Sometimes I get an urge to draw or scribble with my colored pencils. I’m not good at it, but I don’t let that stop me. The act of drawing makes me feel better. I get absorbed in what I’m doing and forget about everything else.
Back in the late 90s, I decided I was going to teach myself how to draw. I bought a sketch book and a book about drawing. I practiced drawing squares and circles. I drew various objects around my house. I tried to draw one of my daughter’s cats, but it looked like a cartoon!
A couple of years ago, a friend and high school classmate of mine told me he was going to teach me how to draw. I don’t remember what got us started on that, but it might have been in response to my post Artist in Residence that I wrote about my mother on my family history/genealogy blog. I was bemoaning the fact that I can’t paint or draw like my mother can, but I always wanted to.
I was still living in Alaska at the time, and my friend was over 5,000 miles away in north Georgia. He told me that one of his art teachers once said that anyone can learn to draw, and he wanted to see if he could teach me long distance.
I didn’t really want to do it. I told him it would just be one more thing that would make me feel inadequate. But the desire to learn was strong.
He asked me to draw coffee cups, one cup per page, and label them “Experiment 1, Experiment 2” and so on. No erasing.
I scanned my drawings at a high resolution and emailed each one to him as I finished. I was so embarrassed at my feeble attempts. I cringed when I hit “send” on each email. He was very encouraging with each of my drawings and offered advice on making improvements.
I only drew three cups and stopped. I let life get in the way of my practice. Then I got busy getting ready to move back to south Georgia. Time passed by.
A few weeks ago, my friend was in town. He called me up and said bring some paper and a pencil and meet him for coffee. He told me we’re having an art lesson in person.
I’m a visual type. I need to see how something is done. I watched him draw his coffee cup. He showed me how to draw light reflections and how to shade. He made it look so easy. Then he handed me the paper and pencil and said to draw my water glass. My biggest problem is perspective. My water glass, like my coffee cups, looked like it had a ball sitting on top for the opening. The way I shaded the ice made it look like, well, like Baby Ruth candy bars floating in the glass. If you’ve seen the pool scene in the movie Caddyshack, you know what I’m talking about.
A few days later, I made another attempt at drawing a coffee cup. That’s it over on the left. I kept referring back to his drawing, and I did a lot of erasing. I think I’m much improved! (You’ll have to take my word for it since I haven’t shown the earlier attempts.) I haven’t yet sent this latest drawing to my friend. I was a bit afraid to even show it to my mother, but when she saw it she said, “That’s pretty good!” High praise coming from her.
Drawing coffee cups taught me another lesson. I can’t expect to get better at something if I don’t practice. And I need to make the time to practice. The same holds true for writing or anything else I want to learn how to do.