February 07, 2008

I'm not an artist. I just like to draw shit.

Monet had his lilies. Degas had his ballerinas. I has a carrot.

I didn't do well in Intro to Drawing. I started the class as Not One Of The People Who Can Draw and ended it as One Of The People Who Cannot Draw. It could have been the most fun class of my undergraduate career: an excuse to buy lots of art supplies and benevolent instruction in how to use them. One fairly obvious reason I didn't do well is that the instruction was not so benevolent as all that; being a class for architecture majors, it was run on the time-honored "pin up and ridicule" system. It's a nice system for widening the skill and confidence gap between your best and worst students, because after enough ridicule the worst students will save themselves the heartache and stop trying. For actually teaching people to draw, you'd probably have more success by taking all their paper away and forbidding them to touch a pen.


But the other problem is this: the premise that someone can learn art by being told what to do. Where I fell off Intro to Drawing's wagon was where the instructors would tell me, here is an object. Draw it this way and in this medium. Look at your hand and draw it in contour with a 4B pencil but but what if I want to paint it in watercolors no. Draw it in contour with a 4B pencil. My sketchbooks from that class are full of loving, frustrated doodles in all the media I wasn't supposed to be using on any given assignment. Obviously if I'm trying to learn pencil drawing all the beautifully spontaneous impressionistic oil painting in the world isn't going to teach me, but if what I really want is to be delicately mixing and coaxing paint colors into dappled fields of hyperbolic light and color, why the hell would I be trying to learn pencil drawing in the first place? Because someone said this is how Learning Art works: you draw and then you shade and when you have mastered those you can paint careful portraits on nice canvas with long brushes and a serious expression.


It has already been established that what I really want to do, in any medium, is make vegetables. If you give me screen-printing I will give you two-color beets. If you give me highlighters I will lovingly shade you some eggplants and rutabagas. If you give me sharpies I will give you a bold, cartoony tomato. Someone gave me a whiteboard at work and I have been giving splashy impressionist chard and pumpkins to everyone brave enough to walk by.


Last night I decided to give myself some acrylic paints and a piece of cardboard to practice on. I just wanted to see what would happen, and anyway I was annoyed with the way whiteboard markers don't blend.


Imagine my shock. I spent a half an hour happily brushing and dabbing and getting excited and changing things, and made something I like. I'm trying not to wreck the discovery by going around expecting masterpieces or thinking I should learn to paint properly; that is precisely where I went wrong in Learning To Draw. But it's kind of nice to realize that my firm conviction that I'm hopelessly unartistic is just kind of an optional piece of bullshit. I, like probably all the other people who washed out of Learning To Draw, can make neat things to look at if I just feel like it. It opens the door to all kinds of alarming thoughts: maybe there are circumstances under which I can do other things I officially Cannot Do. Sing? Play piano? Dance?? Somewhere out there is the mood and time and place that will cause me to spontaneously bust out some amazing moves. I look forward to it.

Posted by dianna at February 7, 2008 11:15 PM

wow, that is one fine-looking carrot. I would totally hang that carrot on my wall. screw your instructor.

Posted by: didofoot at February 8, 2008 09:23 AM

Aw, thank you. I think I will hang that carrot on my wall, maybe with a nice asparagus to go next to it. With all the schoolwork I have to avoid doing, I'm hoping to have a whole salad by the end of the quarter.

Posted by: Dianna at February 8, 2008 09:56 AM

screw your instructor *with a carrot*?

Posted by: Elliot at February 8, 2008 12:53 PM

On behalf of the Tasty Root Vegetable Appreciation Society I would like to register my objection to this plan. As a nondelicious activity, it falls entirely outside our appropriate use guidelines. Please take a moment to look over the guidelines and reconsider. Thank you.

Evelyn J. Stumbleberry
Acting Chair, T.R.V.A.S.

Posted by: Dianna at February 8, 2008 01:47 PM

Hang it on my wall? Psh. *I'd* take a peeler and go to town on it until I had nothing but paper-thin slices. Then I'd saute those in olive oil with garlic, diced onion, and thyme, add some skinned, crushed tomatoes, a dash of salt, several twists of black pepper, a splash of balsamic, and cook it all down. Finally I'd pass the whole mess through a food processor (although that's totally optional), and toss it with some fresh pasta.

No, wait - gnocchi.

Holy crap I'm hungry.

Posted by: Chris at February 8, 2008 06:58 PM

I would like to give a nod to your chard. Dry-erase is a difficult and headache-inducing medium, but I like what you've done.

Carrot-tomato-balsamic gnocchi sounds amazing. I need dinner.

Posted by: katie at February 8, 2008 07:16 PM

Confession: it's a Mario Batali recipe. In other unrelated news, I love the Food Network.

Posted by: Chris at February 8, 2008 09:04 PM