Monday, September 21, 2009

Mr. Mike Mitchell

first things first...i know i haven't been here in a while so it's only deserving that the first thing i talk about is the sad passing of my teacher Mike. Where CalArts will be after this great loss i haven't a clue. all i can say is how far it had come with Mike in the picture. and speaking for myself, he was a real blessing to my growth as an artist and thinker.

entering into his figure drawing class, held in the Palace, for the first time i was slightly nervous. the automatic vibes of the classroom went beyond just merely understanding the human figure. the lighting was very dim, kinda gloomy. empty black walls with piles of props and garbage and old drawings in the corners. and just a few drawing horses to sit on. i sat on the ground. drawings started at two minutes, then to fives after a while. i wasn't sure if i was getting the hang of it. looking around it seemed i wasn't alone on that one. when mike asked the model to start the new set with tens i panicked. he then asked a few guys to move that old old motor cycle onto the model stand. i swear the whole room was confused. what the hell kind of FIGURE drawing class was this? mike made it to the middle of the room next to that motorcycle leaning on it a bit for balance. he started talking about observing the model, then looking at the shapes of shadows and light and composing it on the page. after his short lecture of metaphors and jargon i eventually started...and failed! i'm pretty sure that whole day was a fail. in fact i remember failing many a times in his class after that. he came over to me and mentioned how i looked pissed at the world. i told him i was having a bad drawing day. he just stared at me with his one blinking eye, then at my drawing , then at the model and said to look at the shapes. he pointed out what the light was doing when it hit her hip and how the shadow swallowed her whole left arm. looking at me blankly again he said, "ok? don't be frustrated. you're doing great." for some reason that was enough for me.

after that, mike's class became 6 hours of artistic searching and finding. i was looking at the figure model in a new and unique way. and when he thought you captured it he'd say his classic line, "that's the stuff," then steal it from you with little hope of ever seeing that drawing again. but it would leave you smiling for the whole weekend. of course digging through the stacks and stacks of drawings on his desk a the end of a semester in search of yours was no real picnic.

so, thank you mike for the bit of confidence and knowledge. i will truly think of you when trying to achieve the quality of "that's the stuff."

"dare to strike out and find new ground." -robin williams, DEAD POET'S SOCIETY


Ian Worrel said...

YES! Mike was amazing.

Unknown said...

thoughtful post phil.