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Marathon leaves artists drawn, glad.

Byline: MATT COOPER The Register-Guard

It was early Saturday when things started getting sketchy in Room 290 of the University of Oregon art building.

About a dozen student artists had been drawing for almost 24 hours straight by then. A CD from a punk band called Propagandhi was overpowering eardrums with the kind of music your mother warned you about. And student Beau Adams, a young Stallone in voice and manner, was thrash-marching about, to hoots of approval.

At the beginning of the "draw-a-thon," a fund-raising event for a school trip, an art professor said, "There will be surges of activity and then lags, and there's going to be a real strange time, probably around 1 a.m. Saturday."

The art marathon began at 8 a.m. Friday. It was now 5:45 a.m. Saturday. The art professor was off by almost six hours.

9:40 a.m. Friday - The draw-a-thon is more than an hour old. Eight students sketch a red-haired nude. And 21-year-old Ryan Dobrowski, skateboard-chic in knit cap and baggy pants, has begun a "time-lapse" drawing to chronicle the draw-a-thon.

At this point, the charcoal backdrop Dobrowski has fashioned is without figures. By the time the event is done, he will be as black as a coal miner and his piece will bustle with life like Grand Central Station.

Noon - 24-year-old April Stone has stepped away from the draw-a-thon and is strolling the university plaza. Asked if she is cheating, she responds, rolling her eyes and laughing, "You're allowed to take breaks!"

Stone, wearing vintage glasses and a ring through her nose, always dreamed of being a rock star and an artist. She has stuck with the latter, focusing her work on images of the strange and the disenchanted.

"The lonely person, the outcast, is important to the things I create," she says - and that's all she'll say.

2:30 p.m. - A bearded man arrives, drawn by the event's invitation for public participation. He appreciates neither the surging music nor the chatty atmosphere and leaves in disgust.

"He yelled and told us to grow up," Stone says. "It was hilarious."

3:45 p.m. - Brett Bowers can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's an "EXIT" sign from The Home Depot.

The 24-year-old cashier will finish his undergraduate degree in the spring and when he enters graduate school, he'll get serious, he says: all art all the time, and no more day job.

Like many of his peers, Bowers struggles to communicate his complicated art processes to a reporter.

His painting, an abstract in orange and black with sweeping lines, resembles an obscure concerto: You don't know what it is, you just know it's good.

5 p.m. - Stanley Cobb, a 69-year-old man who has been posing nude since 3 p.m., takes a smoke break.

He was raised in the nudist camps of San Bernardino and Florida and, as a model, he makes $8.75 an hour to stand still. He wants more work, but not just for the money. "I like modeling," he says, "I have a chance to be naked around others."

5:50 p.m. - Gabriella Lerner shakes her flowing black hair free and announces that, as an employee of the Glenwood Cafe, she can get 50 percent off dinner for anyone who is interested. The funding problems that hamstring college art programs aren't lost on her.

"Can you write somewhere in your article the football team gets lots of money and we don't?" Lerner asks.

8 p.m. - You want determination? Matthew Farrell, a 27-year-old from Southern California, arrives. He will spend the next 10 hours drawing the lower half of a bird feeder.

9 p.m. - The models are done and 34-year-old Scott Boyes is licking his lips. "This is the part I've been waiting for," he says, "where we have to get creative. We don't have something there on a plate for us."

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Eric Reinemann flicks paint onto a watercolor as if he's late for the bus.

Reinemann, possessed of All-American good looks and a brooding intensity, was headed for the FBI when the alluring smell of oil paint pulled him to what he describes as the sensuous world of art.

Now he dabs and flicks, dabs and flicks, in rapid-fire rhythm to a spirited piano composition rolling from the boombox. The pianist is Philip Glass, the song "Mad Rush."

"It's just how I work," Reinemann says.

12:10 a.m. Saturday - It was inevitable that someone would ask the reporter covering the event to model, so he does. Later, he sits motionless for 30 minutes as a 21-year-old prodigy named Rebecca Smith renders another likeness.

1:45 a.m. - The stereotype is this: Art students are slackers and goof-offs.

Yet a typical week for 21-year-old graduate student Mikey Straub includes 19 hours of art at home, another 17 in school - and a 25-hour work week.

He paints straight through the last 11 hours of the event, churning out brilliant self-portraits as others lag. And after the draw-a-thon?

"Probably paint when I get home," he says.

2:05 a.m. - Bluesman R.L. Burnside taunts the gathering from the boombox, singing, "It's my stop, bay-bee, let me go to bed."

Tyler Stuart, who aspires to a career in special effects, flops on the floor and sketches a dirty plastic fork ... because it's there.

5 a.m. - Ari Alberg, a gifted Korean who strikes bold lines to form powerful figures, sinks a fork into a slice of chocolate cake and sighs heavily.

"Am I the only tired one?" he asks, to nobody and everybody.

5:35 a.m. - A game of hoops develops: Reinemann and Adams launch rolls of tape from three-point distances at a pan of pasta.

8 a.m. - As the velvet light of morning begins to fill the windows, the draw-a-thon ends.

Art professor Carla Bengtson, the event coordinator, returns with orange juice and plenty of praise for the survivors, a group of seven or eight. She's met by the unified face of exhaustion - and exhilaration.

Dobrowski, charcoal-covered keeper of the event's visual diary, says it best: "I'm just a lot more excited about art than I have been in a really long time. There's a lot of things that happened in the last 24 hours."

DRAWING FOR DOLLARS

Art students at the University of Oregon are raising money to pay for a trip to San Francisco in February-March to see the work of Eva Hesse (1936-1970), one of the foremost American artists of the modern era. Friday and Saturday, about a dozen students staged a "draw-a-thon," collecting pledges in advance and aiming to raise $80 to $100 each.

If you'd like to help, send a check to the University of Oregon, Department of Art, 5232 University of Oregon, Eugene OR 97403-5232, attn: "Drawing Marathon Fund."

- Art Department, University of Oregon

CAPTION(S):

Art student Gabriella Lerner sketches along with other UO students Friday during a 24-hour drawing marathon.
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Title Annotation:Fund-raising project: UO students sketch at a 24-hour draw-a-thon for a school trip.; Arts & Literature
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 20, 2002
Words:1169
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