The Park-a-Park/disposal bin was moved to Granville Island, right in front of Emily Carr University of Art and Design. So of course we sketchers had to climb in there again. I moved across the street shortly after our meet and greet though, it was the perfect opportunity for me to sketch the art school where I spent four years of my life. The drawing could benefit from some colour, but there wasn’t time that day.
I was reminiscing a bit about my college years while drawing it. I thought of Fred, Ted, and Ken, my trio of fully-bearded design instructors who had to share a single vowel. They were the steady ones in what seemed like institutionalized insanity at times. But my first year at ECUAD in what’s still called Foundation Program was probably my favourite — it seems like such a luxury now that I got to spend a whole year taking a wide variety of art courses before studying graphic design for the remaining three years.
One of my most memorable instructors from first year died just this summer: Dennis Burton. Born in 1933 in the prairies, he was an excellent painter and drawer, kept consummate sketchbooks which he displayed all around his classroom, and believed in the craftsmanship of drawing. I probably worked harder in his class than in any other. His stylized images of women’s garters (and women in them) from below, above, or at the craziest angles are some of his best-known work. Dennis told us they were inspired by the Sears catalogues that were delivered to his rural home when he was a boy, their undergarment section containing the most revealing imagery of the female form that he had ever seen.
My first life drawing sessions ever were in Dennis’s drawing class. He always put on music, mostly jazz, and chatted with the models, which put us nervous newbies at ease. His obliquely worded assignments, such as “draw a sleeping animal”, could produce a wide range of fascinating interpretations. And despite an asthmatic student’s complaint, Dennis kept smoking in the classroom while ranting about the “philistines” in the school administration who were thinking of actually banning smoking from the entire school. Yes, it was a different era.
After our drawing session in the bin, I took “my sketchers”, as I affectionately think of them, to New Leaf Editions where I’ve been working on copper etchings of some new urban sketches for a poetry book. The owner, Peter Braune, gave them an insight into his traditional printmaking studio.