Lessons from a Drawing Class

Are you any good at drawing?  I, for one, am not.  I doodle a bit and once did what I thought was a reasonable sketch of our pet dog Toby.  A sketch which I never thought at the time would have such meaning for me and also go on to help illustrate so many life lessons.

I think it is fair to say I’m no artist, however the experience of producing the sketch, all that time ago, has remained as real in my mind as the actual drawing. It was a quiet evening and he was snoozing next to me on the sofa as I wrote away in my notebook.  I remember looking at him and being quite taken by the shape of his nose.  It started as a doodle which just grew and grew.  The more I studied him the more engrossed I became in capturing his relaxed state and his wiry dark hair.  The actual picture isn’t so important to me now – and it certainly wouldn’t win any prizes – but the process of producing it is a very precious gift of shared time, which now encapsulates many happy memories.

Sometimes joy is to be found in the process of creativity rather than the outcome

Having said all of that, the sense of achievement that I had actually produced something that looked akin to a dog has never really left me.  And so I found myself on Wednesday in a classroom standing nervously in front of an easel. I’d drawn a dog once, badly, and clearly it was now a natural progression to sign up for an introduction to drawing course.  What had I been thinking!  No turning back – the box of charcoal was on its way towards me.

There are so many things I could share with you from that class; the reminder of how well we learn when we’re having fun; how much we can gain by being open to feedback and the benefit of taking time to look at (and aim to model) how others achieve great things.

Our thinking, physiology and actions are all linked – make an adjustment in one and you will effect change in the others

I could tell you about the process we went through from purposefully entering first into the physiology of  a state of anxiety, then irritation, moving to calm and finally to joy.  And the impact of each mood on our output – initially taking charcoal to paper with short light stabbing breaths, to heavier staccato strokes, to lighter wider smooth waves and finally standing back relaxing the shoulder and arm and using the side of the charcoal to create blissful swirls and sweeps of shading.

We each have our own ‘model of the world’ and it is as real to us as someone else’s is to them – our personal experiencing of experience deserves respect

Then I could tell you about how weird it felt, to me, to look at someone else’s drawing (their interpretation of the instruction) and decide which bits to pick out and emphasise or to copy or – wait for it – rub out!  And horror of horror there was someone else looking at my creation and superimposing their ideas and interpretations upon it with no idea of how precious it had once been to me.

Sometimes it’s the smallest change that makes the biggest difference

But what I really want to tell you about was my experience of drawing / copying a sheep (which seemed like a pretty tall order to me).  As my frustration grew at my inability to make any progress I held the pencil tighter and tighter determined to exert some sort of control over it.  My creation was becoming less and less sheep-like and I was definitely not having fun.  So the teacher suggested I held the pencil like I had the charcoal.  Who would have known!  All these years I thought that there was a right way to hold a pencil.  No one had ever suggested there was another and it clearly hadn’t occurred to me.

It was something so simple – as I held the pencil on its side I was amazed at the freedom and range of movement that became available.  It felt so liberating!

What a fabulous reminder – that sometimes it is the smallest change that makes the greatest difference.  That sometimes we blindly follow the ‘shoulds’ in our world without recognising that while they might have worked well for a time (or for the people that shared them with us) they may have become a limiting factor in our own lives.

Maybe the time has come to undertake a ‘shoulds’ audit!

This takes a bit of digging – I didn’t know what I didn’t know about pencil holding – but what I did know was that I was feeling very uncomfortable and that something wasn’t working for me.  Perhaps this is a clue that it’s time to explore and test out some ‘coulds’.

Are some of your ‘shoulds’ are restricting your potential?  What is the rule you are holding to be true or the belief behind that rule?  Where did it come from?  If it isn’t working or it doesn’t feel right how about playing with some possibilities, be creative and open up the choices available to you.

This is my homework for the week and, in addition, I might even pick up a pencil and have another go at that sheep before my next class.