Jerry Buchanan's lectures
were so popular that students were interviewed for the limited
number of positions in each class.
"Drawing a human skull by
candlelight" was perhaps the most famous lesson.
This photograph captures Jerry studying the efforts put forth
by a current crop of students.
"I realize and appreciate the symbolism
of the skull, but I want to get beyond that," Buchanan once said of the
exercise. "Human skulls are like the music of Bach: the most
perfect examples of human architecture."
"From skulls to tin cans:
Learning a new way of seeing" October 16, 1980
The Daily Princetonian
Jerry asked his students: "Why try to communicate
in art? Can we help fellow humans understand more about life, what it is
to be human? Can art help offset negatives of life: war, bigotry,
greed, hate? Visualize how the mind works. Visualize what and how the
mind's eye sees. Positive releasing, reemploying of chaos, chaotic
feelings. Good way to get and give love - an act of generosity, giving,
fosters tolerant attitudes toward fellow humans and their differences. "
(excerpt from JB's personal journal )
|The following review was written by a student from a
(author and date unknown)
Introductory Drawing, the only course offered by
the Visual Arts department on this subject, was truly a mind-awakening
ex-perience. Contrary to what might be termed 'natural talent', but rather
a desire to approach drawing with sincerity and an open mind. So, being
open-minded, it was necessary for almost everyone taking the course to cast
aside many preconceived notions of what a drawing should be or "what looks
Exploration and experimentation were stressed as a means of finding
a valid means of expression on paper. Assisting this growing process were
frequent critiques offered by classmates and by professor Jerry Buchanan.
The class was conducted in 2 three hour weekly studios each week. To
enhance creativity and expression, night studios were held by candlelight.
Often while drawing in the semi-dark, words of encouragement were offered in the
form of quotations from various artists.
An informal reading list and names of artists
were distributed to be consulted to enhance one's awareness of the possibilities
existing in contemporary art. Additional required outside class work
included maintenance of a journal and completion of a self portrait each week.
There was not a student whose drawing proficiency
and visual sensitivity did not improve. In acquiring or improving these
skills, a unique sense of confidence was gained as well.
Buchanan's students describe him as
"rigorous and demanding" and a "very intense man" who "thinks carefully
about what the class is doing." One student said that, "during class
sometimes he'll read poems or quote an artist; just anything we can
perhaps assimilate and use in our paintings.
James Seawright, director of the Visual
Arts Program said, "Jerry is fairly well-known in New York and in this
"Buchanan has been affiliated with three major Soho galleries.
Teaching a VA 201 may not have the magnitude of a personal exhibit in a
New York gallery, but Buchanan said he finds the experience worthwhile and
"There's so much to be done in a beginner's class, he
noted. 'The level of experience ranges from novices to a few
students who have had three or four years of drawing instruction."
From skulls to
tin cans: Learning a new way of seeing"
October 16, 1980
The Daily Princetonian