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‘Social experiment’ brings styles together for one piece

When 16 Belmont drawing students were given a final project last semester, they never expected it to turn into what they called a social experiment.

The assignment developed by former Belmont professor James Darr required each of the students to draw one section of a photograph and then combining it all to make one collaborative image.

Students said it not only tested their artistic abilities, but also the group’s willingness to work together. Their collaborative grid-drawing they made now hangs on the second floor of the Beaman Student Life Center.

To determine their project, the students spent a day taking pictures around campus, doing their best to take one that embodied a sense of location and how they related to it. They then each voted on the photo they wanted to draw, and chose a picture of a section of the Belmont Mansion.

“We were looking for a composition that would be simple to put in a grid and plan out,” said recent graduate Kelly Casarez, who completed one of the squares of the project. “We wanted something to symbolize Belmont and we thought the iron and the statue really showed Belmont’s architecture.”

What could seem like a fairly straightforward assignment – draw a section of a photo – became infinitely more complicated with the differences in style and simple mistakes the group had.

“It was kind of trial and error.” said Caleb Gregory, a participant and recent graduate.

Many of the students ran into issues when their pieces were lined up with each other. Casarez’s piece of the grid contained a different amount of iron bars than the piece above hers, even though both students worked from the same photo.

“You have a group of people that only want to do their own thing and not talk to anyone else,” Casarez said. “Mistakes happen.”

The students’ styles ranged from realistic and precise to vivid and abstract. Exaggerated shadows in one sections barely appeared in another.

Nevertheless, the students were encouraged by their teacher to draw how they wanted.

“We didn’t really try to blend it together but rather tried to make each of our pieces our own,” said Gregory.

Casarez learned to appreciate other students’ artistic styles and learned how to develop her own through of use depth and shadows. She was impressed by how different personalities in the class ultimately were able to combine into one image that would be their final project for the semester.

For Gregory, the project was all about appreciating his more abstract concept. He originally started his drawing trying to make it look as realistic as possible before he realized he should embrace his own style.

“Half of it is shaded and the other half of it is these scribbly marks that when you look at it close they’re rough but far away, they form the image they’re supposed to,” Gregory said. “It helped me get comfortable with how I draw.”

Style wasn’t the only thing students were encouraged to think about during the course of this assignment.

“It was an idea of collaboration and how we each contributed to a piece of it,” Gregory said. “This was attributed to the idea of college, – how we each got to this place and contribute to the bigger picture, pun intended.”

-Stephanie Lesher

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