Inside the Crumpacker Gallery
, detailed drawings of sword-wielding mice cover the walls. The intricate sketches are from Taylor Visiting Artist David Petersen’s Mouse Guard
graphic novel series, on display to the public until the February 23. Perched in the middle of the fantastical drawings are two of Fine Arts faculty member Brian Schroyer’s Advanced Drawing students.
The teenagers are crouched over their desks perfecting rough pencil sketches with the sharp permanence of ink. Bristol board is placed on top of their drafts and a lightbox illuminates the pages to help the young artists fine-tune their coarse copies into vivid forms.
For their assignment, Schroyer challenged them to recreate a drawing from Petersen’s Mouse Guard as accurately as possible. “In other disciplines, that’s plagiarism,” explains Schroyer. “In art, it’s practice. Copying is a good way to analyze method.”
As an added incentive to the exercise, Petersen himself was present to inspect the replicas. “When he showed up, he could find everything that is wrong with it,” says Advanced Drawing student Liam Parker ’19. "It helps. What can I improve in my drawing?"
The visit exemplifies the intended function of the Crumpacker Gallery. The space not only hosts shows by acclaimed artists and faculty, it also becomes an impromptu teaching space where students encounter professional pieces and frequently the artists themselves.
“We have designed the gallery and the downstairs studios to be part of an integrated teaching gallery program. The gallery offers more than just exhibitions,” says Crumpacker Gallery Director Colin Callahan. “Each show will have some element of student involvement and connection to a particular course offering. In the current exhibit, we see how David Petersen’s illustration interest began when he was in high school. We exhibit some of his high school work for students to connect on a more personal level.”
Since arriving in Millville as a Third Former, Parker has taken eight drawing classes with Schroyer. Academically, he gravitates towards physics and STEM subjects, but the opportunities available through the Fine Arts curriculum has been one of the highlights of Parker's four years at SPS. "I spend a lot of time doing variants of math and science," explains Parker. "It's nice to have a creative outlet. It trains a creative way of thinking that's useful when you are trying to pioneer a new way of thinking."
Petersen has a lot in common with the students gathered around him. It was in high school that he found his passion for drawing. While his peers gave up the playful scribbles of their youth in later adolescence, Petersen kept going. Along with his childhood friend Jesse Glenn, the two created a comic. Though it wasn’t published, it is an integral part of Petersen's Crumpacker exhibition. The results became The Plotmasters Project, a sketch-by-sketch reflection of the creative process, from rough drafts to finished products. It was a useful tool to have in hand as Petersen demonstrated techniques and helped students troubleshoot rough patches. For Parker, it meant making his initial pencil sketches looser. "He explained that if you get too detailed, you try to mimic the (existing markings) instead of developing (the drawing)," says Parker.
The Catherine Taylor Visiting Artists Fund, established in 2002, brings visual artists to St. Paul’s School to enhance the study of three-dimensional art.