As a child, I was always interested in making art. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I wanted to be an artist from age five. Along the way, there were many challenges to realizing that aim. With this and future posts on the topic of “Learning how…” I will recount some of the challenges I faced and reflect on the outcomes.
For this first, a memory of learning to draw.
As I mentioned a few days ago, my father is an architect. He was usually very encouraging in my efforts to learn to draw. One Christmas, when I was seven or eight, I received a deluxe John Gnagy “Learn to Draw” kit from Santa.
It had so many shiny new tools and my first kneadable eraser, which was quite fascinating to me. I used the 64 page instruction book to guide my early “serious” experiences. I drew the requisite cubes, spheres and cones, shading them to create the illusion of three dimensions, and drawing their shadows on their supposed tabletop plane. Gnagy also had a well-known television program at the time, but I don’t remember watching it. http://tseymour.com/gnagy.html Once I became bored with the exercises in the book my father would set up still life subjects for me on the dining table. He’d place wine bottles, glasses, vases and artificial flowers in arrangements, and then show me how to approach the process.
Of all the subjects I attempted as a child, the most difficult, of course, was the human figure. I always struggled with the figure until I attended art school and had the advantage of life drawing courses. Of particular difficulty were hands and feet. I complained to my father about this. He smiled and said, “No problem. Until you learn to draw them, just draw your figures wearing gloves and standing in pails of water.”
So, this is what I did. It wasn’t too much later that I was visited in art class by the school’s counselor. (In those days, they didn’t call them School Psychologists.) Fearing some deeply felt disturbance in my young soul, she asked, “Tell me about these drawings? Is there some reason you draw your people wearing gloves and standing in buckets?” When I explained my inability to draw hands and feet and the advice of my father, she smiled… though I could tell she was stifling what would have been an off-the-chart burst of laughter.