GUEST TEACHER at St. Joost academy of Den Bosch

On friday the 29th of january and friday the 5th of february I’ll be a guest teacher at the art academy of Den Bosch. I graduated from this academy in 1998. In 1993 it was the only academy I applied for. I visited several other places but I immediately fell in love with the building in Den Bosch, which is a former factory. All departments have their studios on the ground floor and there are only a few doors, so there was always much interaction between the disciplines. Also, it was incredibly light and spacious. All walls were high and beautifully white, which made me anxious to fill them.

I’ll be working with students of all disciplines from the second year, who are taking a drawing course minor. My former teacher Frank van den Broeck asked me to think about a small, workshop-like programme.

I’m doubting between two approaches. One has to do with trying to establish some sort of direct link between a contemporary drawing artist and the pre-historical drawing supposed shamans, who were drawing in difficult circumstances on rough surfaces of caves. At the moment I’m reading a book, ‘Inside the Neolithic mind‘ by South African scolars David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce. Lewis-Wiliams is an archeologist and Pearce a neurologist. Together they attempt to establish the origins of human belief systems, imagery and social complexity. It’s somehow an extention of the first chapters of another interesting book that’s in my book shelves: ‘The rise of the West‘.

Because our 21st century brains are the same as the Neolithic brain of about 9500 years BC, it would be interesting to try to get the students to first set up some sort of self-invented belief system, which they can use as a starting point for undoubtely psychedelic drawings. It’s all in the mind.

The other approach involves narration in images and tries to link the way the ancient Egyptians for instance explained how to get to the ‘other side’, after death, as is described in their ‘Book of the Dead‘, to modern comic books, such as the fabulous ‘Storm‘ by the deceased Don Lawrence and his writer Martin Lodewijk. Drawing a story is much like making a film. Because we only have two days I would want the students to draw a ‘comic’ of only two drawings, on a rather large format so they can put as much information in each drawing as needed. This would also involve integrating text, if necessary. I still have to buy a book I read in Los Angeles, which I borrowed of Jason Ramos: ‘Understanding comics‘. This book is about much more than just ‘comics’, it’s a history of the image in general and therefore it should be read by any art student and artist, I think.

In ‘Understanding comics’, six ways of establishing ‘closure’ – which means the connection between frames, more or less, are distinguished. My favorite is the ‘non-sequitur’ one. This means, and I quote Wikibooks here: “Panels with no logical relationship. (McCloud argues, though, that any panels placed side by side will inevitably generate the impression of some sort of relationship in the reader’s mind. “–alchemy at work in the space between panels which can help us find meaning or resonance in even the most jarring of combinations.”

Monty Python uses non-sequitur sequences for example. They usually have a comical effect, which is why I like them so much. As for my own work, I have the tendency to sometimes try to tell a story in one image by combining text with a drawing. The text functions as a sort of subtitle, directing the viewer through the image.

As a more or less accidental experiment I drew my ‘adventures’ during my stay in Los Angeles, which started to turn out as a comic book. Here’s one of the bigger drawings I made. It includes myself as a character (a crow, due to the fact my last name is pronounced in English as ‘crowers’ and because I’m hopelessly attracted to shiney stuff), another fictional character – an imaginary friend if you will – that functions as my partner in dialogue and a t.v.-studio setting in which the background is the visualisation of my story.

alexandra crouwers

As I’m writing this down, I tend to choose for the comic-strip approach for the drawing course at the academy of Den Bosch.