Years ago, I used to be a math and chemistry tutor and really enjoyed it. For a long time I planned to be a professor, until I found out that it’s not about the teaching, it’s about the research and the funds you can generate. Even at my last job, I got to do some corporate training, which I really enjoyed.
Today, I got to try my hand at teaching something totally different – I taught drawing to my kid’s Girl Scout troop. Wow, was that interesting. One was really offended that I brought in real animal skulls. Georgia O’Keefe, anyone?? Most girls drew the fake fruit or something from their minds. Rowan, who had been looking forward to me teaching her drawing, was disappointed when it didn’t just magically happen. I’ve never taught drawing before, so it went okay, but it I had to do it again, I would do it totally differently.
My personal belief about art is that it is a triumvirate of desire, skill, and spirit. Granted, skill is probably the most debatable – Picasso and Pollock do not have great realism in their famous works. But it feels very satisfying if you can draw something somewhat realistically. Then you have to want to do it, and have something to say. Something that resonates.
But the first step is unseeing what you think you see. This is the part I neglected with the girls today. Every day, every minute, our brains take in an enormous amount of information and the way we get through it all is triage. What is important? What should be saved? Not everything can be saved. Some new studies on memory show it to be more like a play being reenacted in our heads, rather than a tape recorder–so every time you replay a memory, it is slightly different.
Especially if you try portraiture (which I’ve done with mixed success) the difficulty is that you already know what you’re looking for. You’ve already rendered that person in your head and as soon as you start drawing, you mess yourself up because you don’t recognize all the weird bits that go into a person’s face. You, in fact, do not really know what they look like. Not completely. If I’m trying to draw realistically, I often try to cross my eyes a little or unfocus them, to distance myself from the subject and turn it into impersonal blocks of light and dark.
Look at when kids draw a person’s face – they always put the eyes towards the top, and larger than they should be. That’s because we focus on eyes. Barbies and manga draw upon this all the time. But the eyes should be in the middle of head–which looks weird until you add hair. Because a skull is three-dimensional, and the face only goes to the hairline.
Rowan still wants me to teach her more drawing–we’ll see how it goes. The skill part is all practice, practice, practice. And first attempts are often very sucky. It’s the nature of learning anything, you have to put the time in.