“What we often call art or see as magic usually hides a debilitating amount of work.”
I’ll never forget the day I attended my first drawing class. I know it sounds like I am about to relate a death scene but I can’t help it. I’ve always wanted to learn how to draw but somehow never got around to it. In retrospect considering how long it took me to actually set foot in an actual art class I am forced to recognize that maybe I just wanted to indefinitely entertain the idea of drawing. Nevertheless the day of the class I was so excited I could hardly wait to leave work. In fact I spent so many hours daydreaming about it I actually forgot to buy art supply and had to borrow a sheet of paper from a couple of lovely classmates. I could already picture my drawings leisurely hanging on every wall of our little home with friends and family deeply impressed and throwing around sentences like “Oh my God, you did that? You are so talented” with me trying really hard to fake that deep layer of intelligent detachment usually required from famous show dogs. Sadly those happy dreams were to be savagely crushed. I was the first one to arrive and found a stern-looking little lady arranging class materials. I prayed to God she was just a very helpful student and not the actual art teacher I’ve fantasized about about the entire time.
“The art teacher looked more like a retired math teacher from the 50’s.”
You see I was either expecting this:
Prayer unanswered. The art teacher looked more like a retired math teacher from the 50’s.
“…She asked us to draw a second shoe…. I ended up drawing something that couldn’t possibly come out of a healthy human mind…”
Moving on to the actual setting. The classroom was located at the very end of an extremely long and impersonal corridor. This corridor was so bleak it could easily qualify as a star feature in a big-budget horror movie. I was clearly not expecting pictures of grand masters hanging down the walls but a couple of students artwork could have added some much-needed appeal. The classroom itself was a very large and cold-looking room with class materials heavily piled up in a remote corner. There were big windows but a tall and dull building was blocking the view. A large and square table sat in the middle of the room like a sacrificial stone in a dark dungeon.
More details on the teacher. There was no whimsy, no magic at all in the way she dressed. I mean you’re an artist for God sake! Do something out of the ordinary even if it is just wearing your clothes inside out! Her look and matter-of-fact behavior was a giant slap to my tortured artist spirit. If you’re short of ideas at the very least throw a can of paint on your shirt, forget to wash it and wear it the next day. I was open to the possibilities of meeting a free spirit but what I had in front of me did not in any shape or form represent my idea of what an art teacher should look like.
“I blame those movies featuring stylishly starving artists lugging around big portfolios that look like they’re smuggling giant pita breads.”
She took the magic out of the entire thing. I felt slightly rushed. I mean I thought we were going to do some theory first like talking about the grand masters and possibly crack the mystery behind Mona Lisa smile but sadly that was not to be. She reviewed the class material and put us to work right away. Isn’t art supposed to be magic or something? Or maybe the magic only happens after years of practice. But then again isn’t it always like this in real life? What we often call art or see as magic usually hides a debilitating amount of work.
As practice, she asked us to pick a shoe from a giant shoe pile and try to draw it. I somehow ended up with a drawing of the magic school bus. She asked us to draw a second shoe. This time around, setting all dignity of manners aside I rushed to the shoe pile and literally jumped on what to me looked like the simplest shoe style of all time. A classic pair of kitten heel pump. I still ended up drawing something that couldn’t possibly come out of a healthy human mind. And yet, each time, she would take a long look and say the same words “keep going, you’re close”. I must admit a couple of family member did try to warn me but I didn’t listen. I hyped myself up by thinking I was naturally talented. I was looking for shortcuts and found none. The advice people offered seemed so simplistic that I chose to ignore it.
In the end, I was forced to realize there were great discrepancies between my idea of what an art class should be versus the real thing. By the end of the class she said something that profoundly resonated with me. In essence she told us that ‘As in any creative process, when drawing an object there is always a choice even if purely unconscious made by the artist on how to best render the said object based on what the artist is trying to say”. I guess that’s what makes art so subjective. It is always a reflection of oneself. Even when we choose to render our deepest emotions, we still feel the need to put some kind of order into the chaos. The very fact of picking up pen and paper automatically forces one to streamline the process. Although you won’t see me exposing my chef-d’oeuvre in any gallery any time soon I am happy to report I did manage to learn something…after all….:)
Don’t be shy dear readers and do share your budding or tortured artist experience:)