Art class – day one…

drawingYou’ve wanted to paint for years  –  but  always  filed it away as  a nice thought, one that can  wait until  say…  you were  older?  Until  you realise you’re already there.     And once you’ve declared  your interest in the craft  to an old  friend over coffee, you’ve already painted yourself into a  corner,  because friends being friends, listen.

Then, because they know you’re  easily scared of easels, they wrap you in their best intentions and  ensure you have the details: time, place, email contact, phone number, address and times.   Now you’re driven by both interest and obligation.

Art bookSo one sunlit morning when autumn refuses to  bow  to winter, you stand at the entrance of a  community hall filled with creations that deserve to be in an art gallery.  Right there, inadequacy  doesn’t  begin to describe what you feel. Panic  and a desperate  need for retreat do.  I could try  the ‘sorry  wrong place’  excuse but there’s this  A4 drawing pad in my hand…

I’m welcomed in, settled in a seat and  offered all sorts of tips aimed at  stimulating  the  imagination.

“What do you  paint?” somebody asked.

“Stick men” I said, hoping this would lower expectations. But no.   A woman took me through  the way  in which   even cotton bud matchstick men could help make a  canvas different.

We sat down and drew  –  guardedly in my case as if I was in an exam  room and somebody was looking over my shoulder trying to cheat.   Two hours whizzed past  and then I had to reveal my questionable  creation to an encouraging, if puzzling chorus of  approval.

Regardless of  what I’d attempted  though, they had quite literally opened  my eyes. Everything I’d seen and heard from them  remained.  As I went home and in the days after, I began to look at colours and patterns  in ways I’d never done before.   Along with that  I also knew that I knew nothing.   So I  returned   to a  book  on the basics of drawing, one given to me  more in hope than anything else  a year or two earlier.

A blank canvas, like  a blank page can be daunting and that day it was comforting to see I was not alone. Another  newbie arrived after me, clutching her handbag and standing at a safe distance from the  doors,  as if some  force field held her at  bay. She was Asian and shyness was only one of the  hurdles she had to overcome.   While staring intently  at the  ground, she  did say she was an artist, and  that yes  she would come… another time.

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Paul Smith

Paul is a veteran journalist, non-fiction author and writing mentor. He has also served on boards ranging from TVNZ to UNESCO.