As Professor Mildred Warner says, Cornell in Rome is all about stepping out of your comfort zone. For me, this program has certainly forced me to do that more than any other semester at Cornell. There is obviously the cultural differences of living outside of the Northeast for the first time and experiencing what it’s like to live and go to class in a city. But academically, I’ve tried to venture out of my comfort zone as well, and that has been one of the most worthwhile experiences of the program.
The Rome Workshop — CRP 4260 — and Urban Topography of Ancient Rome — ARCH 3820 — have both certainly exposed me to new learning experiences and pose their own unique challenges. But the class that has most forced me to try something new and out of my wheelhouse is Introduction to Drawing — ART 1504.
I took the class on a whim, hoping to better my non-existent drawing skills, and what better place to do that than in Rome, where it’s hard to not stumble on something beautiful. I’ve always enjoyed sketching buildings and cityscapes, but this class has been the first formal artistic training I’ve had.
From the first day, I quickly realized I was out of my element. There are 16 people in the class, 13 architects and three planners. The architects all have had some sort of background in art and drawing and the two other planners are both talented artists. And then there’s me.
It’s been a frustrating experience to struggle to accurately draw what I see in front of me when other students in my class do it so effortlessly. In the first few weeks of the class, each time we hung up our work after a figure drawing, I would be both a little embarrassed by my own work, but also in awe of the sketches my classmates had put together. This frustration continued for a few weeks. I could feel myself getting better at drawing, but I still lagged behind my peers in creating a life-like sketch.
As the semester progressed, my professor — Luca Padroni, a practicing Roman artist — has helped me realize that quality art is not necessarily about reproducing exactly what you see. According to Luca, it’s about expressing the way you feel about your subject on the page. It’s about creating something that is uniquely yours.
And so I’ve tried to find my own style recently, focusing on what I can do well and what I feel is the best way to create a drawing. For instance, my final project ties in our community engagement from the Rome Workshop into an art project. We’ve conducted dozens of interviews with people in our neighborhood, and I’m using their words to show the outlines of the city blocks in the community.
Introduction to Drawing — like much of Cornell in Rome — has proved to be a challenging, yet extremely rewarding, experience.