"I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain." – The National

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A Plan B

Just over a year ago, I purchased Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards.  This book seems to be the “go-to” book for a self-study in learning to draw.  I completed some of the exercises and was encouraged by the results, but for a number of reasons, I put down the pencil, and shelved the book.   Many times I had thoughts of revisiting, but the idea of starting over seemed tedious, and the book remained firmly planted on its shelf.

Cut to Christmas Day, 2011.

My dear friend, who was visiting from Australia, contravened a mutually agreed upon “no gifts” policy, and gave me a gift.  She alleged that this was not actually a violation of the aforementioned agreement, as the gift had not been purchased. Rather it was “found” at a friend’s house. (I’m not certain this argument would hold up in court, but I let it slide, as given the scenario, I was unlikely to fare poorly.)

Having heard me regularly lament my frustrations regarding my inability to draw, and my desire to learn, and always supportive of opportunities for me to enrich my world, she had given me the “perfect gift.”

Save one minor detail.

I was delighted and touched by her thoughtful gift, yet in the same breath that I was thanking her for my new (used) copy of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” I was simultaneously confessing to already having one in my possession.

Now, I’m not sure of the appropriate social etiquette in such a situation, and maybe it is my steadfast commitment to honesty, or the knowledge that I literally have no poker face, (one friend has declared me to be the friend with whom he would least want to commit a crime,) or perhaps, it was the small fact that the offending book was sitting on a shelf, at sight-line, directly across from where she was about to enjoy her Christmas dinner, but I had felt compelled to come clean.

Unfortunately, my admission palpably deflated the enthusiasm of the moment and I was saddened, and a little embarrassed to have facilitated its collapse.

The gift would be returned to her friend.

However, later that evening, as I was filled with gratitude for having such a wonderful human being always in my corner, a woman who knows me so well, that she can identify the perfect gift, whose kindness and support are perfect gifts unto themselves, I realized that what I wanted was to keep the copy she had given me, because even though the contents were identical, the one from her was special and important…for the simple reason that it was from her.

She understood. (Of course, she did.)

Copies were swapped.

And my new copy had new life.  As it rested on my coffee table, and my desire to learn to draw became louder, and as I accepted that taking a class was not an immediate option, it begged to be reconsidered.  And as I leafed through its pages, suddenly starting over no longer seemed tedious, but exciting and full of possibility.

And so…I have found my next steps.

And I have a plan.

Operation “Learn to Draw”

If you’ll recall, “I have decided to learn to draw.” (cafetoque, February 15, 2012.)  A lofty declaration made.

Crap.  Now what?

Clearly, some strategy is warranted, and buying pointy new pencils and a shiny new sketchbook, and hoping for the best, is unlikely to achieve desired results.

But first of all, is this even a realistic goal? Is it possible to learn how to draw at thirty-nine and seven eighths? From all that I’ve heard, and read—in art instruction books, online forums, googling “Is it possible to learn to draw in your forties?” the answer appears to be a resounding “YES!”

By all accounts, (realistic) drawing seems to be a teachable skill.  And lucky for me, that means it’s learnable as well.


So, I’ll take a class. No problem.

Except art classes cost money, which I don’t have, and require energy, which I have in seriously short supply, as well as an ability to commit to a set time and duration, which is near impossible at present.  A minimum level of confidence is also necessary, and I’m not exactly oozing self-assuredness these days. Hmm…

I would love to take a class and perhaps, one day I will, but if I’m going to accept my situation as it is, and still learn to draw, it is clear what needs to be done.

I need a new plan.

To be continued.

Drawn to Drawing

I have always wanted to know how to draw.

Well…that is not entirely the truth.  When I was a kid, I knew how to draw. Without a doubt, at least in my estimation, all my creations were decisively fridge-worthy.  Not that I cared if any of my works were ever shown at the KAG (Kitchen Art Gallery).  I loved drawing for its own sake.  And colouring.  And painting.  And anything art related.

"fridge-worthy" - self-portrait, 1977

And then, somewhere along the way, I realized that what I was putting on paper didn’t bear much, if any, resemblance to what was actually in front of me.  This became a source of great frustration and a resulting downward shift in confidence, and I resigned myself to what logically had to be the truth: I simply wasn’t an Artist and therefore couldn’t and wouldn’t ever be able to draw.

Instead, I drew and re-drew the few learned images I deemed “good” at the time (so many cartoon bunnies, 3-dimensional hearts, and crying eyes), and stopped trying to draw anything else. Creating anything original wasn’t even remotely in the picture, (pardon the pun), and even though I continued to own sketchpads, coloured pencils, and paints, I never really knew what to do with them.

However, I always wanted to know.

There is an undeniable pull that I have always felt to art supplies and art stores. I experience a deep yearning as I wander the aisles and long to know what each item is used for and how to use it, or hold a beautiful crimson pastel in my hand and wonder what magic I need to know to make it do something creative, or at least “legitimate.”  There is also an incredible sense of possibility as I imagine the unlimited potential that is right there in front of me.

But I’ve never known where to start.

To this day, I feel excitement when I sit with a sketchbook, 2B at the ready and although it is usually pretty quickly replaced with a familiar sense of frustration and paralysis, as I stare blankly at a blank page, there have been rare moments of inspiration when I remember what it was like to be a kid, drawing for drawing’s sake, and simply enjoy the feel of  pencil on paper.

It is a feeling too good to ignore any longer.

Desire and Direction

I will be forty in less than two months.  I have struggled with my health for over eighteen years.  The past four have been particularly challenging and my ever-shrinking world feels suffocating.

Most of what I knew and how I defined myself has disappeared and I am left facing a very exposed and very naked version of myself and I am terrified that what is left is not enough.

The last four years have been spent singularly focused on trying to get well and “getting my life back.”  I’ve run out of next steps, money, and very nearly my faith that things can be different.  I wake up in the morning with a sinking heart, once again returned to a reality I can’t escape, and have no idea what to do with the day looming in front of me. Often, I am too ill to do what used to be the familiar, and the walls of my room resemble all too much the limitations I experience in my continued existence.  Something has to change.

I need a direction. I need to accept this life I am living.  And I need to find meaning.

So, I have decided to learn to draw.

I have NO IDEA how this all ties together, other than that the idea of learning to draw carries an excitement and pull that is a rare experience for me these days.  So, without any other discernible guideposts to follow at present, (and maybe some desperation), I am going to embrace this pull and see where it takes me.