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Learning to draw.

Yesterday I was minding my own business in the canteen line, with no thought in my head other than coffee, when I bumped in to Glen Dunn, the man responsible for the creation of the VIRAL LAB at the polytechnic. In less than a minute of casual conversation I found to my absolute horror, that I was agreeing to join Glen’s drawing class that afternoon.

Commence hyperventilation.

I pushed the thought of actually having to draw something and then show my scratchy lines, that in no way what so ever, resemble what I am trying to draw firmly to the back of my mind.

During morning tea I was somewhat reassured when two other classmates confessed that they couldn’t draw either and as misery likes company I decided to honour my rash promise.

Three trips to the toilet later I walked into the VIRAL LAB and prepared to meet my drawing doom.

I was so nervous that I was on the verge of tears for the whole lesson.

I have always really, really, really, wanted to learn to draw and my inabilty to do anything beyond a doodle has always frustrated me.  My previous attempts at learning haven’t been very successful and so I have always just avoided drawing anything.

I was told as a child that I shouldn’t bother drawing as I would never be any good at it and my drawings were held up in class as examples of what not to do. Looking back they were the same shit that every other kid was drawing, except that my sparkly princesses were fond of wearing rather pointy hats. The nuns were very evil in the early seventies. But that is another topic for another day.

Once we had introduced ourselves to each other, the serious business of drawing was about to begin and I really wished for a fire drill, an urgent phone call, anything at all would have done, to delay the inevitable.

The mechanics of setting up the easels was soothing and I positioned myself so I was hiding at the back of the room.I had never been shown how to position an easel before, I didn’t know about the tooth of the paper, about eyelines and perspective and I certainly didn’t know that a perfectly ordinary table would suddenly turn into an indecipherable series of confusing angles and lines.

As I was trying to draw this impossible alien thing, as my hands wouldn’t obey my eyes and my lines were all over the shop, Glen came up behind me and quietly encouraged me to keep on going. I remember a drawing class I had done previously where I was in the exact same situation as yesterday and a box on a table had morphed into a confusing tangle. My teacher had simply taken the pencil from my hands and effortlessly corrected my lines. In that moment of correction, I gave up the idea that I could ever learn to draw.

Yesterday was different. My drawing was still the worst in the room but you could see that it was a table, if you squinted a bit.

All the marks on the paper were my own and what I learned yesterday has given me the confidence that I might actually be able to draw a table soon and with any luck, you wont even have to squint at it to see that it is a table.

Stay tuned…



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rory March 3, 2011, 9:47 am

    I didn’t learn how to draw until I was in my early twenties Froggy. I was bored and lonely on a wet weekend in Albany, and decided to check out the local book shop. Came away with ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards.

    A lot of people are non-believers, but you know where I am now and how much a book on a rainy weekend changed my life’s path.

    Relax, there is no pressure for your lines to be anything other than how they appear on the paper on that day.

    Will send you a link that I saw only yesterday that might be a bit of fun for you.

  • Bree March 3, 2011, 10:22 am

    Hi Kim,

    Great post.

    I’m appalled at you having had your drawing held up in class all those years ago as an example of ‘what not to do’. Shame on those silly Nuns!

    You’re a fabulous and brave woman to tackle your drawing fear. Keep it up!

    Rory, I really like your comment: ‘there is no pressure for your lines to be anything other an how they appear on the paper on that day’. I’d love to see that link too if possible?


  • Tanya March 3, 2011, 10:55 am

    Ah thankyou for blogging about drawing 🙂

    It brings back memories of being at the Art School.

    One thing I learned in drawing class was that good drawing doesn’t have to be technically perfect. My lifelike drawings were frowned upon because they were more into imagination than skill.

    When I started enjoying mark making and flowing with the drawings, then my work got held up as example.

    This is what I plan to teach my drawing students too!

    Are you game enough to post pictures of your drawings!? 😀

    P.S I used to have a teacher who’d scrunch up a big piece of paper, sit it in the middle of the room and tell us to draw it. It was a great exercise, even though we thought she was crazy beforehand.

  • Philly March 3, 2011, 11:32 am

    I’m sure Glen will make you love drawing. I’m so glad you’re doing this 🙂

  • amandab March 3, 2011, 11:37 am

    I think drawing is one of the scariest things to do and don’t even like to draw for Miss 4 in case she doesn’t recognize what I have done, so I think you are incredibly brave 😀

    I also think the nuns and your last teacher were rubbish, but I probably shouldn’t say that about nuns, LOL

  • gaby@727m2 March 3, 2011, 12:34 pm

    This post is both funny and sad… love your light-hearted account of your new drawing class adventure but sad that the magic of drawing was so negatively extracted from your being as a young child. Yes, I had nuns at school too… one used a feather duster to cane us (not the fluffy end) if we stepped out of line. Enjoy the adventure and who says it has to look like a table anyway…

  • sharon March 3, 2011, 5:15 pm

    Bravo Kim. Keep up the good work. My Mum started Art classes in her 70s. She will be 84 next month and, health and the UK weather permitting, attends her classes twice a week to this day. And, to prove it’s never to late to develop new skills, has actually sold some of her paintings.

  • Patti March 4, 2011, 4:33 am

    Just today my husband and I had a conversation about taking a drawing class and I said ‘I can’t draw and I don’t think you can be taught to draw in a class, you either have it or you don’t’ (speaking of my own lack of talent). And then I see your post. Maybe it’s a sign?

  • Achelois March 4, 2011, 11:28 am

    Oh my word we went to the same school in another life. Nun’s at our school were very very good at holding up one’s art work for ridicule. Do they learn this somewhere.

    I wouldn’t be at all surpised if your interpretation of the table was a whole lot more interesting than the perfect image supplied by someone else.

    I think you may be inspiring a whole load of people here to give drawing another go.

  • river March 4, 2011, 6:46 pm

    I really, really have to know, what the heck is the tooth of the paper????
    I can’t draw either.
    Dad could draw, both husbands could (can) draw, 3 of my kids can draw, 2 grandchildren get A+ for their artwork, with one choosing art as one of her uni subjects next year.

  • Lauren Elyse March 5, 2011, 1:25 am

    Art teachers who correct mistakes for you drive me crazy. I’m not so great at realistic drawing but who cares? It’s about the process and doing your best. Keep going and you’ll find a way that works for you. Personally, I find that I am really best at doing quick gesture drawings. I still can’t draw a proper table to save my life, though!

  • Relish March 5, 2011, 1:30 pm

    I endured a torturous piano career after a few months with a nun and a 30cm ruler…
    But my daughter and i practice our drawing regularly..

  • katepickle March 5, 2011, 3:34 pm

    Oooh keep on going!
    You don’t have to be able to draw ‘realistic’ things to be able to draw! At least I am holding on to that belief because I’ve always wanted to draw as well!
    I can’t wait to see what you create and hear more…I’m living vicariously through you, you know!

  • sleepydwarf March 5, 2011, 8:47 pm

    I find making the first mark on a blank page so hard. Well, I find making any marks on a page hard, but the first one – welll that’s stopped me from doing many things. I keep thinking I should just shut my eyes and scribble something, and then try and draw. Ohhh can’t I just feel a blog post about this coming up really soon.

    I’m so glad you went to the class & you did it 🙂

  • Watershedd March 6, 2011, 6:59 am

    I bought some clay last week. I have a vision in my head. I have a strong feeling that I could carve it in wood, but I think clay will be more forgiving. you can’t put shavings back on the timber!

    I also went to a poetry night last week and after some cajoling, recited one of my poems, one Mark chose. I’m not a born performer and I felt inadequate, but the small audience were lovely. The audience (class) and the teacher (compere) make such a difference. I may try again … maybe. I amy also pick up my watercolour pencils and draw again … after the current round of insanity settles!

  • Beet March 6, 2011, 6:28 pm

    And apparently you can use a $2 can of hair spray to ‘fix’ your drawings (so they won’t smudge after you’ve finished them) instead of a $20 tin of fixative I’m told

    Looking forward to hearing about your progress!

  • Tandi July 11, 2011, 4:49 am

    this blog should be printed out and installed on every house in paris

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