Draw the Line: One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure

In her last installment on learning to draw, Kelowna Capital News reporter Jennifer Smith finds beauty in disaster.

  • Mar. 2, 2012 8:00 p.m.

This is how the pros do it. Each week

So it turns out, charcoal drawings and Okanagan winters don’t mix if you need to transport your work from point “a” to “b.”

This week I got a very interesting peak into the art world—what it means to create something truly unique and cope with the unexpected.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was out to see Jane Everett, one of Kelowna’s more revered artists. The timing could not have been better. There she was with a stack of drawings made from all of the different mediums I’ve been working with and, interestingly, explaining what she liked about the dribbles of Gesso running over the work.

She had done this on purpose, after discovering how the fixative picks up charcoal dust and literally runs with it on another series.

Jennifer SmithIt was a good thing I had seen it as the very next day, my three-hour sailboat endeavour took a beating in the snowy mess we were all treated to.

My entire week has been a bit like this. See something or hear something and have it come true the next day. I think the creative side of our brains is prone to noticing these synergies and, while I’m generally not the usually the airy fairy type, this little life lesson stuck far better than the black lines on my page.

Following my snow blowing, I sat down to work around the new blotchy areas, using them to add texture to clouds and lift to my waves. The six week foray into drawing the Kelowna Art Gallery extended with an offer to try their beginner drawing class has fostered many of these gems of life wisdom. More often than not, the class discussions, trials and triumphs carved out an interesting grey area sentimental types might call an exercise in exploring the nuances of life and learning.

As adults, it’s not all that often we get to enjoy a classroom setting and the experience of being taught. Where this was once a daily chore, it’s now a bit of a treasure and an adventure in discovering old habits and new approaches.

I found I quickly converted to doing a little homework, practicing to try out what was demonstrated in class, even without being asked. In other words, I’m now that really annoying super keen older student I used to curse in university. I suppose it’s different when you’re doing something voluntarily, and let’s face it, willow charcoal and hours of algebra are fairly far removed.

I’m quite lucky in my regular job as I get to dabble in the frustrations of creating something on a daily basis, so mucking up (repeatedly) wasn’t a new feeling. Seeing myself improve, on the other hand, was really different; I was very surprised at how quickly ideas and concepts came together.

It’s amazing how discovering you can accomplish one tiny thing can raise your spirits, even in our never-ending grey days of winter.

My art teacher, Rena Warren, was very impressive. By the end of our class, I was starting to believe I might even tackle something big—like my a face, on a billboard, under Broadway lights (kidding).

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about approaching drawing other people just yet, but I definitely feel like the tools to do so are in place. And I’ve also learned not to shy away from a challenge. If you saw last week’s cheese grater, you’ll know I’ve tried a few shortcuts already in this class and it never turns out all that well. I don’t know how I figured drawing a million holes would be easier than a reflective surface but, needless to say, the life lesson there stuck too.

I’ve decided not to include a picture of my last piece of artwork. What it looks like doesn’t really matter anyway. What I learned in my adventure in drawing is that it’s a great way to spend a morning, an evening or your lunch hour. As for the result, I say, come what may.

Jennifer Smith spent six weeks documenting her experiences in the Kelowna Art Gallery’s Learning to Draw for the Absolute Beginner. The series, Draw the Line, focused on the trials, tribulations and triumphs of taking up the pencil as an adult and rediscovering one’s capacity to draw. This was the final article of the series.

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