I go to a life drawing class every Tuesday. It’s two years since I started attending and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. No matter how worried, stressed or down I feel when I arrive, the simple act of looking and concentrating always lifts my mood. You simply can’t fret about something when you’re trying to work out what’s wrong with the hand you just drew.
Some people liken drawing to meditation and it definitely is similar for me. For two hours, the incessant voice in my head goes quiet. I am totally present, totally in the moment, totally content.
But that only works when I am challenging myself and lately I have been in a bit of a rut. Each painting looks similar to the last. Each is fairly successful, fairly accurate, and fairly boring (at least to me).
I mentioned this to the class leader Helen, and she suggested that I try something completely different – drawing and painting with my pencil and brushes taped to a long stick. This sounded completely mad to me but it turned out to be just what I needed.
The length of the stick meant it was hard to control the pencil and impossible to make my usual marks. Art is like life in that, once you have found a way of being, you tend to stick to it. Your drawing style remains the same no matter what the subject. You hold the pencil the same way, you make the same marks over and over again. And sometimes you bore yourself silly.
The drawing I created in the first half of the class was more interesting and lively and personality-filled than any I have done over the last two years. And in the second hour, when I taped a big brush to my stick and began to paint, all kinds of surprising things happened.
I just love this painting. It’s imperfect but I love the imperfections. And as I write this, I am aware that life drawing class made me happy tonight. Actually happy. Which makes me wonder …. exactly why is that?
Because if I can figure out the different elements that go into that experience, maybe I can find that kind of contentment more often …