Feb 22, 2009

Get Over it - The Lesson of Reeves BFK

Several years ago I took an evening class on "introduction to drawing" at MCAD. The class was a lot of fun, despite the fact that it pretty soundly showed I have very little talent for drawing. 

I have never taken art classes beyond grade school, so I had to stock up on some supplies just to start the class.  We had a supply list and I dutifully went to some art supply store on the East Bank and stocked up. Paper, charcoal, pencils, more paper, a drawing board... it added to a little more money than I expected, but I got an appreciation for the cost of materials and I still have most of that stuff today, so it's not a waste.

Towards the end of class we were going to learn "process drawing". Process drawing is a very deliberate and time consuming technique where you draw, erase, re-draw, edit, erase again, and eventually finish a still life. The results can be startling good if you work at it, but because you have to do so much to the paper during the drawing process, you need some pretty heavy paper to start.

The week before we started our process drawing, the teacher told us to get one more art supply - a big piece of "Reeves BFK". I had no clue what Reeves BFK was at the time, but Pad and Pallet knew exactly what it was - I was respectfully ushered to the back of the store and shown a selection of big beautiful, heavy, creamy smooth paper in flat file drawers.  I selected my piece of Reeves BFK and was startled to see that one sheet cost over $7.00.  The paper was carefully rolled, wrapped in butcher paper, and taped shut to protect it.

I was careful to not crush or soil the Reeves BFK before class. Unless you have tried to paint, draw, or write, it's hard to relate, or fully appreciate, the feeling of promise and potential that comes from a clean, blank page.  And, the mystery and expense of Reeves BFK amplified that feeling for me significantly (and I suspect, most of the other students in class). 

We all stood there in the studio, clutching our brown rolls of high-end paper nervously waiting to see what this was all about. When the teacher came in to class, she told us to take out our Reeves BFK, place it on the floor, and step directly on the middle of the pristine white paper(!). Some students laughed nervously, uncertain if she was serious. She was - and she really made us all do it, telling us that "you are all going to do a lot of things you don't like to this piece of paper, so get over how you feel about it right now".

That was the best piece of instruction I got from that whole experience. How often do you find yourself reluctant to try something, or take on a challenge, because it might not turn out? If you have any perfectionist tendencies at all, this problem is just exacerbated. This shocking act of desecration freed us from that fear in about 5 seconds.

I bought another sheet of Reeves today because I am planning a new project, and I was reminded again about my first experience with the stuff. I wanted to capture it here in case anyone else out there could benefit from the lesson of the Reeves BFK.

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