Learning TO DRAW


About a week into my recovery, my Dad brought me some colored pencils that had been wasting away in a cabinet.  My first picture wasn't exactly a self-portrait, more like a moody scrawl (see earlier post "Stuck in Bed").  It took less than an hour to draw, but it pleased me.  It felt true, so I posted it on Istagram.  To my surprise, people liked it.  The response was so positive that I began working on a second picture, and then a third...  

I now spend most of my time at home drawing.  The activity is incredibly soothing - even meditative.   Traditional meditation, though pleasant, never cleared my mind.  I'd lie on the ground after yoga class and earnestly attempt to empty my head, but then my stomach would growl, and I'd start planning a grocery list.    When I'm drawing, I'm able to focus completely on line and color.  My brain tunes out other thoughts - even the ones that are food-related.

At first, I was somewhat limited by my broken leg.  My only subjects were the ones I could see.  I drew my bed, a magazine on my lap, Oliver sleeping...  Then my friend Gillian posted a photograph on Instagram.  I admired it, and she challenged me to draw it.  

The picture showed Gillian's boyfriend, Dan, reading on the couch surrounded by cats.  The original composition was terrific - almost like a Matisse.  The cats were all curves, and the couch was all pattern.  Dan, quiet and dressed in dark colors, was perfectly cozy in the midst of a visual riot.  The picture drew itself.

My next assignment came from my friend, Kellie.  It proved more challenging.  Kellie's charismatic dog, Harley, was the subject.  Even though Harley is a distinctive dog - with expressive eyes and hilarious pointed ears that flop over, I still found it hard to make my picture resemble her.  Whenever I draw faces, I need to erase several attempts before I get it right.  I ended up doing two portraits of Harley.  For the second one (above), I took a close-up photo of Harley in a yellow chair and imagined what the room around her might look like.  Kellie sent me pictures of her cats.  Then I got interested in the floor.  Did it need a carpet?.  

This is how my brain works when I'm drawing:  

1.   The picture needs a carpet. 

2.  I'll search for a carpet on eBay. 

3. This carpet is kind of nice. 

4. This carpet is impossible to draw. 

5. I'll just change the carpet.

6.  This carpet needs a lion on it.

7. Will Kellie will be annoyed that I put all her pets on this weird carpet?

When the picture was finished, I showed it to Kellie and she was really happy with it.  She didn't mention the carpet. 

I've had several more requests for pictures.  Two cats, a dog, a baby, a living room and another cat.  All of the requestors offered to pay me, but I'm not charging money for now.  This is a new skill for me, and I'd like to let it develop naturally.  If I knew I was getting paid for these pictures, I might not feel so free to invent carpets.

Art requires a lot of free time. Will I still draw when my leg heals?  It will be difficult.   My usual life is incredibly hectic.  The subway alone eats up an hour and a half each day.  

My Dad is really enjoying a book that he found in my apartment.  It's called "The Judgement of Paris," and it's about the young Manet.  In 1860s Paris, a seismic shift happened in the art world.  Manet reinvented how people would see the world around them.  Other young artists, like Monet and Renoir enjoyed the hissing scorn of an artistic elite that would soon pass into irrelevance.   Young artists argued in cafes, complained about the critics and showed their work at the scandalous Salon des Refusés.  They lived to express themselves.  It was a great time to be painter.  

Manet came from a rich family.  He didn't have a day job.  He probably never even cooked for himself.

How am I going to do this thing?