Thursday, April 28, 2011

Art for the Soul

It looks like at least one of the three skills I learn this year will be art-related, on account of the fact that I've sort of already started.

First off, you need to know that for most of my life I've considered myself to be one of the masses who "can't draw." About twenty years ago, I ran across a book called Drawing With Children by Mona Brooks. Since at that point I had young children I was attempting to homeschool, I read through the book, and decided after reading to use the method to teach my kids to draw.

I drew along with them.

I actually (gasp!) liked what I drew. I kept drawing.

Then Real Life hit in the form of a return to university, and I stopped drawing. Forgot that I could draw.

A month or two back, I decided to rejoin a group at church that I'd been briefly part of some fifteen years ago (also before university) called "Art for the Soul." When I was first part of the group, it was a dedicated watercolour painting group. Let me tell you, I don't get along with watercolours. Not for me the washed-out look, or paint that doesn't stay where I put it! But Art for the Soul had evolved, and they welcomed me and my pens and my markers (as long as I don't use the scented ones) with open arms.

So I'm drawing again, and finally accepting that a realistic style just isn't my thing any more than watercolours are. I still aspire to learn how to draw at least semi-realistic figures, but only as a stepping stone to better looking flat style drawings that I prefer to do.

Anyhow, I'm having a ball, and spending time outside of "class" actually doing "homework." I convinced my daughter and her friend to join the group as well, and last week I dragged along my son's boyfriend. Which means that in a few short weeks, I've doubled the size of the group.

We had a woman come in and do a workshop where we painted irises on slate. I bought two slates, one for myself to paint and one for whichever of the kids wanted it--Ally took it over. We used acrylics, which I enjoyed, but the woman was old school and if she didn't like what you did, it wasn't right. She also violated my sense of possession by actually taking the brush and messing up my work a couple of times.

I put up with it because I knew she was only there for the day, and she did teach me some things about painting, but if I had a teacher like this on a regular basis, I'd give up. If this woman's methods are indicitave of how art is taught in some schools, it's no wonder most people don't draw!

In the introduction to her second book, Drawing With Older Children & Teens, Brooks tells the story of a young woman named Noel, who was three when she started instruction at her preschool. She was shy and spoke no English, and for weeks she hid in her cubby. One day, however, she felt safe enough to join the class, and from there her drawing took off.

The change didn't just affect her drawing--once she felt confident being part of the class, she bagan to interact with the other kids at the daycare even when it wasn't drawing time.

At age seven, Noel returned to her native Japan, and in high school eagerly enrolled in drawing classes. But her American-trained teacher was of the same school as our workshop leader, and Noel's confidence quickly declined, to the point that she felt she really couldn't draw. Like me, she preferred "flat style" drawing, not the more realistic shaded drawing.

She came back to the States briefly at age 15, and talked to Brooks about the problem. Brooks showed her a picture of a horse, and asked if she liked it. Noel liked it, but thought her teacher would criticize it.

Brooks told her that the painting had been done by Picasso!

There is no one "right" way to draw, any more than there is a "right" style of music or writing. There is only art, and art is interpretation of what is seen and heard, not a photocopy.

This weekend I'm up to my armpits in culture--on Saturday, the orchestra I play in has a dress rehearsal and a concert, and on Sunday, our group is having an art exhibition at church. Hopefully someone will remember to bring a camera, and I'll have pics of some of the stuff I've done to post!

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