I have been thinking about the importance of the basics, and how we practice them here at Incamminati over and over. A level one student does one-minute gestures all first semester and even into the second. Second year students do a ton of black and white studies, and a gazillion color studies. I have to say that I was starting to wonder if we were beating a dead horse.....but then.......I got invited to a Halloween karaoke party last fall.....
I chose to sing two fairly difficult songs, and decided that the only way to do this was to take voice lessons.....I hadn't really sung in about 30 years.....and girl oh girl was that first lesson ever painful...more for the teacher than me!!
I actually had two teachers, which meant two lessons a week...I had limited time to get ready for the party.....6 weeks if I remember correctly. Both teachers focused on getting me to relax my vocal cords, and how to breathe correctly. This was not an easy task, I had to think about what I was doing. The lessons revolved around exercises designed to help relax my vocal cords. For an hour twice a week, and with practice in between, I ran (sang)up and down scales, practiced catching and holding my breath in my abdomen...not my throat (news to me!! and not so easy to do at first!), practiced singing different vowels and simple sounds....all these exercises over and over.....then I would practice my selected songs.
The whole time that I was taking these lessons I was reminded constantly of how we practice here at Incamminati. Gestures over and over, 10 minute block-ins...grisailles...and then into actual paintings using these building blocks,
The political satirist Stephen Colbert was cast in Stephen Sondheim's 2011 production of Company, and commenced taking voice lessons. Here is what he had to say about the experience: "What I rediscovered was the therapeutic nature of singing lessons," he says. "They're like doing yoga but for [the] inside of your body. You open up and use muscles that you don't think of as malleable. ... You can turn your head into a bell. ... That's what we kept working on: resonance and projection and relaxation and just remembering or relearning how to breathe through a phrase. The technical aspects of it are fascinating to go through in the lessons. And then you have to forget all of it, and sing." Just liking painting....the technical aspects of drawing and painting are in and of themselves fascinating.......but are in no way the end result. At some point you have to forget all of it and just paint. The exercises and the drawing lessons ultimately give us the ability to express ourselves from our inner being.
We are not taught to paint like Nelson Shanks at Incamminati.......he has never wanted that, but for each of us to be our own authentic artist, and you get there from repetition, and then more repetition, and then some more repetition.
By the way, I won best performance at that party.