Learning to Draw, Part 1

This morning I drew for the very first time. Ok, maybe not the very first time ever. Definitely since childhood. Definitely. And it was amazing. Here’s how it came to be…

For mother’s day I registered my mom and I for the Reportage Drawing Series workshops at Sharon Art Studio in San Francisco. Reportage is a style of art in which you record what you see as you see it, a fancy way of saying drawing on site. Today was the first of two classes. Capping out at six hours and some change, I was sure that no matter how fantastic the class I would feel every minute of it. I was wrong.

The first hour and half was instruction; the rest of the class was discussion on top of, in between, over, under, and around several practice drawings. I learned so much in such a short amount of time that I’m not sure if I’ve digested enough to really convey it all. Let’s start with the biggest take-away from the day: contour drawing.

The lesson in contour drawing flung the doors wide open to a world of possibility, freedom, and creative flow in my art that I somehow felt I was always after but could never quite catch. In contour drawing, you’re forced to focus on using a single, unbroken line to build an image… meaning, no lifting until the drawing is complete! There is such a stark difference in both the process and product this type of drawing elicits. Judging my first contour drawing against a previous sketch, I realized that I had been using tiny little hatch marks to create images as a way of blurring the lines to hide what I considered mistakes and imperfections. I didn’t see how suffocating this was. Not to trust or believe in what was on the page, how the line could move in a way that created shapes and scene specific to that mood and moment in time.

Combating the negative thoughts, pressures, and standards we hold ourselves hostage with was a huge part of the workshop. The more I learned, the more I was astonished at what I intuitively knew but had buried or forgotten. Another bonus was how easy it was to challenge those thoughts when led through a couple exercises and more than a handful of stories by our fantastic instructor, Dawood Marion. Dawood has a way of capturing the essence of these revelations in such succinct and relatable terms that internalizing and immediately applying them to your work seems oddly natural (check out some of his amazing work here).

The day flew by and at 4:30pm, when the sun finally comes out in San Francisco, I left class with some drawings that I’m really proud of. As someone who used to thinking I didn’t have the technical skill or innate creativity required of a real artist, it’s a huge accomplishment to be legitimately proud of my work. I did not compare it to others. I did not judge it against some preconceived notion of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. When I was able to relax and let go I felt that giddy happiness that comes with creating something from nothing and just enjoying the process. It felt familiar, and my hunch is that it was this same feeling that first started my love for drawing when I was too young for the confines of self-doubt.

I’m looking forward to round two next weekend. My mom and I are signed up for the second workshop in the reportage series, Drawing in the Park, and I should probably go check my closet to make sure I have enough jackets to keep me from freezing!

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One thought on “Learning to Draw, Part 1

  1. Nora says:

    You are an artist and a damn good one! I’ve got your drawings all over notebook paper, napkins, and bar coasters to prove it! (Can you name your first child Dawood? love it).

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