Charcoal Willow Drawing Stix
Learning to draw
I quietly began my drawing lessons a month and a half ago, with Paul Blankinship. Paul was highly recommended as one of the best teachers of drawing. No pretenses, no claims of wizardry, but an impeccably clean studio, organized lesson plans, professional knowledge and his success in the art community, says it all. Paul had reviewed my website prior to our first meeting, and gave me the kindest encouragement ever…”I can see you are creative and imaginative and drawing will enhance your collage…” He was kind!
I’ve been so fascinated, motivated and inspired that my 2-hour lesson is over in a blink. Surrounded by Paul’s beautiful art (and did I mention his well-organized and CLEAN studio?), I arrive with anticipation but…without any expected outcomes. This is very difficult for me – a career high achiever (THROUGH HARD WORK, mind you I’ve never called myself, nor has anyone else referred to me as…gifted) my entire life and fiercely competitive. The older I get, the wiser I become and exploring humility has been a journey in and of itself.
During my lessons, I’ve never felt I was being ‘bridled’ to learn something for the sake of learning, instead, confident I’m learning what I need to know in order to enjoy drawing. And I enjoy it very much.
Value and the Egg went for a walk one day….
Even before I get to the life metaphor that drawing speaks, I am fascinated by the muscle training required. Scribbling like a kindergartner with an over-sized crayon maybe have been a predictable start, but drawing is, well (pardon my over-simplification…an art). I am feeling the object of drawing is not only to show what one is trying to portray, but also to show the artist–me. My first lesson was to understand values, something I avoided like a friend with a cold. I was surprised how enjoyable it was to make my little value sample under Paul’s clear and patient instruction.
Made with two sticks of charcoal – soft & hard and soapstone on gray paper
My next lesson was a ‘subject’ — a simple wooden egg on a table with a glaring light to the left and a bit above. Starting each lesson with a mini-lecture, this one on shadow and light, I couldn’t wait to get started. I loved the science of it.
My yoga came into play immediately as I arranged my stool comfortably, weight distributed evenly across sitting bones, smooth, calm breath, drawing board balanced on my lap, sitting with aligned spine (Paul so patient with my fidgeting approach). Using charcoal – I’ve never used it to draw before – I outlined the shape of the egg. I can’t begin to share my learning outcomes over the course of 5+ hours on this simple object. Each time I sat down it felt fresh as I was taught to see something I hadn’t before. It reminded me of my hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I have some favorite trails and each time, each day, each season, I see something new and different. Drawing’s like that.
Left: Charcoal; Right: Walnut ink with charcoal, feathers, bamboo pen, brushes
Back to the egg….drawing the egg again, using my charcoal drawing for reference and the actual egg in front of me – this time using several different materials: Feathers! A bamboo pen I made myself! Charcoal, washes, walnut inks. If I had more time, I’d show you the bamboo pen I made…perhaps next time? I’ve already been to the hardware store for bamboo tomato stakes to make some more pens.
Drawing becomes a metaphor for me, the artist
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
The more clearly I perceive something and draw what I see, the more clearly the viewer can see me. And….the more I draw, the more I know about myself. I’ve heard it said before: Drawing becomes a metaphor for the artist.
Adding my darker lines popped my subject and laid bare all the inaccuracies of what my eyes missed, allowing me to return to really ‘seeing’ my subject.
Background and foregrounds: Wow. Again, using both (so powerful) to define and clarify the subject.
I have no fear, I am learning
There are plenty of things to fear (politicians, people with negative attitudes, being pushed off a mountain top, developing a taste for red meat), but I have no fear when learning something new. Learning to draw, I erase, laugh, roll my eyes, smile, beam and leave my lesson with so much energy and inspiration, it cannot be contained. I’ve never walked away from a drawing lesson, stressed – although the time I dropped Paul’s ‘favorite’ charcoal stick and broke it into a million little pieces was slightly heart-revving), defeated or angry. I am confident I can learn to draw or at least learn to enjoy drawing! I never want to be the person who pretends they know everything (please don’t tell me if I happen to BE that person, o.k.?). I want to become a repository for learning something new each day. I want to know a lot about many things and not just a few. I am confident I will be supported in my own style and that I’ll gravitate towards something and leave something else behind. I am confident I’ll try it all and am grateful to be able to share it with this lovely, inspirational and supportive blogging community. Until next time, my loves….