Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 5, 1997

On The Arts:
Getting An
Education In
Broad Strokes

Leslie Rice
News and Information
In the basement of Merryman Hall, a Hopkins premed student studies the way shadow falls on a woman's shoulder, a history major considers whether a blue background will convey a sense of light-heartedness, and an engineering student thinks about how late-afternoon sunlight shimmers in a certain way at a certain time of year through the leaves of a linden tree.

Never mind its drab basement walls and artificial lighting, since 1974 the studio of the Homewood Art Workshops has been a sanctuary of artistic expression for Hopkins students. Although the Homewood campus has never been known as a bastion of student art, each year this unofficial art department has offered courses in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and cartooning to students.

This week, the students' best work of the year will be on display for the annual Homewood Art Workshops Studio Show and Reception. The event takes place in the studio on Thursday, May 8, from 4 to 6 p.m. The reception and show are free and open to everyone.

"There are some really impressive works on display this year," says artist Craig Hankin, who directs the workshops. "This year I think you'll find a greater focus on the human figure, not just in the drawings but also in the photography. But there are also a few really nice landscapes. And there will be selections from the cartooning class. It's actually one of the biggest showings we've ever had."

On display will be the work of the two winners of the first annual Eugene Leake Award, presented to graduating seniors who have demonstrated excellence in the workshops throughout their four years at Hopkins. During commencement, the award--named for the founder of the Art Workshops--will be given to Abby Patner and Kenjiro Tajima.

Cartooning was one of the most popular art workshop courses this year, Hankin says. It is taught by Tom Chalkley, a renowned editorial cartoonist and satirist who returned to Hopkins this semester after a two-year leave of absence. During those two years, spent with his new daughter, his class was sorely missed. And as soon as the listing for his course appeared last fall, it filled up.

"A lot of times, students come into my class thinking it is going to just be a fun, gut course," Chalkley says. "But half the course consists of me showing them slides and explaining the history of the medium. I want them to appreciate what makes a great cartoon. I want them to see that Dilbert is not necessarily the last word on cartoons. A great cartoon is the perfect marriage of the verbal and the visual to make a point, a joke or a statement. There is work involved in the class. But we still manage to have fun."

Tajima, a mechanical engineering student from Japan, says he signed up for Chalkley's class because it was just about the only Homewood Art Workshops course he hadn't taken.

"The classes I've taken through the Homewood Art Workshops have been my favorite classes here at Hopkins," Tajima says. "And Tom Chalkley and Craig Hankin are the two greatest professors I've ever known. They're totally dedicated, and they are friendly and fun. Some of my best times here have been spent in their classes."

Tajima is not the only student who treasures afternoons spent painting or drawing. For some busy students, says Hankin, the courses offer a rare chance to unwind or to express themselves.

"I've had students who have graduated, come back and tell me their art classes saved them; that it was their therapy from all the rigors of their studies," says Hankin, who has taught in the workshops for 17 years. "And I know that they're telling the truth. I can see that in so many of these students. These classes give students a chance to use the right side of their brain. It makes them notice the natural world around them in a different light."

Although he speaks English beautifully, Tajima says he has always felt a little disadvantaged by a language barrier here. Between that, and the stress and sheer volume of his studies, the times he spends painting or drawing are often the only ones where he feels truly happy. If he had his way, Tajima would have every Hopkins student enroll in the art workshops.

"The students here are so dedicated in everything they do. Hopkins needs more classes when they can relax and enjoy what is around them," he explains. "These classes give you an opportunity to take a look at things from a different view. I can't say enough how that has been good for me.

"Ever since I was a kid all I wanted to be was either a baseball player or an artist. But I had a teacher in high school who told me that I wasn't good enough at drawing to become an artist. And I knew I wasn't going to be a baseball player. So I said to myself, 'OK, fine, I will design race cars.' That is what I am studying to do. When I am in these classes though, Tom and Craig have a way of making me feel like a baseball hero."

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