Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cynthia writes:

I feel guilty. I was not able to make it to the most recent Knitting Guild meeting, and I am the president. Please, everyone, forgive me, and let me explain.

I was attending a drawing class at our store. The class had gone into overtime. I just couldn't bring myself to leave.

You see, just 3 weeks ago, I could only draw stick figures. They were not even good stick figures.


This spring, when I went to Disney, I had gotten a little taste of drawing. In 10 minutes, 50 of us in a big room learned to draw Mickey Mouse from a Disney artist. (I suspect he was a new-hire.) I learned that it was easy to draw Mickey. You put him on a grid, and you placed the ears and eyes in their places, and suddenly, you had something like this:

We learned at Disney that since we were artists, we should sign and date our pictures. My Kevin was so proud of me that he bought me the frame with the carved Mickeys. Kim was so proud of me that she bought me a 64-box of crayons and a tablet.

So that was my start. I had a lot of support from those close to me.

When I got home, our resident fiber artist Jenni Bateman and I were scheduling classes for summer. We decided that we would try a drawing class. Since I was intimately involved with the scheduling, I was the first one who signed up. (Rank has its privileges.)

And so the class began. We started by learning to draw bananas. We first learned to draw 10-second outlines that looked pretty crappy. I swear that this is a bunch of bananas, not a baseball glove or a cow udder:

Then we started working in more detail. Jenni kept telling us to give her the information about the object we were drawing. To me, this was very freeing. Drawing was about giving information. I kept drawing bananas, and they turned into something like this:

You're right: It does look a lot like a banana pencil.

Then Jenni told us to go home and draw something that wouldn't rot too fast. I chose a skein of yarn:

I called it "Still Life with Cotton Chenille." I thought that this was an amusing title, and I thought it was fun squiggling with my pencil to make this drawing. We learned to see shadows to create depth when we drew.

On July 6, the night of the Knitting Guild meeting, we had our last class. That night was the most fun of all. We learned about different drawing media. Jenni brought her box of goodies...

..... and we played with many of her different drawing tools and paints.

Jenni also had brought in some of her beautiful drawings, and she told us just to draw right on top of them, with the tacit permission that we could go ahead and wreck her work. I liked this. It showed us that art is something fun to do, not something to be afraid of messing up, and that not every single thing we draw has to be Precious and Valuable.

It was really cool: No one seemed afraid to draw by the last night of the class, even though--believe it or not--we were still not professional artists after 3 weeks and 10 practice drawings. We had all gotten better.

Here is Kate, putting her shoulder into her work:

Lore putting shadows into a still-life painting:

And me, on the same painting....

Tina learning to use.... well, I forget the name what she was learning to use.... I'm still a rank amateur:

And Janet (with Jenni behind her) helping us all learn that some objects are behind other objects, and you need to give people that information:

By the end of a couple hours, with a lot of help from Jenni, the group had taken turns interpreting this:

Into this:

It's not perfect, or really even very good, but I don't think any one of us cared. We had learned to see where it could go. Then Jenni encouraged us all to go home and use our newfound skills to make quilts or any other fiber pieces we wanted.

I think I'm just going to draw skeins of yarn for a while.


Many people think that drawing is something that you're born with. A few days ago, my parents both emphatically informed me that I did not inherit any artistic skill from either one them. I cannot think of a single artist on any side of my entire extended family. I could draw only stick figures for 47 years. Is it a sudden miracle that I can draw? I doubt it. I can conclude only that drawing is learned. Don't waste your time believing otherwise.

I think you need to learn to draw from someone, and then you need to think about it and practice to get better. Remember that "perspective" is a recent invention. If drawing is so inborn, why did humanity go for centuries without understanding how to draw a simple box shape? Drawing used to be a normal part of school curriculum in the 1800s for everyone, but that's gone now. This unfortunately makes drawing seem more mysterious than reading, science, or math.

And not every drawing has to be part of your soul. Sometimes a banana is just a banana.

You may never have a calling to be an artist, but you don't have to become an artist to learn to draw. You can cook a good meal without having to become a chef. It's fun to learn new things, and it was fun to learn to draw. If you think you'd like to learn to draw too, then come on into our shop, take a drawing class from Jenni--or take any other kind of class that sounds interesting to you--and just have fun and play!

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