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Drawing Conclusions About Art.



I have always been an artist (a dancer and a writer in a formal sense.) Creativity has always come second nature to me. I’ve explored (and in many cases was fairly good at) fiber arts, sewing, crafting, cooking, and other forms or artistic expression…. My idea of fun as a kid was to tat (make lace from scratch), do embroidery, calligraphy, crochet, or make handmade placemats or picture frames. I’ve made jewelry, wine, and taken all sorts of pottery, folk craft or handcraft classes just to toy with different mediums. I dress with a touch of creativity too (much to my conservative mother’s dread.)  I’ve also been uniquely creative in regards to thinking outside of the box when building a business. My marketing, program design and the way I live life in general often veers off the traditional path. Yep, I’ve always been a creative sort of person. 




I think becoming an artist is a little like exercising any muscle. The more you use your creativity, the more fine-tuned it gets and the easier it is to tap into your personal voice and trust your instincts for original choices and actions.

But I have always shied away from the visual arts (painting or drawing) because I felt I didn’t have “the knack”. My mother was the painter. Others I know just seemed more able than I when it came to anything that involved a paintbrush or pencil.  I could barely draw a stick figure.  Until David pointed out to me that the reason I couldn’t draw was simply because no one ever taught me the basics of perspective or how to handle a pencil or paint, I thwarted myself by a limiting self-definition – I was not THAT kind of artist – the kind who could make a recognizable rendition of a tangible thing on paper. 



The truth is, art is a universal calling, and most artistic venues are not that difficult to master – all you need is a bit of training. Creativity is what makes a person “an artist” once basic techniques have given you tools to express yourself with. I’ve have enough life experience to recognize that I have creativity by the bucketful. So, deductive reasoning tells me that my relationship with art can and should include visual arts if I feel so inclined. Everyone can draw. It is a matter of learning how, and then practice, practice, practice. In that way, visual art is the same as dance or writing. For some, true skill comes easier than it does for others, but in the end, the unfolding of talent takes time, patience, faith, commitment and putting in practice time.



I’ve thought a lot about art lately – how and why I’ve avoided stepping beyond my chosen fields of expertise to explore other art forms sans embarrassment or feeling I need to make excuses for my lack of talent. I’ve done some reflection on what’s transpired throughout my life to convince me I wasn’t a true “artist” in any area other than writing or dance and why I felt too ashamed or inadequate to ever try my hand at visual arts.




I recently asked Neva if she wanted to take an art course with me. She balked and said, “No way. I suck at drawing. I could never be good even if I try, so I’ll pass.” I recognized her attitude and immediately set to change her limiting belief. Curbing potential is not an uncommon occurrence, because people tend to assume a “real” artist can just pick up a pen one day and sketch out amazing images. Dancers can’t do that. Writers can’t either. Why should we believe talent will flow out of untrained fingers in the case of drawing? Silly assumption, really. But I couldn’t convince her to push ego aside and just explore her limitless possibilities. Not yet, at least.



Meeting David has helped me reframe my attitude about art. He is a pragmatic, brilliant engineer, and yet he is an artist too. He writes, creates with wood, welding and other materials. He invents. He also plays guitar. Draws. Cooks.…. His diversity and competence in so many areas has made me redefine what being “an artist” is.  Honestly, I don’t think an artist is someone who makes a living at art so much as someone who makes all of life a work of art. At least, that is the kind of artist I long to be.

Reading the book “The Artist’s Way” opened my eyes to why my confidence has been curtailed in regards to visual art endeavors and why I’ve chosen to bury my inclinations to explore art on the page. The book had been on our family shelves for years, a favorite of my ex, and yet he never suggested I read it or apply the wisdom therein to ME. I had to discover this book on my own, and in reading it, recognize that the artist’s path isn’t just for those self-proclaimed artists who are in love with the romance of the title and feel it is  their calling to create while the rest of us are merely on earth to be the audience or to support them while they do the important job of expressing themselves – No, the artist’s path is for everyone who lives and breathes and has ideas or emotions to express.

 Anyway, back to why I want to learn to draw….. I’ve been exploring poetry and journaling in a serious way ever since graduating from Lesley with my MFA in fiction. Exploring one thing often leads to another, and fiction soon gave way to creative non-fiction projects (most especially, my 92k memoir), then journaling, then playing around with an art journal with rudimentary efforts to create with paper, pen and collage. (I was so fascinated with this path to self understanding that I sent books and supplies for art journaling to my daughters, though I don’t think they were much inspired to use them.) I started adding the overall concept of art journaling to my traditional journaling seminars, leaving a mild suggestion for students to play with the form – I even put together a personal journal that is part writing, part scrapbook, and part doodling to express what the essay form of journaling could not. I started collecting things, like fortune cookie fortunes or ticket stubs, to work into art pages in my journal. I now have a huge collection of pastels, watercolor pencils and traditional watercolor paints, pens, markers, glues and other materials to work with. I even have a Spirograph and calligraphy pens and I’ve been toying with zentangle techniques, making mandalas and exploring meditation forms of design art. This month, I’m wandering into mapping – exploring map of consciousness- a techique that is part writing and part art. A map can be representative of a person’s personal journey in a single endeavor or life in general… I’ve got some fascinating books on the subject.

Since I am deeply in love with nature, art journaling soon led to an interest in nature journaling. I began studying this form of capturing ideas and feelings too, at least from an academic standpoint, and I now have an entire library of art and nature journaling books that I continue to browse  –I add them to my retreat offerings to encourage others to take a pencil and a journal out when hiking, encouraging students to pause. See. Record.  I harbor this crazy dream of teaching nature journaling along with my other yoga oriented courses someday. If only I could draw……

The problem is, I’m still frustrated by my amateur attempts to draw – and that makes me embarrassed to share my art journal with others. I’m still a closet artist.

Anyway, I have been burning the candle at both ends for the last two years, driving my business in a concentrated effort to get my life stable and on track again, and this summer, thanks to a fantastic enrollment in my intensive yoga teacher’s training course, I’m able to step back and take some time for me-  at least a few days a week– As such, I am spending this summer teaching a demanding immersion yoga course on Friday through Sunday, but during the week, I’ve kept my schedule light so I can take the time to reboot the engine and restore my creative juices, so to speak.  


So, knowing I’d have a little bit of much needed free time, I enrolled in a basic drawing course at the nearby technical college. I was intimidated at the thought of drawing in public (God forbid an entire class of people would witness my amateur attempt to draw a stick figure), but I decided to face my fear and just go for it.



On the first day, the students introduced themselves and explained why they enrolled. Two girls are young students hoping to prepare a portfolio to get into fashion school. Two women are watercolor artists wanting to enhance their drawing skills. One fella is retired and simply wants to try something new. I explained that I wanted to be skilled enough to draw nature (plants, birds, etc) for the purpose of journaling. The teacher, a highly skilled artist with a masters from Ringling (he is primarily a sculptor with pieces in several galleries and museums and he is filming a 6 episode art class for PBS next month) explained that this course would not teach me how to draw realistic images from nature because that involves a different way of “seeing”. But it would teach me the basics of how to handle led and charcoal and I’d learn perspective and shading and all the basic elements of drawing as a foundation for future courses. I wasn’t disappointed.  I am enough of a visual art newbie to know this is exactly where I should start. I need to learn how to hold a pencil and draw a circle. Walk before you can run, ya know….



So this summer, every Monday, I take a 3 ½ hour drawing class. The rest of the week, (when I’m not working I practice and read about drawing techniques.) So far, I have learned about the tools of drawing and how to handle different erasers, tape, and sandpaper. I’ve been taught how to shave my pencil with a knife because sharpeners don’t do the job to the precise detail required. I’ve learned to draw a cube and a sphere (a near perfect free-hand circle!) and discovered how to look at an object objectively to shade appropriately to create depth.  

 I’ve learned the properties of different kinds of pencils – I’ve done charts to explore the possibilities of dark and light with H and B pencils in every number, and studied how this affects the tone and color of what I draw. I’ve learned cross hatching verses other styles of shading and how the surface of paper reacts to led, hand pressure, etc….

I’ve learned all this from only two classes and I have 6 more to go (and then I’ll sign up for a more advanced or different sort of drawing class to progress towards nature drawing, I’m thinking.) David and I are also planning on enrolling in the next watercolor class together. I took a watercolor class in Georgia once. Looking at the picture I created now, I realize it has merit… at the time, all I saw was everything the picture wasn’t. It wasn’t advanced or amazing, so I naturally assumed I wasn’t going to be good at watercolors and I moved on to other interests. I should have seen my initial effort as just what it was – the peliminary stage of a new skill that would unfold if I encouraged it to do so… I should have kept at it just for fun.
  
Anyway, I am now studying drawing. I may never be a Rembrandt, but I am on a new adventure, expanding my horizons and tackling my fear of formal art. If nothing else, I should be able to pick up a pencil and do rudimentary drawings in journals when I’m done– and that will be give me the confidence to keep at this new approach to putting thoughts on paper. And knowing me, it will only be a matter of time until I’ll be teaching this subject as an add on to my writing classes or retreats.



All I know is I love exploring not just how to do something new, but also recognizing how doing so affects me on personal levels. In observing my emotions and reactions to this process. I recognize and acknowledge the doubts that twinge my ego, learn my triggers and struggle with old memories that have left a resonance of sadness, frustration or lingering hope inside. I better understand how I handle challenges and breakthroughs (in art and life). This sheds light on my personality, an awareness that crosses over and helps me approach the other areas of life more insightfully. 

I am learning the basics of drawing. In doing so, I am exploring what makes me tick and why.  As a person, I am so much more than a simple stick figure. Perhaps soon, the images I transfer to the page will be more too.


 
(First class – my globe. Not exactly as inspirational as a male nude model, but it’s a start…..)



 

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

4 responses »

  1. Nuvoryn

    A computer starts somewhere. It starts with a bios and a CPU and a motherboard ect… When we code that computer to pump out a random number, what makes it pick the number it picks? Exactly the same computer sits beside it’s identical and they both pick different 1st random numbers. Is the Bios fed a seed during construction and every new bios gets a different seed? Those of us that have worked with random numbers know what a seed is. So why does my computer give a number between 100 and 1000 as 756, but yours gives, 537? Is that not a form of intelligence beyond that of artificial? We gave the computer the ability to give random numbers, but what makes it give or pick that random number when in reality it has no ‘will’ to decide. Why 3 and not 4, when it favours nothing? Even with a seed, what makes it choose 5 with this seed but 7 with that seed? Where in the ruels of life does it say that, with this seed equaling 756395837 in that computer, 1st random # will be this?.

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  2. click here

    Delighted in studying this, great things, value it. “A guy might learn knowledge even from an adversary.” by Aristophanes.

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