When I got to “art school” I clearly remember one of the lectures I got from my drawing professor about poop. It was a strange topic, especially for a lecture. Still, it still resonates deeply with me. It forever shaped my opinions and views on political correctness with a single slogan. There are those who draw poop, and those who do not draw poop.
On our first day, he warned us of his brutally honest critiques. He noted that we would thank him for them. With fear in our eyes and fire lit underneath us, we worked hard to earn his respect. Outside of class, we were often given homework assignments that spanned two weeks. Draw an object on a three by four foot piece of paper, or a self portrait, or something like that. While they were lofty assignments for first year students, he made it easier by narrowing the medium to only charcoal. Still, the assignments were hard. We’d work away, knowing fully the scorn that might be unleashed lest we not try our hardest. On the day of the critique we’d make our way into the dimly lit studio room, find a place on the charcoal stained white walls, and hang our efforts.
Our professor would give his honest opinions, ideas, and critiques, without much regard for feelings. People laughed. People cried. It’s hard to hear critiques. But, like he said, we eventually thanked him for it. We had a deep admiration for such truthfulness. He also had respect for ours, and if we retorted he’d listen and respond.
After evaluating someone’s piece, the professor drew attention to the lack of reality reflected in a self-portrait. It tried to be too nice, as we often are in our day-to-day lives. Rather than truthfully portraying the artist’s features, it reflected the features of the common model: high cheekbones, plump lips, flawless skin. It wasn’t truthful. It didn’t look bad, but it wasn’t truthful.
It was obvious he was serious about this topic. His contorted face sternly looked each of us in the eye. And with a sigh he relaxed, composing himself enough to say, “There are those who draw shit and those who don’t.” He was talking about the fakeness. Being real in art is important, and those who don’t ever draw excrement aren’t being realistic. Poop is a real thing. I poop, you poop, or if you don’t you should. Fecal matter is not a pleasant thing, but, it’s a fact of life.
Most people don’t talk about poop very often. We probably don’t talk about it because it’s not politically correct. It’s gross. It makes us feel uncomfortable. And we often keep silent on other gross topics that are as real as poop, but are considered inappropriate. For instance, you may have a bad day at work, but you forfeit that conversation by telling everyone you had a great day. Or your dad died, but instead of making those around you feel awkward, you tell them your weekend was fine. You’re worried about the dying earth beneath our feet, yet you talk about the nice weather over our heads. We forfeit our feelings for comfort, giving up truth for appeal. And while it makes us look good on the outside, it kills us inside. What’s worse is that it also gives in to the ideal that what looks good to others is what’s best for us. Nothing is further from the truth.
Yeah, our critiques sucked. Criticism sucks. But sometimes we need the rough truth. We need the truth to keep us in touch with our humanity because the truth helps us develop into better human beings. Pleasantries don’t do that. They eat us away at what from the inside out.
- Lessons from my First Art Exhibition - March 22, 2016
- Being Ignorant About History is Dangerous - February 19, 2016
- There Are Those Who Draw Shit and Those Who Don’t. - February 4, 2016