Tokyo Institute of Technology: Art with an Artist comes to Suzukakedai Campus

The in-person version of the Art with an Artist seminar with painter and poet Zuse Meyer returned to Tokyo Tech on November 17, taking place on Suzukakedai Campus for the first time. Seventeen students from diverse backgrounds participated in the event to gain new perspectives while discovering themselves through creative ways of expression.

The Student Support Center’s Student Success Support Section, which hosts the event every spring and fall, was forced to move Art with an Artist online for well over a year due to coronavirus-related safety measures. After a long break, the Tokyo Tech community was pleased to welcome back Meyer, who is a graduate of the Berlin University of the Arts and a former lecturer at the Institute. Joining the participants, roughly half of whom were master’s and doctoral program students, was Student Support Center Head Tetsuji Okamura.

As is tradition, the event included a lecture by Meyer followed by a hands-on session of sketching by the students.

Lecture: The life of Vincent van Gogh
In line with this fall’s theme of “European Landscape Painting and Vincent van Gogh,” Meyer began the seminar with a lecture on the life of the Dutch painter, introducing some of his works in chronological order.
“Technique has nothing to do with art. It is what comes from the heart, what cannot be done with machines, that attracts people,” Meyer explained while showing an image of an early, somewhat awkward painting by van Gogh. The participating students were quickly drawn in by Meyer’s powerful words, and actively asked questions while expanding their knowledge on art.

What followed was a series of tasks based on paintings of French landscape during which students were challenged to sketch using a variety of methods.

Task One: Sketching using single strokes
During the first task, students were asked to draw one of van Gogh’s landscapes using a pencil. “Let’s try to use only one ongoing line,” Meyer added an extra challenge. The participants were surprised by the artist’s request, but soon began to work on their sketches. While tilting their heads from time to time, all the participants completed their works in a single go, establishing a sense of accomplishment in the room.

Task Two: Using only the non-dominant hand
The next task was to create a sketch using only the non-dominant hand. Again, the participants looked slightly puzzled at first, but then began to recreate a landscape of southern France with visible enthusiasm. “By using your weaker hand, you can create what truly comes from your heart instead of simply trying to sketch well,” Meyer explained. The result was a collection of truly unique renditions of the same scenery.

After completing the second task, participants took a break to walk around the room to observe their fellow students’ achievements gather inspiration before Task Three.

Participants examining each other’s works

The third task was all about creating a picture by using color crayons. On this November day, the students were requested to sketch a landscape containing plenty of trees. “Don’t feel obliged to make the entire sketch green, use the colors you feel belong there,” Meyer encouraged the participants.

Task Four: Sketching with pastel crayons using only the non-dominant hand
The last task was the biggest challenge, but the students seemed to have grown accustomed to the unexpected instructions. Each participant again switched to their non-dominant hand and created a landscape with pastel crayons. No one hesitated, and soon a number of creative works radiated with individuality.

After the four tasks were completed, the students again went around the room to view each other’s works, offering their comments and receiving warm and detailed feedback from Meyer. “The students of Tokyo Tech were once again full of passion and energy, and they formed a wonderful team,” Meyer commented afterwards.

Comments from participating students
I don’t often come into contact with art. I really enjoyed learning about it, moving my hands, and viewing the works of the other students. Painting is more tiring than I expected, but it was both satisfying and a good opportunity to learn. I hope to participate in this event again!
I was able to interact with many students through art, share honest perspectives, and discover interesting aspects that I was not familiar with.
Difficult is wonderful! I will be able to tackle my research with a fresh mind and confidence again!
It felt great to have some face-to-face interaction. I didn’t even notice how quickly the time passed.

Artist Meyer has been inspiring Tokyo Tech students through her seminars since 2017. Her Art with an Artist sessions moved online for a significant period of time due to the risks posed by COVID-19, but it was a true inspiration to have her back in person. Through events such as this one, Tokyo Tech students continue to discover new sides to themselves, draw inspiration for their research, and broaden their horizons through art.

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