider this scenario:
Sitting in class one autumn evening, our instructor introduced a new term/technique to us, blind contour drawing. It is what you would probably assume--drawing the contour or outline of something/someone without looking down at your progress. It is meant to strengthen the hand/eye coordination so key to realistic art, which then paves the way for the artist to develop a personal flair, aided by said hand/eye coordination.
For me, it probably did strengthen my coordination, but it mainly strengthened my giggles. Looking down for the first time after blind contouring, I burst into laughter--it looked crazy. Paired with classmates, we'd been tasked with portraits. My subject & friend Dollie's face was picasso-esque, but minus the symbolism. She had the kind of sloping features one sees at the hospital and a nose that had migrated to her cheek. The deformity proved too hilarious for us and we chuckled & chortled until Ms. Tammy hurried our way to halt the chaos--we were totally destroying the zen of the room.
Unfortunately, once we'd experience the high of a good belly laugh, we were addicted and proceeded to intentionally make every blind contour session more absurd than the last. Obviously we were missing the point of the technique as we purposely placed one eye and one ear hovering away from the face or on top of each other or on top of the mouth or wherever else they weren't supposed to be. Facial features would be swapped out entirely creating faces better suited to comic books whose characters had fallen into acid. It was pretty horrific. And we LAUGHED all the way through...Poor Ms. Tammy.
The hilarity of blind contour was too good to leave in the studio, so I took the skill home to torture my family members. We also had to draw a number of pieces each week outside of class so it was a perfect excuse. Dad was the most frequent victim. As kiddos, my brother and I thought my Dad's slightly prominent nose was best photo'd CLOSE UP. Like nose-hair-detail-close. Of course this exaggerated the size of his 'snoz, and he'd clown by adding funny faces. It only encouraged lots of wasted film. You're welcome, Rite Aid photo department.
I drew a ridiculous number of blind contours of Dad, nose always wildly out of proportion or place, along with a crazed set of features here, there, and everywhere. I didn't do many of my mom because she waved me off after the first one with the sort of finality mothers major in.
I'm sure Ms. Tammy just shook her head every time she checked my homework. To my credit, I did complete my allotted number of drawings in addition to my contours. One could also argue that while I wasn't perhaps nailing down my contouring technique, I was developing my creative, abstract eye. Consolation?
Next came the extension of this technique--gestural drawing. Gestural drawing was all about following someone's stance, capturing a sense of their movement and dynamic dimension (like the above sketch for example). At times we could look at our work, other times we would draw blind. Either way turned out to be our second preferred form of "comedy".
Dollie & I would purposely partner up to air out our silliness. The outcomes of our work included:
- stomach rolls (not really there, but added with artistic license)
- third arms & legs (sometimes both in one drawing)
- dismembered heads and other body parts
- an oversized hand or foot
- flexible limbs fit for the circus
And so on. These, always accompanied by peals of giggles, earned us a few reprimands and sighs of annoyance from Ms. Tammy. While I didn't enjoy getting in trouble, I often found myself talking or laughing out of turn in classroom settings and then dealing with the consequences; this had been my life story since Kindergarten. Ms. Tammy didn't punish us per say, but I do remember feeling bad that she seemed offended by our behavior. So I'd bang out a pretty darn good piece of art for my age in secret penance, and watch that annoyance dissolve into extra minutes helping me. Werrrrrrk.
Even though I could have taken things more seriously, my craziness, just like my creativity, was an immutable part of who I was. No much has changed. Ask Elton or my family about the latest candid photos I've edited or cartoons I've drawn featuring them as characters.
There's no separating these two traits in Anika Zebron, and I'm glad. They make for a good time and for fun art; first for me, and inevitably for others too...
after they get over the surprise that their eye is now inside of their mouth and that ear looks like a bow on top of their head.
© 2016, Anika Zebron Design
All drawings from my old sketchbooks, 1996