Sunday, April 25, 2010

another unmarketable skill discovered

I'm taking a drawing class, and it's not easy. The catalogue makes the class sound simple: "Everyone can draw! Get in touch with your natural ability!", but at the first class, the instructor solemnly instructed us to look around, because a lot of us were going to drop out and few would struggle through the whole course. (I've heard that is often said to first year law students, but not at my alma mater. There was an epidemic of suicides during my time there, but no one just dropped out. If you didn't kill yourself, you graduated).

Last Friday at drawing class, first we had to draw a mangy old trumpet for an hour (I drew it twice, and then took out a New Yorker and silently read. The woman next to me gamely sketched that trumpet for a solid hour, and even then she wasn't done). Then we had a difficult exercise that we were told would drive us all crazy: we had to turn our bodies away from our paper, angling our arm behind us to touch the paper, and we had to stare at our left hands and draw it, with a Sharpie, without looking once at our paper. We were supposed to do this slowly, but most people ripped through it in a minute or less. I took a bit over two minutes. Then we looked at our pictures. Most were unrecognizable, a cacophony of lines which resembled nothing. Mine was a hand. A big, jerky hand, but a hand nevertheless, with fingernails, rings and scars.

We did something we often do: we had to display our drawing and walk around the room, looking at everyone's picture. Mine was freakishly better, hugely better, than all the rest. "Carole must have done this exercise before," our instructor said. "Many times before."

"She looked!" accused another student. "She was looking!"

"I did not, and I've never done this before," I said firmly.

We went back to our seats and did the exercise again. This time the instructor took up a new position, straight across the room from me, and I think she was trying to see if I were cheating. Once again my hand was a hand, with proportionate fingers and fingernails and thumb and knuckles, even better than the first hand, and once again everyone else's was jumbled and crazy.

However, we went on to draw kitchen utensils this way, and I lost my mojo altogether. My spatula was a mangled mess, unrecognizable. But for a shining five minutes there, I was an art prodigy, envied by some and attacked by others who could not imagine my gift was real. The hand drawings have gone into the recycling, and the glory has passed.


hughman said...

wow, this really takes me back to when i went to art school. however even art students wouldn't accuse another student of "cheating" at drawing. the very idea is pretty ludicrous since you can't memorize how to draw and i assume the exercise was about releasing your instinct to think rather than about getting a perfect drawing. i can draw very well and it would amuse me when other students would want to sit next to me, as if they could crib off my work. i feel it's really something you "get" or you don't, like having a good singing voice. god knows i love music but can't sing worth shit.

2amsomewhere said...

Maybe it's a signal of deeper self awareness? I dunno.


Anonymous said...

Okay, do yourself a huge life changing favor and take figure drawing with Sharon Pearson at City College in SF.

First of all. It's dirt cheap and lots of parking and you don't have to stand in some dumb line to get in.

Secondly, Sharon Pearson will rock your world. She's an incredible drawing teacher and she changed the way i approach ALL of my art, especially my writing. In fact, the lessons that she taught us on "seeing the gesture" changed the way i relate to the world in every day life. She's extraordinary and she' LIKES teaching at City College. she teaches at a bunch of other places, but she always comes back to city college.

Thirdly, you get live models, that's WAY better than some old trumpet. You can draw a trumpet any old time, but learning to 'unsee" all the symbolism that we associate with the human form and really SEE it for what it is, is a major break-through.

People take this class over and over again. She has devotees. She won't make you feel discouraged. But, you will learn to draw.

I've taken this class a number of times and if I was in SF still, I'd still be taking it. She's one of those "best kept secrets" like the way the coyote point zoo pass got you into everything for free. She's like that.

Kim Porter

Dread Pirate Davi said...

How old was this woman?? "She cheated!" Really?? I mean, REALLY????

Class sounds like fun, though.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Kim, thanks for the tip! My same drawing teacher actually does life drawing as well, and I went to one yesterday for the first time. The class I'm in is our entry into the drawing world at this studio, and from there we move on to life drawing or "plein air" landscapes or watercolors, etc..

I didn't know you did those life classes. It sucks that you did that here in SF, and now you have moved away and I'm doing it. We could have done it together.