Saturday, August 04, 2012


Well, today I did something unusual. I have said that the art course I'm studying is very specific. You do one thing at a time, you master one technique before you move on to the next. It's like math. You simply can't start with Trig.

But I was just feeling so cheery today, that I cast all hesitation aside and bought pastels. Two sets.

Now I'm feeling a bit glum and anxious about it. The usual worries are flooding in.

As I wrote to a friend this evening,
"If you have studied art in a serious way, you will of course know that there is a huge pile of stuff to be learned long before you get anywhere near a set of paints. All this business of contour, value, perspective, line, gesture,'s all very complicated. Amazing, really, to learn in such detail and depth just how much goes into the common human act of seeing a thing and interpreting it visually. The progression of the classical drawing and painting course is extremely systematic. Andrea tells me that people call her all the time demanding to be taught to paint without learning to draw, then get mad at her when they find they can't be as good at it as they want to be. She seems pleased with me as a student because I am very insistent about mastering each thing one step at a time and flatly refuse to jump ahead. In fact, I've deliberately avoided reading things about colour, and even have avoided YouTube videos about colour theory.

But today, I just felt so good, and I was looking to blow a little bit of money in the art supply store and the colours were so pretty, I couldn't resist. I've also got a packet of watercolour pencils, four tubes of acrylic paint (sssshhh, never say the A-word around Andrea!) and a set of Windsor and Newton drawing inks. Of course, I have no idea whatever how to use any of it, and colour still intimidates the heck out of me, but I thought it would be fun to fool about with it. Maybe try copying something.

It's a big move. Maybe as big as the jump from copying from the flats to drawing from life. Maybe bigger. But when I switched officially in class from pencil to charcoal, I had already been experimenting at home with the technique. Of course, I sucked at it, but I think it was worthwhile to be bad at it for a while and not to worry about it too much. It helped when the time came to receive actual instruction. At least by the time I started instruction with charcoal I understood what the problems were, which when you're learning something completely new is half the battle.

I remember how terrified I was when Andrea first told me to come to a figure class. And I really was awful the first time. After that, I got it, and realised that if you are having every conceivable problem thrown at you in the first three hours, you are at least getting all the major problems out into the open, and identifying how to tackle them, straight off the bat. And sure enough, after the first figure class, I had the hang of it and shot forward. I still think I'm terribly slow, but this seems to please Andrea even more since she says she is always trying to get her students to slow down and take more care..."

Remembering the lessons I learned from Grandma, I think I'll start tomorrow with an apple. Or maybe an onion.

Something that is going to become important to me, I think, is depicting happiness. I don't want to be foolishly pollyana, but there's so much pain in the world, and so many of us are steeped in worry and depression that it's only too easy to forget that we were created for joy. Not always in this life, but sometimes, surely.

What you can do with pastels


No comments: