Art class week three: A personal disaster. I thought one way, the tutor thought another, although I believed I was following the brief; which was to think about a character, an object and a setting, in readiness for a triptych we were about to set in action. First, we would work in monotone, and focus on a character. I hadn’t brought along any images but had an idea of what I’d like to create – something that would fit nicely with the memoir I was writing; the most likely character being my dad, and the object, his wonderful (travelling library) truck.
‘Forget any story, and just draw,’ I was told. A character could be animal, not sure about
vegetable or mineral. As try as I might that morning, I could NOT unstick my ‘story’ from my head, and surprise, surprise, as hard as I tried to sketch other ‘characters’ from varying perspectives, my work became more abysmal by the hour. I produced a sheet of caricatures, which failed to make anyone laugh. The best part of the session, was the cup of coffee. Home James (Vivienne in this case) and don’t let it get you down.
I was determined to remedy the situation and start afresh. No storyline; just an animal – a recently knitted bear without a home (does that constitute a story?). I shall take the new pencil sketches to class Friday, and see if I can evolve (or resolve) the triptych from here.
Art class week four: The black & white bear sketches appeared to meet approval for the ‘character’ part of the project, but when the tutor asked about my chosen object, I became unstuck. I told her that I thought a ball would be perfect, as it could adapt to many settings and situations. I mean, it might be a Swiss ball, and the bear could be in a gym? Or a circus? But no. My ball as object went down like a lead balloon. I received the ‘no thinking ahead of what the character will do in such and such a setting’ from the tutor, and once more I thought, ‘what the?’ I’d wanted my bear to have fun. Balls are fun; you can bounce, throw, hit and sit on them. No ball. I was to come up with various scenes (perhaps a circus?), and another object. I sat with a pencil in hand and. stared at my paper.
I could have drawn myself as character and object, the art room as setting, but I was too glum. So I started looking through magazines and art books for ‘inspiration’. I found none. The tutor swung my way again, and said, the object should have some meaning. I couldn’t help think that that’s just what I had come up with, when I suggested my father, and his truck. The only object I could think of at that moment was … a mug! A bear and a mug. I so didn’t want to work with that combo.
During the page-flicking-inspiration-finding exercise, I found Toulouse Lautrec’s great sketch of a dancer on horseback. My smile returned; a scene ripe for the bear. I sketched a resemblance of the master’s, packed up my art gear and went home. Until the next class.
Art class week five: I didn’t want to have a mug, I informed the tutor, envisioning three hours contemplating my navel ahead. There must be something which has meaning, she asked. Yes? Yes. I had to say something because I couldn’t create a scene unless I had my object. I thought: ‘if you don’t eat your meat you can’t have any pudding…’ Boy, I was thinking back some: Another Brick in the Wall.
From the vacuum I used to call my brain, I plucked a memory: the huge abandoned industrial reels my sister and I had climbed upon as children on our way to ballet class. We called them our lucky cotton reels.
So I continued drawing large cotton reel shapes in all number of sizes and perspectives; although I didn’t feel that lucky as I contemplated the page full of the jolly things, stacked, in rows, you name it, and I did it, wondering where on earth this could go.
Oh. The scene! It seems no thinking ahead was allowed. With thick black charcoal in my hand I slashed the paper, rubbed my fist through it, then cut the mess with the edge of a rubber. ‘Was there a bank, a hill, or sea beyond?’ I was asked. ‘It seems you wish to obscure.’ ‘Obscuration, or it could be long grass,’ I said. Weird. I seem to have lost those drawings.
Next time, we shall be working in colour, in preparation for the painting we’ll do at the end. I’m looking forward to that.