A Study in Contrasts

Well.  As of tonight, I am exactly two hours smarter, and two hours dumber, than I was before the weekend. A girl could do worse.

Friday I signed up for a one-off class at the NCMA, “Drawing with the Masters.”  Just for fun, it was subtitled, “Oh, the Drama!”  Which is totally appropriate, as the subject was the chiaroscuro effects perfected by Rembrandt but visible all over the galleries.  We had a brief classroom discussion, were given a value finder and advised to squint a lot at paintings, and we traipsed off to the galleries to work on a sketch.

The squinting thing is no joke.  It’s science.  See, we are excellent as a species at responding to color, but it’s critical to our survival that we can detect light and dark.  We have just 6 million cones in our retinas to process color, but 120 million rods which interpret information about light and dark. In art, it’s easy to be overtaken by color, and fail to notice the dramatic effects of light and dark, and sharply contrasting values.   If you squint, you can greatly reduce the amount of light available,  and your ability to see color is diminished.  This trick makes it much easier to filter out extraneous information in a piece of art, if your goal is to capture light and shadow.  (I feel smarter just from fact-checking that on the internet.)

You can’t make much headway on improving your drawing skills in an hour or two.  But what you can do in a couple of hours, is to put yourself in a position to flip over from left brain to right brain, and get entirely lost in a task, and focus on seeing something in a completely different way. It’s a nice mental break from construction administration and drafting software.  It was darn pleasant.  I have half a mind to kick off every weekend that way.

Moving on to “dumber,” I bookended the weekend by going to see Twilight.  I mean, hell, I’ve come this far.  I read all the books as an excellent diversion during my last summer in grad school, and despite the terrible writing, could not put them down.  I thoroughly enjoyed the other movies, even though the main character is whiny and angst-y and mostly unlikeable.  Sometimes they’re off in Rome, or in Rio,  and the soundtrack is pretty good, and there are are sparkly vampires and tattooed werewolves.  Once in a while the werewolves also take their shirts off.  The second movie, actually, was freakin’ awesome: shirtless Native American werewolves on motorcycles, and a chase on foot through an Italian piazza.  But this movie is hands-down the worst of the four so far. The Losing of the Virginity scene took absolutely forever, and the Delivering of the Succubus was worse.  In between, there was a talking wolf scene, at which point I slumped down into my seat in embarrassment for participating.  It was egregiously bad.  There were a few highlights:  Alice, the fashionista vampire, turned up wearing my favorite Anthropologie sweater I bought three seasons ago, and I felt validated.  The vampire house is seriously cool.  There was a vampire wedding.

The most fun, though,  is that I got my friend BBB out of the house for the occasion.  BBB, who might just clear 100 pounds if you loaded her pockets with rocks, walked into the theater with a large popcorn, peanut M & M’s, and something like 72 ounces of Sprite.  We got settled into our seats and I looked sideways at her, only I couldn’t see her over her popcorn.  I snickered.

“WHAT.”  was all she said, trying in vain to lift her Sprite with both hands.  Twice I had to help her.  It was fabulous.  And we’ll totally go see the next one, with a bloody epic battle with evil vampires and good vampires and conflicted werewolves.  You are free to judge. I would.  But I have been working steadily on a caulking project at work since February, and a girl has to have at least a little fun.

I may have tipped the scales slightly in favor of “dumber” this weekend.  I should probably go read something serious and worldly in the New York Times.  But first, I’m going to start cooking this terrifying mountain of pre-holiday groceries.

Wish me luck.

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