Drawing on Something Old for Inspiration

I sell real estate. You all know that. But something you probably don’t know is that I went to art school for years, and before I settled on a degree in Fine Art Photography, I was taking every class I could on drawing…

I remember one of my first semesters at Cal State Fullerton and I was crashing a life drawing class… something in the “300” level… I can’t remember… I just remember coming into the studio and sitting down with another 10 or so students and being on time… we waited and waited and after about 30 minutes, the professor showed up. He was a tall, lanky guy… probably in his late 50’s at the time… he looked over the assembled students and said “OK. If you’re here and you’re not on the roster already, you might as well leave because we’ve got a waiting list on this class that is 2-years long… absolutely no room for anyone crashing the class… I’m sorry, but I don’t make the rules, I don’t book the roster, I just teach the class.” I remember sitting there thinking “Well, I don’t know what the rest of the crashers are thinking, but I’m sticking in… I’m making a case to this guy and am just going to tell him that I’m in. Make way. I want to draw, I’ll find a corner and I’ll just keep coming.”

We waited and waited and the professor, who had by now introduced himself as Professor Don Lagerberg, was getting irritated. “OK” he mumbled to one of his teacher’s assistants. “Where is everyone?” You could see him checking his watch, consulting his roster and getting impatient. “Alright everyone – there must be some confusion. There are 20 spaces in this class, a backlog of two years to get in, and there are only 15 of you here now. There must be a date wrong here or something… let’s give it another 15 minutes or so and if no one else shows up today we’ll have a short session and we’ll wrap up the class. I just want to reiterate – if you’re not already on the roster, please – feel free to stay for today’s class, but odds are slim to none that we’ll have room here on Wednesday so you should probably look for another class to join. Alright. Let’s get started.”

Don: “Alright. Pencils ready; let’s do some warm-ups…. we’re in space.” (students looking around at each other, eyebrows raising, some smiling, others a bit confused.) “There is a skeleton…. A robot… A robot skeleton…. yes…” Don is smiling now, looking around the room… maybe 45 seconds have passed… “There is a cat. Spacesuit is optional… Be loose right now… don’t think about it, just draw it…” 1 minute slipped into 5 minutes and Don barked that we were done… I was smiling… I was just given permission – actually, directed – to draw the zanny stuff that I had been sketching for years… no wonder this wait list for this guy’s class was two years long… 5 minutes turned into another 30 and then we were done… we’d all banged out a handful of drawings… we did need warmups… mine were too rigid… but there was some humor in them… some ideas floating in there…

I came back on Wednesday and so did the other 14 students… turns out there was only us. No big lost queue of students waiting to push out the outliers. We had Don all to ourselves that semester and that first crazy day of drawing turned into a hundred others… we drew non-stop all semester long… models would come and go, strange ideas were thrown out and tested on paper, we critiqued each other’s work, and we all grew. I’m looking at a photo of Don online right now… Google’d him for this post… seeing his picture makes me smile… here are the pix and a link to another article on Don:

Don Lagerberg, CSUF Don Lagerberg, CSUF
http://www.ocregister.com/articles/students-533171-model-class.html

I was reading an article on the NY Times this morning… it is about drawing (read it if you have time – it is good), which brought me back to those days in Don’s class… Don hasn’t passed away or anything; from the CSUF website, it looks like he is still on the faculty doing what he does (I would love to get back into one of his classes…) The Times article just made me think of my own drawings… I still pack a sketchbook with me on trips and pull out my latest version when the kids are down for the night or I have a moment in the sunshine I can sketch something down.

Here are a few drawings that I have scans of:


I drew this at an open house I held… as you can tell, the open house was slow… this is done with a roller ball pen; something like a blue Bic or something… I really enjoy drawing with pen since it forces me to think about the mark before I make it…


I sketched this at the Norton Simon museum some years ago; they have an amazing collection of Asian sculptures whose forms are irresistible.


This one. I did this in pencil on watercolor paper… this is one of my nicest drawings… my sister, Maile, has it hanging in her flat in Paris which is where it should be… the drawing is a rough copy of a 17th century landscape drawing of the same subject, but I have cropped it differently, removed a few of the items in the original and done my best to make it my own… very proud of this one…


This is of the Oregon Caves Chateau, which is located in south central Oregon… this merits its own story but suffice to say I am satisfied with how this came out…


This is a rough copy of a 16th century painting… I can’t recall who did the original at the moment… the eyes came out as well as possible on this… I have the hardest time with eyes… that is the true test – if you can pull off the eyes, you can do anything you want with the figure…

I wrote the title of the post thinking about how I don’t draw as much as I used to and this morning I was reaching back looking at some of my older drawings and reminiscing… what is also obvious to me now as I was re-reading my post is that I drew on Don for inspiration as well while I was at CSUF… I took as many of his classes as I could while I pursued my photography degree and while I’m sure he knew that his friendship meant a lot to me then it is worth saying again – thanks for pushing me & my brain long ago, Don! Keep teaching!

Jesse Brossa

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