I write this now (and will post it later!) looking out onto the still waters of Georgian Bay. The only sounds are of waves lapping up on the shore, a lone seagull in the distance, and a trio of girls down the beach who are playing “mermaid” (according to the conversation I just overheard, it involves sitting like mermaids on the rocks and drying off in the sun!) Needless to say, life is good.
The waters were far from still the other night, though, while rain pounded down, thunder shook the cottage, and I watched both in awe and fear as bolt after bolt of lightening struck down across the Bay. Mother Nature at her finest…
But I digress. Crafts! Crafts are what I’m supposed to be writing about. In particular, learning to draw.
Visual arts have never been a talent of mine. Along with many, many other people on this planet, I would classify myself as a person who absolutely cannot draw, and will never be able to. It was this sentiment that, several months ago, led me to a book called Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain.
“You’ll be able to draw like you never thought possible once you’ve completed the book,” people told me over and over again. I tend to bring a decent dose of cynicism to statements like this, but somehow or other, the book ended up under the Christmas tree for me. And somehow or other, I decided to open it today.
Before coming up to the Bay, I pulled several larger projects from the hat. I cheated a little, to be honest, because I knew I couldn’t bring the supplies for, say, a pedal-powered generator with me. But when “self-portrait” came out of the hat I thought, “ohh, I could totally do that at the Bay”.
So today, with Betty Edwards book, a No. 2 pencil, and some drawing paper by my side, I started to learn to draw. And after just one day, my cynicism has vanished.
Edwards book is written as a series of chapters that alternate between theory and practice. I did 4 chapters today- in two I learned about the different aspects of thought that are held in the right versus left sides of your brain, and the history of drawing pedagogy. The others led me through a series of introductory exercises for drawing. Let me just blurt out now – I loved it!!!!
Tasks 1-3 were a series of preliminary drawings – something to compare to later, and measure your improvement. The three included a self-portrait, a drawing of someone from memory, and a drawing of your hand.
As per the instructions, I started with the self-portrait, and for 40 minutes, set myself up in front of a mirror to draw. It was a remarkable experience. The most astonishing part for me was how little I actually know about the details of my own face. There’s a different kind of awareness that comes when drawing, and suddenly I found myself noticing the asymmetry of my eyes, the roundness of my nostrils, the light speckles on my lips… it was as though I was seeing myself for the first time in detail. And to be honest, I was pretty surprised with the outcome, given my past experience with drawing.
I had similar sentiments with the hand drawing, but the drawing from memory. Now that was a challenge. I sat for about half an hour before starting, trying to conjure up an image of someone’s face in my mind. I went through a dozen different choices – old boyfriends, family members, roommates, colleagues. And for each of them, I could not for the life of me bring to mind a clear enough picture to be able to draw. These people whose faces I have gazed at for hours, I couldn’t see clearly enough to put to paper. It reminded me, actually, of an anecdote that I heard recently about Oliver Sacks. Apparently, Sacks is unable to commit faces to memory. No matter how often he sees a person, he cannot recognize them. As a solution, apparently he memorizes details – long brown hair, thick-rimmed glasses, slim build, etc – and remembers people based on that. While I was sitting there I wondered if he would have an easier time than I was having. [Author's note: was this story actually about Oliver Sacks? I can’t actually remember… maybe I have this totally wrong. If so, apologies!]
The exercises I did next were created to help one to start using the right side of their brain. Translation – stop thinking logically or rationally about things, and just go with your intuition. The main task involved copying a Picaso drawing upside down. The drawing given was of Stravinsky, so on went Firebird as accompanying music, and an hour later, I turned my sheet around to see how I’d done. Not bad for day one.
After my drawing of Igor was done, I realized that I’d spent over three hours drawing, and decided to pack it up for the day. But I can tell you now while typing this that I’m already fantasizing about getting up tomorrow and drawing – a sentiment that I never thought would cross my mind.
On that note, I’ll sign off. There’s also a rag-run tutorial on its way (it has indeed been a week full of crafting) but that will have to wait until next time…
Send with love form the Meaford Public Library…