Figures and Conventions

My Visual Worlds class is off to a good start. On the first day I handed out copies of the image at the top of this post, a goofy little hand-painted diagram of what might be called the creative scope of the course, but more importantly, one's own invented/interpretive universe. There are handful of big fat questions one must answer, typically through an evaluation of empirical evidence: what does my work say about what I'm interested in?

Few questions loom larger than the ones connected to representing people. The art school lingo tends to emphasize the figure. This locution, which strictly speaking is accurate, tends to reinforce the received practices of figure drawing as traditionally understood–and thus leaves out representations like the Fisher-Price cylinder-with-ballhead people, or other highly schematic visualizations. 'Tis a pity.

Charcoal-and-naked-people habitual associations narrow students' choices before the fact. So I try to keep the language a little breezy, and to emphasize the conventional aspects of representing people.

By conventional I mean the use of varying conventions, not a synonym for "normal" or "conformist." We'll be exploring figurative languages over the next month or so.