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A night of drawing at the Ackland inspires visitors

Ink drawings by Andy Warhol on brown paper bags with grease stains aren’t exactly what comes to mind when you think of art. But there it was, framed and mounted on the red wall.

There were three of us settled in the gallery of the museum containing items from a collection called “Adding to the Mix.” This was part of the Ackland’s “Drawing in the Evening” program that is hosted by Amanda Hughes, director of external affairs, every third Thursday of the month. Hughes prompted us to study all of the pieces — even Warhol’s brown paper bag piece. Despite my skepticism over whether or not these drawings are considered art, I studied the “Susumu Ikuta.” It was just a side profile of a man’s face; it fell somewhere in between being realistic and being a caricature.

One of the people I encountered was Patricia Amaral, a UNC romance languages professor. She goes to the “Drawing in the Evening” program every chance she gets.

“I used to draw a lot when I was a kid, but then I stopped,” Amaral said. “Then I found out there was this activity, and I started coming back to something I really liked.”

About 15 minutes were spent on each re-drawing of the pictures on the wall. In the course of an hour, I drew about four pictures. My favorite one was the “Seated Woman” by Egon Schiele. In the picture the woman was facing forward, hands clasped together in what looked like a seated position. It was relaxing to draw. I didn’t worry about it being analyzed or judged — I just kept drawing each curl on the woman’s head for the leisure drawing brings.

After we had finished the last piece, we took time to talk about some of the things we noticed while we were drawing or just noticing now that we had finished and taken a step back. Because certain drawings weren’t finished there were aspects missing from them. “Seated Woman” was one which Hughes discussed.

“Both of her hands are there and she’s leaning down on her knees — well, her knees aren’t there and her hands aren’t there, but we fill in an amazing amount of information,” she said.

“This idea that it’s all about gesture. We will forgive everything else if we can get the gesture. If the gesture looks human, proportion be damned. We don’t care. We live inside emotional gestures. This is one theory of understanding drawings.”

A large part of this experience was experiencing how to really look and see the drawings as they are, rather than filling in the blanks and perceiving it how we feel it should be. Our perceptions guide us and because of those senses we make allowances for things, such as filling in the blanks on pictures that are half finished.

Hughes told us that the reason she holds this event is to teach people how to see the drawings rather than just looking. We were meant to slow down our brains and to really focus on what was there. She compared the many different ways of looking at art as a game.

“This is an intellectual game we’re playing. It’s a lovely one,” she said.

I’ll never really know why the artists chose to draw their pieces as they did — if that smudge was their intention, or whether they just rubbed the eraser wrong way, but it was an evocative experience that made me think of these drawings as more than just doodles on scrap paper.

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