My drawing class met for the last time this week–it was just six sessions total. That’s obviously not enough time to get really good at anything (though I gather the “ten thousand hours of practice” theory has been more or less debunked). It’s not so much that I have to put in a lot more hours but that I need to figure out how to make the most of the hours I have.
Though I still think that in some ways this specific class simply wasn’t a great fit for me, things definitely improved (including my attitude) once I started copying pictures–not photographs of faces, which is no fun for me (it just takes too little to make it look “wrong”), but landscapes or other drawings, especially ones that are stylized enough that the copy doesn’t need to be exact to look pretty good. Copying George O’Keeffe and Emily Carr was still plenty challenging for me, but I enjoyed doing it, and though the resulting pictures are of course unoriginal, it’s a good way to practice important skills, including shading and also patience (which, yes, I consider a skill, or at least something you have to exercise deliberately). I learned that rulers are my friends! Also erasers.
What else have I learned? For one thing, I have begun to look at things differently, with more attention to lines, shapes, lights, and shadows, though I still don’t find the instruction to “just draw what you see” very helpful. I regret having dutifully purchased the workbook for Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain; I eventually took a few other drawing books out of the library to see some different approaches (research is a hard habit to break) and I found this one much more informative about how to draw what I see. With its help, I drew the best eye I have done so far! I have also been exploring YouTube–which, after all, is where I learned to crochet–and I quite like this series.
I think the most important lesson I learned is that if you wish you could do something, you have to actually go do it. I enjoyed the weekly classes–everyone was very friendly, and we had a good time chatting and drawing and sharing our efforts–and I know I picked up ideas, information, and strategies from my teacher. Most of all, though, the lessons focused my previously vague interest in drawing and gave me an explicit incentive to put pencil to paper, both of which I needed to overcome my longstanding inhibitions about drawing. I’m still a long way from creating original art that shows anything like “my own” style, but I’m a lot closer to being able to produce pictures I like–in fact, I’ve done a few already.
In the process of figuring even this much out, I learned when I can let go of my need to do things “well” or “right” and when I can’t, and also I figured out more about what kind of both drawing (the action) and drawings (the art) appeal to me, which perhaps oddly I hadn’t thought much about before registering for this class. I had been thinking about drawing more in terms of creativity in the abstract, as something to do that was not reading or writing, and also something that I did not for anyone else or for any other purpose, but just for its own sake. You can’t just move your pencil around randomly any more than you can start writing without any sense of purpose at all, however (well, I guess someone could, but I can’t); now I know a lot more about what the options and possibilities are.
Did I in fact “learn to draw”? Well, I’m certainly no longer assuming that I can’t draw: instead, I’m thinking about what I will draw next. I have a folder full of potential subjects to copy, and I am resolved also to try some sketching in the Public Gardens and at Point Pleasant Park. So far the only thing I’ve drawn “en plein air” is the trunk of the huge elm tree in our back yard, which is hardly the most scenic thing in the area!
All in all, I consider the experiment a success; I’m glad I tried it, and I’m grateful to the folks (on Twitter especially, but also at home–“yay, Mom!”) who encouraged me!