I’ve been banging on long enough about my experiences with drawing, but due to a technical error (also known as ‘carelessly formatting memory card’) I lost the pictures I wanted to include and, as such, delayed putting fingers to keyboard to write the post to go with them. I should also admit that I haven’t minded the procrastination: this isn’t gong to be a pretty story, but sometimes brutal honesty is the only option.
What’s This All About, Then?
Perhaps I need to recap the context in which this recent preoccupation with drawing has developed… Back in Week 1 of the Central Saint Martins course, the Seed of Fear was sown by the promise of a drawing brief a couple of weeks down the line. Being someone who gave up on the formal pursuit of art (creation, not critique) at the age of 14 specifically because I clearly had no aptitude for this skill – and have ever since been troubled by this failing – I was not looking forward to it. No, not one bit of me felt comfortable with the prospect of creating my own pictures using my own hands. Nevertheless, I steeled myself. I tried to temper the normative cognition I cannot draw with the more rational thought It doesn’t matter, just relax, it’ll be fine!
So one Saturday morning, I set off to meet most of my fellow classmates just outside Borough Market, ready to take on the challenge of connecting eye to hand and coming up with something usable for the next week’s magazine layout brief. My pencils were sharpened, my sketchbook was ready and, most importantly, I had a god damn smile on my face. I was going to beat this demon with my newly found confidence – I might even reveal a hitherto unknown style that would wow my fellow students with its raw genius! Well I had to bolster myself *somehow* didn’t I?
Over the course of the next few hours we drew and drew and drew: sketch something for 1 minute — sketch the ugliest thing you can find — sketch something in minute detail — sketch something at three times its real size — sketch everything you see so it fills one page — sketch some scenes form interesting angles — sketch sketch sketch!
With each task my confidence drained away: if anything, my drawing became worse than ever. I began to feel the familiar feeling of frustration at not being immediately able to do something perfectly. And then I saw the other’s work. Oh my goodness. Not one of them was outwardly displaying the same inner conflict that I found myself unable to hide. Their pictures looked like stuff, not just oddly placed lines awkwardly marked, but actual real things that you could recognise. I sighed, inwardly and outwardly. I’m not proud of myself, but I could feel the emotion rising up and bubbling quite literally out of me. I had to turn around to hide the last bit of my confidence drop out of my eyes as I kept my sketchbook tight to myself to prevent the humiliation that would no doubt ensue.
It was not one of my finest moments. And what’s worse is the sense of injustice I felt – Suck it up! It’s not everyone else’s fault that you never put in the hours to develop your drawing skills!
What Happened Next
Aside from spending the best part of fifty quid on delicious treats, including enough olives to see you through a nuclear apocalypse, in the typical shopping-cures-all-emotional-problems, I decided that enough was enough. In the short term, I needed some illustrations for the next week’s brief, but beyond that I felt like I had to face this drawing demon once and for all.
I made my way to Waterstone’s just before closing and headed for the kids section where, while bent with my bottom in the air – elegant as ever – tying my needlessly long shoelaces up, I asked the eager-to-get-home shop assistant if there were any good books to help develop drawing skills. She immediately picked out the one I’d secretly hoped I could one day justify buying for myself – Quentin Blake‘s Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered. At the till she asked me how old the child I was buying it for was. Muttering the ‘twenty’ I said the ‘eight’ unnecessarily loudly. Perfect, she said as she smiled through the slightly troubled look on her face. Let’s hope so, I thought.
How the Story Ends (Part One)
I’d love to tell you that I’ve now conquered all my drawing fears, that I’m now most relaxed with a pencil in my hand and can render almost recognisable forms. Unfortunately this is a little way off yet. Nevertheless, the Quentin Blake book has been a real help to me, and gave me the boost I needed to get my shit together to go and draw some new pictures. I didn’t end up with many, but you can see the fruits of my labours below. Not all were taken from life – I admit that I’d naughtily taken some snappers of the market while I was there – but I did try to salvage some of the sketches I’d taken on the day. (Though I’ve kept some of these for my..private collection.)
I’ve also decided to submerge myself in the world of drawing for a solid 5 days. It may turn out to be a form of self inflicted torture, may drive me over the edge once and for all, but I figured it was worth a shot. I’m going to spend next week under the tutelage of Guy Noble as I’m taking the Introduction to Drawing course offered as part of the CSM Christmas School. Well, at what other time of year are you allowed to be so (potentially) miserable?!
And now? Well, I think there’s improvement ahead.