It’s not the completed drawings that I appreciate most. It’s that I went from blank page to drawing, over and over again.
I would often enter the art class with some trepidation. Our soft-spoken Iranian-born instructor – I’ll call him Mr. Deleer* – would give us a quick lesson and demonstrate the challenge of the day. Tones and shading. Pencil, ink, charcoal. The list was endless.
Mr. D treated us as if we were capable of anything. As if it didn’t matter what we knew and where we came from.
“I’m just helping you see what you already know,” he’d say.
I like writing down interesting things people say.
I do it at Friday choir. (Our conductor is so quotable, and catching quotes is good for the brain. Added challenge: can I sing at the same time?)
I did it at drawing class. Despite the fact English isn’t Mr. D’s first language, his remarks flowed as effortlessly as his sketches.
“Drawing is easy.” (Class 2)
“Life is so difficult because it’s so simple!” (Oct. 28)
“Drawing is just having fun.” (Nov. 4)
At our final class, Mr. D gave a 45-minute crash course on how to draw faces. (As always, it was a class you’d expect after months or years of instruction.)
Then: “Now that we know the rules, let’s break them!”
Know the rules? Break them? Ah, yes. Fearlessness! Bravery! Go!
I signed up for this particular drawing class because I wanted to have as little as possible between me and a sheet of paper.
Near the end of my first year of recovery, I tried pottery. That was hard – both the talking-to-other-aspiring-potters aspect and the thinking-minding-the-wheel-and-pressing-down-on-the-clay part.
Last year I enjoyed painting with watercolours, but I had to drive to class.
Now I just wanted to get back to basics, walk to the studio and – a big thing I’ve learned over the past two-and-a-half-years – set myself up for success.
Mr. D is an animator, so a lot of what he teaches has an element of caricature. He also expresses a joie d’esprit, which is like his attitude toward life.
The classes might seem as if they were all fun and joy. They were, but they were also work. Like therapy. Because, you know, that first step. The blank page.
Flipping through my sketchbooks looking for quotes, I found this classic: “It’s all about seeing,” said Mr. D. “It’s not memory. You always have to keep the left side of the brain out, and it’s very difficult.”
Much the same with life, yes? We have our conditioning, stories, trauma. How do we stay on track? How do we stay in the here and now?
“It’s like you’re dancing your hand and your wrist,” said Mr. D. The charcoal waltzed across the page.
Hand and wrist. Heart and mind. Drawing as a metaphor for life.
“I love the way you draw your lines,” Mr. D told me one Monday morning. “It’s very brave.”
Not right, not beautiful, but brave. The ultimate compliment.
*Deleer is Farsi for brave.