CCBC art exhibition an exercise in defying naysayers
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 11:36

Show features alumni and faculty artists

by Nicole Rodman

    David Zobel cannot draw. Or at least that’s what he had been told.
    Now a graphic design professor on the Dundalk campus of the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), Zobel went into working with computers, in part because he was told in high school that he could not draw.
    Twenty years would go by before Zobel, inspired by his son, would draw again and realize that, not only did he love it, he indeed could draw.   
    “It’s like a kid in a candy store,” he said of his newfound passion.
    Reflecting on this journey, Zobel said he was inspired. From this inspiration comes “They Told Me I Could Not Draw,” the latest art gallery exhibition at CCBC Dundalk.
    For Zobel, who is both a curator and featured artist in the exhibition, the show is all about proving wrong those who tell us we cannot draw.
    “Just because you don’t draw in the way people think you should doesn’t mean you can’t,” he explained to The Eagle last week.

Since that first spark of inspiration, Zobel has spent the last year and a half developing the exhibition now on display.   
    In selecting artists to join him in the show, Zobel sought those who, like himself, had been told that they could not draw.
    He first turned to fellow CCBC colleague Erik Miller.
    According to Zobel, he asked Miller, an art and design professor, to participate in the show because he and Miller “just kind of connect with the art.”
    According to Miller, when Zobel first approached him about the exhibition he “thought it was a really strong idea.”
    Miller said he relates to the theme of the show since, for years, art teachers told him that the fantasy and mythology scenes that he loved to draw were not “real art.”
    Growing up, he honed his skills drawing figures from comic books, fantasy and street art.
    With the whimsical fantasy figures he has drawn for the current CCBC art gallery exhibition, Miller defies conventional wisdom that real art is a still-life painting of a fruit bowl.
    Aside from Zobel and Miller, the other four artists featured in exhibition — Devin McCurley, Emilyann Craighead, Owen Shaw and Tristan George — are former and current CCBC students.
    Devin McCurley, like Miller, likes to draw fantasy and mythology themes.
    For the art exhibition, he is displaying “The Seven Dwarves,” a series of sketches of fantasy figures dressed in various costumes.
    For McCurley, his art is an escape from the ordinary.
    “Anything that is an escape from monotonous everyday life ... that’s where I draw my inspiration from,” he explained.   
    McCurley, a CCBC alumnus, is currently a student at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).
    For her part in the exhibition, CCBC alumna Emilyann Craighead submitted a series of exquisitely detailed drawings done with graphite pencil.
    In one such piece, a drawing of a woman entitled “Potions Class,” the detail on the woman is so finely rendered that you can make out the texture of her clothing.
    While now an accomplished artist, Craighead did not start drawing at all until she came to CCBC.
    “The teachers here were just so inspiring,” she noted, adding, “I just sort of fell into making art.”
    Like McCurley, Craighead is currently a student at MICA.
    As were the other artists featured in the exhibition, Owen Shaw was told he could not draw.
    Or at least that he should not draw such weird things.
    With an eye for the offbeat, Shaw’s art is not conventional, but it is striking.
    He says his inspiration comes from turning the ordinary on its head.
    “Just going through everyday life, you see something and get a strange thought — ‘Hey, that reminds me of something else,’” he said.
    Rather than dismiss such thoughts, Shaw welcomes them, incorporating them into his pieces, such as “Sir Owlington,” a digital print of an owl with a mustache and a monocle.
    A current student at CCBC, Shaw studies illustration at the school.
    In Tristan George’s case, no one told him out loud that he could not draw, but the exhibition’s message affected him nonetheless.
    “My interpretation of ‘They Told Me I Could Not Draw’ was more of an internal thing,” George noted, adding that he sees his art as a way to “work on things I thought I wasn’t good at.”
    In his work, George uses a variety of media, including computers, watercolors and charcoal.
    A former CCBC student,  George is also a student at MICA.

•   “They Told Me I Could Not Draw,” featuring work by David Zobel, Erik Miller, Devin McCurley, Emilyann Craighead, Owen Shaw and Tristan George,  runs through Dec. 6 in the K Building at CCBC Dundalk, 7200 Sollers Point Road. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 2 to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call 443-840-4326.