Early in my Journey, when I started learning to draw, I reached a place where I had created a ritual around drawing. Each sketch was unique and supposed to be an improvement on the last, like the beginner runner who expects to get faster and becomes despondent when a plateau is reached or gets slower. I had reached a place in drawing where the ‘should’ had become so great that it precluded me from picking up the pencils, and when I did pick them up and draw the self-pressure was intense. I stopped drawing around that time.
Recently I had an urge to draw trees, but not from life as all my previous work had been. I wanted to draw from imagination. So I looked up some tips on drawing trees and started drawing trees.
There’s a line in the Patrick Costello banjo tutorial book, The How and The Tao of Old Time Banjo, that sticks with me as it changed the way that I look at the arts now. I’ve always been an apologist for my lack of art and musical ability. It’s been real easy for me to just pass it off as not having received the gift of drawing and the gift of music. I wasted a lot of years in that belief until I discovered that both art and music can be taught. I should have realised sooner when I took up running and found that I had to learn how to do it. At school I bunked off cross-country but in my early 30’s, following the Couch To 5k program of its time, I went from fat and unfit to running a marathon in a short few years. The education system hadn’t taught me how to run, is it any surprise that it didn’t teach children to draw and to play and understand music?
Patrick’s advice was there right after the first few songs:
“Play this one a couple of hundred times and when you’re ready…” – Patrick Costello
‘Play this one a couple of hundred times’, man that floored me the first time I read it. I was so used to skipping on to the next thing without really grasping or practicing the previous thing. Play a song once, move on. Draw a sketch of something once and then move on. Here was the key to improvisation, practice!
So I decided to apply this advice to drawing and drew some more trees and then moved on to hares and rabbits.
All of the time using pencils I’d appropriated from hotels and drawing in my ‘music’ book, which I use for writing songs and writing out folk tunes in my own notation for banjo.
Next I treated myself to a sketch book and a set of pencils and that’s where things started to go downhill again. I had created a new ritual, the special book and the special pencils. Now each drawing had to be special and they just weren’t. They seemed to be getting worse.
So, to the moral of the story, i decided to make my art disposable. It’s not special, so don’t treat it like it’s special. And once I’ve sketched a couple of hundred rabbits and hares and trees, well, I might just be getting warmed up.
This one’s on a piece of paper out of the printer, I was going to wrap a book in it to post it, just to prove how disposable art is.
For now it’s back to the banjo…
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