This summer, I enrolled in an art class on a complete whim. Somewhere in April I was feeling a serious drain in the creativity department and needed an infusion. I thought about photography, but for some reason, drawing was calling to me. After checking into a few local community colleges, I finally enrolled in a summer course at Detroit’s local art school.
The class was billed as Drawing for Beginners so even though I can’t draw a straight line and haven’t stepped foot in an art class since high school, I felt pretty confident. I diligently went to the art supply store and bought all the required supplies and on the first day of school I showed up, sketch pad and pencils and hand. Ready to learn how to draw.
Let’s just say the first class was an experience. I walked in and was greeted with a true studio space — no desks, just a few seating options (benches, stools, the floor) and easels if we so desired. I followed the lead of a few other students and set up a work area and waited for the instructor. He immediately started talking about composition and a bunch of other “artey” terms I’d never heard of. The first thing I thought was: isn’t this a 101 class?!
As I looked around, it seemed there were several other people who felt the same way. They looked uneasy and unsure of what they had gotten into. After some more brief (but incoherent) remarks from the instructor he let us loose on a drawing assignment that dealt with light and shadow.
I had no clue where to start. I had expected to learn a process. Get instructions on how to hold the pencil and how to shade. That was obviously not part of the plan.
So, I just started. I fudged and fumbled and did a lot of erasing. And then about 2 hours in, I had a moment. A moment when the lines did a thing and the shading worked just so and…it looked good. The rest of the drawing turned out as utter crap, but I was beyond proud of that one corner. And it ended up being a pretty zen way to spend a few hours.
As I left class that night, I realized that I hadn’t really enrolled in the class to learn how to draw. I’d enrolled to step outside my box and to learn to be happy with imperfection. I’d enrolled to learn how to take some time away and find a different way to take a mental break besides vegging in front of the TV.
As the weeks wore on, none of my drawings ranked with Da Vinci or Van Gogh. But there’s something about each of them — a line, a shadow, a composition — that I’m proud of.
Sure, I had more than a few frustrating moments and as the 10 week class continued, I got less and less excited to spend 3 hours indoors. As work got more and more intense, I forgot about the whole “mental break” thing and began to see the class as one more thing in my already busting to-do list.
But, I did make a concerted effort to lose some of my perfectionist tendencies and just be proud of whatever came out. And I really am.
The next trick will be keeping the skills alive and making time on my own to draw. I keep saying I will and then never do. I know if I don’t make it a part of my routine, I’ll lose the knowledge I gained — about both the art of drawing AND the art of imperfection.
Without further rambling, here are my two favorite drawings. (And, yes, they DO hang on my fridge. It’s like I’m my own child!)
First, my hands. Which were surprisingly hard to draw. Who knew?
Aaaannnnd, my first foray into non-anonymity. A self-portrait. Hold me.