Draw the Line: Kelowna Art Gallery students work a tough project

Columnist Jennifer Smith is in week four of her learn to draw class, working through the trials and tribulations of learning something new

  • Feb. 17, 2012 4:00 p.m.
Yep this is it. My latest drawing and I'm improving…I know you can't see it; but I can.

Yep this is it. My latest drawing and I'm improving…I know you can't see it; but I can.

There are researchers looking at the toxicity of our tears my art teacher tells us as we settle in to resurrect a drawing that honestly might make one cry.

It’s a frustrating still life from last week’s class that we’re all about to take a second crack at; all I can think is how much I miss the warm up exercise, a few scant minutes of sketching two Robax dolls as our teacher, Rena Warren, changes their shape.

The Robax (Backrelief medication) dolls—the wooden marionette-types who always seize up when the mysterious pin stalking them finally stabs them in the back—are probably the first exercise my classmates have universally agreed were just fun.

Jennifer SmithNow faced with this still life, I’m feeling a little like there’s something stalking me. It’s a brass bowl repositioned in the same space as last week, with the same reflective surface picking up every curve of the antler in front of it. A Buddha statue sits beside with a mask placed behind for our class of novice sketch artists to take a spin at recreating.

And trust me, all those curves and colours and shapes are mind-bending. Last week, I had antlers coming out of Buddha heads and all manner of wackiness breaking down on my page. It was a great class, so I happily danced out of there, glad to leave this exercise for another day.

Now faced with the challenge once more, I realize there’s something disconcerting about Buddha turning his back on you; and don’t even get me started on the tablecloth underneath it all.

This is really the first difficult task I’ve come up against in this class, so I hunker down to a new sketch, trying to keep an open mind. Pretty soon, I must admit, it seems easier.

Now four weeks into my first drawing class series at the Kelowna Art Gallery, I’m surprised to see I’m starting to improve. It’s not the skill level that’s getting better, per say, but my ability to notice details is vastly different.

This week’s big discovery, for example, is that the table’s edge is not a line. Obvious really, but if you put a white tablecloth on a round table, you wind up with an area where the light hits at the edge that’s not the dark circle I’ve previously drawn on the page.

I also have discovered the shadows thrown by the antler and bowl don’t necessarily trace the outline of the object as I imagine; nor does the white tablecloth actually appear white with all the shapes and shadows.

And just like those Robax caricatures, I’ve discovered it’s quite possible to get this relief (sorry, pun intended) once you lighten up.

Figuring my sketch is likely to look wildly wrong anyway, I launch into these shadows, hammering the dark points and deftly procuring light creases onto the page in a process that turns out to be pretty relaxing.

I work that drawing for almost the full three hours of the class. When we switch to the next assignment, I continued shading my dreaded bowl and table, thoroughly impressed with my linen folds, if still a little appalled at the shiny vessel in the middle.

When the time is up, I’m pretty shocked to find I want to return to the exercise next week.

I take the drawing back to the office and pull it out to see how that brass bowl could be improved. There is a strange note written in the lower right corner.

“From shadow and light to catharsis” it reads.

I’m in the habit of jotting down the odd piece of dialogue that flies about the room for this column, so I’m assuming at some point this was said.

Positioned in the lower right corner, where one might expect to find a signature, I figure it’s a good name for my first completed work. As perfectly imperfect as it may be.

Jennifer Smith is a columnist for the Capital News taking her first drawing class with the Kelowna Art Gallery and documenting the experience in her series, Draw the Line.

Kelowna Capital News

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