Inspired by sitting on the balcony and watching the sea change from one blue to another and the fronds of the palm tree rustle and glitter in the bright light, I thought I’d go back to my attempts to learn to draw which started earlier this summer in London.
At a friend’s suggestion I acquired Betty Edwards’ book ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’, and have brought it with me as part of my holiday reading believing that I would see things here on Barbados that would make me want to sketch. Now, I respect the opinion of G, the friend who recommended the book, so I’m sure I will finish it, but I think it would be fair to say that we’ve not got off to a propitious start, Betty and I.
Without G’s suggestion I would never have bought the book – I might have picked it up in a shop, but would have put it back straight away, as it is not a nice looking book, and has, to my eye, a particularly unattractive drawing on the cover; in fact just the sort of sketch that puts me off ever wanting to have a go, as it is just the sort of thing I have no desire to do.
It got no better in the first couple of chapters. First there was an instruction to acquire more equipment, and I paid attention because the selection of new stationery is one of the pleasures of life, but not this list, not plastic sheets and cardboard frames. There’s no fun in that; and anyway I’m on a beach……
The first exercise was to draw a self portrait. That brought me up to a dead stop. It reminded me very precisely of the first Learning to Write Course I undertook with the Open College of the Arts years ago. I had waited with such a sense of anticipation for the course books and when they arrived I tore open the box in great excitement. The first exercise was to write a poem. EErrgghh. No.
What inspires me to want to write is an enjoyment of words; but I want stories. I admire people who can write poetry, but it is a craft honed over years of hard work. The idea of starting me on my path of writing a novel composing some really bad verse was no way to encourage me.
When I undertook the challenge of overcoming my inability to draw it was because I have often sat admiring a view or a landscape and wished that I had the skill to draw it; that’s what gives me the itch to reach for the pencil and pad. I know that faces are endlessly variable and fascinating, but that’s an intellectual understanding; I know it requires skill and technique to achieve a likeness, but it’s not one to which I particularly aspire.
Now I’m sure all of this says something very significant about both the way my mind works as well as a certain stubbornness, or blinkered view….
But I carried the book here, so it has to earn its allocation of the baggage allowance so I shall be persisting despite all Betty’s efforts to alienate me.