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Field Lab: Perspectives on Pagodas

Professor Serio spent one-on-one time with each student critiquing their perspective drawings and giving instruction. Here she works with Martha Bawn from the University of California at Berkeley.

On the voyage‚Äôs first day in Viet Nam, Professor Faye Serio‚Äôs Drawing at Sea class set out to sketch in Ho Chi Minh City. The students had been learning about perspective drawing while on the ship, but hadn‚Äôt previously taken their lessons into the field. Professor Serio, Senior Lecturer from Saint Lawrence University, explained, ‚ÄúWorking from a printout is often easier since it is a flat, unmoving piece of paper; working in front of an actual building is sometimes extremely difficult. The building can’t move but often the artist or the paper moves. So the actual process of transferring information from what is seen in life with all the angles, walls, corners, twists and turns is challenging.‚Äù

As the students visited pagodas in the Chinese neighborhood and historic monuments downtown, they were asked to make observations, take notes or sketches, and photograph with the intention of later using the information they collected in an artist journal they are keeping throughout the entire voyage. They had the opportunity to spend extensive time making a perspective drawing at Giac Lam Pagoda. Professor Serio observed, ‚ÄúMost students on the field lab discovered that perspective isn’t as threatening a concept as they thought. Many techniques introduced and used since early in the semester, such as measuring in units, viewing and duplicating angles, have become an integral part of each drawing experience.‚Äù

Michelle Anderson from Southern Methodist University and Maria Tsagalakis from Washington State University place sticks of incense into an urn at the Quan Am Pagoda in the Chinese influenced neighborhood of Cholon.
Locals light incense and candles and place offerings of fruit at one of the many altars in the Quan Am Pagoda. The pagoda, established by Chinese living in Viet Nam, was built in the 1800s.
Although the students on board have different religious backgrounds, they often find ways to tap into their individual beliefs while visiting religious sites in foreign ports of call. Christina Telesco from the University of San Diego takes a moment at the Quan Am Pagoda to whisper a devotion into her palms.
Giac Lam Pagoda is considered the oldest pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. The complex is made up of many buildings spread over sprawling, peaceful grounds.
Taylor Jarema from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey works on her perspective drawing at Giac Lam Pagoda (left). Inside of one of the many buildings at the pagoda complex there is a room lined with remembrances for the dead, such as photos and inscribed tablets. Worshipers bring fresh fruit and flowers to honor the memory of their loved ones (right).
Students spread out in the shady areas at the pagoda to find an interesting angle of the grounds to sketch. They were using a straight edge or ruler to aid in measuring distances between angles for their perspective drawings. The drawings would later be completed on the ship.
Alexandria Kuntz from the College of Southern Idaho, David Amick from Columbus State Community College, and Michael McGlashan from the University of Southern California photograph scenes at the pagoda to be used as inspiration for sketches in their artist journals (left). “I always encourage taking photos so that students can provide their own images sources,” explained Professor Serio. Students found interesting locations on the grounds to sketch such as this bell tower (right).
Students were able to catch a glimpse of the buzzing motorcycle culture of Viet Nam while exploring downtown Ho Chi Minh City, where motorcycles account for 60% of vehicular transportation.
Walking next to the Romanesque style Cathedral of Notre Dame felt worlds away from the peaceful grounds of the pagodas, but provided a contrast of styles for the class  to record and sketch.
Throughout the day the class was able to interact with many Vietnamese people, including a friendly elderly woman (left) and a fruit vendor selling rambutans (right).
Whereas motorcycles are the primary mode of transportation in Viet Nam, the class moved about on foot. Learning to safely cross the street in Ho Chi Minh City was a bonus lesson taken away from a day focused on drawing.
  • Life at Sea

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