Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Facing down a fear

Recently I decided to tackle one of my demons head on.  I went to New York for a drawing course that lasted all day for five days.

Previously, my drawing ability had been close to, or maybe less than, zero.  In the 1960s, when my grade school teacher saw that I was unable to stay within the lines while coloring, she gently recommended that I focus on reading and writing rather than pursue art.  A couple decades later, a former girlfriend used to roll in the aisles when I tried to play Pictionary (a game that requires you to "draw" clues).

To make matters worse, my older brother and uncle are excellent artists who can conjure beautifully rendered objects seemingly from thin air.

Some friends encouraged me to take a weekly 2-hour class at a local art school or gallery.  But I knew that I would not stick with that.  So I signed up for a sort of voluntary incarceration with Brian Bomseiler.  It was very difficult mentally and emotionally for many of us in the class.  Brian said one day when we were struggling with drawing faces: "Now you understand why van Gogh cut off one of his ears!"

I am happy to report that, in the end, we all made huge progress.  Brian taught us some straightforward but effective techniques.  More powerfully, I think, was learning to see differently - especially shadows and light and texture.  That new way of seeing has broad implications in life, I expect.

I would never in a million years normally do the following.  But fully vanquishing my fear of drawing (and of my grade school teacher) requires me to put two ofmy drawings out there.  The first is my "before" self-portrait, done on the first day.  The second is my "after" drawing from Day 5.

Day 1

Day 5

I am in no danger of being asked to exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery any time soon.  But I am happy with my progress nonetheless.  (You can see other students' progress here.)