Sketching and drawing is something I have done on and off for years—but mostly off. Oh, I have been full of good intentions. My ‘second bedroom/office/spare-room’ is jam-packed with drawers full of sketch pads, coloured pencils, water-colour pencils, pastel-pencils, pens, charcoals, paints, inks, and paintbrushes of every size and shape imaginable. You name it—I have it. Most of it in ‘mint’ condition.
I also have stacks of beautiful ‘arty’ books. Books on ‘How To‘. How to paint water colour flowers, how to draw dogs, how to make stained glass windows, how to make your own jewellery, how to use pastels / paints / charcoal . . . Some of these books have barely been opened.
Every now and again I go into that room and start to wade through all the arty paraphernalia and I come over all excited about getting ‘creative’ again. ‘I must have a go a that . . . oh wow, I’d forgotten that, that’s cool. . . ‘ And I’ll decide to start, and get everything out that I need and organise it all (because it really needs to be organised)—and then I’ll sit and look at it for a while . . . and a while longer . . . and then I’ll think ‘Maybe I should just go and do that bit of hoovering before I forget’ . . . or ‘perhaps I’ll just clear away the weeds in that back corner of the garden’ . . . or ‘I might just go and make a cup of tea before I start’ . . . and before I know it everything is back in its box again and several months will have gone by and I won’t even have looked in that room again. Sigh.
Of course, getting started is always the hardest part. I mean really getting started—not just getting the stuff out and arranging it all neatly on the desk. In that respect it’s the same as writing—it’s all about getting that first line down (pen hovering tremulously over that lovely clean white page . . . )
But this time I have given myself a bit of a head start. I have company. I enrolled in an on-line class through a fabulous site (Sketchbook Skool) I came across, quite by accident when I was looking for something completely different (don’t you just love when that happens?) The ‘Skool’ is run by Danny Gregory and it looked like a really fun place to play so, on a whim, I enrolled in the six-week ‘Beginning’ class.
The first week of the course was all introductory. Introducing us to the artists and teachers and the other students on the course. The artists shared their own work with us and told us what ‘sketchbooking’ was all about, what materials we needed, what to buy and what not to buy etc. (‘what-not-to-buy’—who am I kidding?—just another reason to go out shopping as far as I am concerned, even though I already had everything I needed to start.)
Weeks 2 and 3 were all about ‘outdoor sketching’. It was lovely to watch the videos of the artists/teachers ‘doing their thing’. Sketching in a park in Holland. Or along the banks of the river in Goa, India. And they made it look so easy. (That should have been my first warning.)
My ‘homework’ was to take myself and my sketchbook outdoors and spend some time drawing whatever took my fancy. Really? I suppose I should have guessed this was coming but I am not a very ‘outdoorsy’ person. (My idea of spending time out of doors is sitting in an alfresco coffee shop, hopefully under an umbrella.) But I signed up for this with the full intention of giving it a proper go, so okay then. I packed up my little bag, with my sketchbook and pen and travel pack of watercolours, put my sunnies and hat on (not forgetting to slather myself in sunscreen and bug spray), and wandered over to the park (which is only at the bottom of my street, so it isn’t as if I had a long way to go).
Long story short—total crap out. First I couldn’t find anything I wanted (or thought I could) draw. Then, when I finally found a spot, I realised it would have been handy to actually have brought my specs with me. Up until now I have only ever used my glasses for computer work or reading, but although I could see what I was wanting to draw perfectly well—the page I was drawing on, not so much. Mmmm.
And it was so hot. My sunnies kept sliding off my nose, which gave me the irrits. And the sun was supernova-bright so I found myself squinting so hard I gave myself a headache in no time at all. And people kept stopping to chat to me. Normally I would be quite happy about that, but I was already proper-grumpy, and I wasn’t getting any drawing done, as it also appears I can’t draw and chat at the same time (not yet anyway). Mutter. Mutter. %^*$#. Eventually I just gave up and went home—all hot and bothered and in a huff.
(That same week several American students also had ‘outdoor’ issues, but for entirely different reasons—they couldn’t leave their homes at all because of blizzard conditions . . . and there was me, bitching about the sun shining . . .)
But I persevered with the course. The next week we had classes on using mixed media in our sketchbooks which was a lot of fun (and, in my case, very messy).
Week 5 was about drawing animals. ‘Beauty’, I thought. I’d always fancied being able to draw my dogs. The artist leading this class Roz Stendahl, is a graphic designer and illustrator, as well as a teacher. Because most animals are constantly on the move and not inclined to sit and ‘pose’ for long periods of time, Roz suggested we go to our local ‘natural history museum’ to practice drawing stuffed and displayed animals before we started trying to draw live animals. This would have been great except that I think the nearest natural history museum is probably about 500kms from where I live . . .
Failing that, she said, practise drawing your sleeping pets. Sleeping pets—yes—I can do that. My girls can always to be found sleeping somewhere about the house. It’s a well-loved pastime. So I waited until we were all calm and tired after our walk, and the girls were all snoring happily in their favourite spots around the living room, and I very carefully (no sudden movements) sat in my comfy chair with my pen and pad at the ready, looked up and—there they all were—all three of them, wide awake and lined up in front of me—’ Watcha doing, mum?’ Seriously?
And all too soon it was the last week of the course, but, for me, it was the best week yet. The artist/teacher was Tommy Kane and the whole week was about ‘slowing down’. Spending 3 hours on a sketch instead of 15 minutes. Really noticing what you were drawing. It was all about the detail. And I loved it. This was much more my style, slow and steady. And homework this week was to spend at least 3-4 hours sketching my kitchen. (Yay—coffee at my elbow, fridge close by, air conditioner on . . . ) I could have spent all day drawing my kitchen. In fact, I think I did.
So the last six weeks have gone by in a flash and this course is finished—but it’s not all over. I’ve enrolled in the next one (‘Stretching’) which starts tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to what I will learn next. Because In the last six weeks I’ve learned a lot. Not just about drawing and sketching, but about myself too.
That in itself was worth the price of the course . . .