Like most other children, I really liked to draw when I was young.
At the age of nine, my mom enrolled me in a YMCA art class, where I learned about various artistic styles and did the requisite imitations. For example, here’s my Mondrian,
and the Kandinsky.
Later, as a teenager, I traded piano lessons for art lessons from a friend, and along with drawing and painting, I tried my hand at such varied artistic activities as Ukranian Easter eggs (several of which still hang on our tree each Christmas), wood-burning, and printing.
In fact, ten years or so later, when Tony discovered several versions of this print as we were packing my stuff before getting married, he finally relented and agreed to get married in the San Diego Temple, rather than the Salt Lake Temple (his preference) or the Oakland Temple (the most convenient).
Sometime later, I decided that I was actually not an artist. I’m not sure why; I guess it was one of those things we mistakenly leave behind with childhood, like St. Exupery’s boa eating an elephant. It’s funny, but I would get really embarrassed when at the age of two or three, Axa went through a stage where she would ask me to draw her things. I felt like a deficient parent because I couldn’t draw. She eventually stopped asking.
Then I learned about Charlotte Mason, and started implementing her ideas in our homeschool. One of her foundational precepts is nature study. This is accomplished through plenty of time outdoors, close observation of flora and fauna, and then documentation in a “nature journal.”
The epitome of wonderful nature journals is The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, a beautiful nature journal kept for the year of 1906 by a young woman named Edith Holden. Exquisitely detailed watercolor illustrations decorate each page, accompanied by observations of wildlife or vegetation, and poems.
When she recommended that mothers keep their own nature journal to inspire their children, I’m sure that a book like Holden’s must have been what Charlotte Mason had in mind. Unfortunately, I’m no Edith Holden. So while Axa has two nature journals (an online one and a paper one), I have yet to start one of my own.
I’ve been teaching the lessons in Drawing With Children to Axa and Raj, and generally feeling like a hypocrite for not trying out the techniques myself. I just didn’t think I could bring myself to draw anything.
I have had a little box of nice, unused watercolor pencils sitting in my roll-top desk since we moved here. Every so often I look over at it and think about going outside to draw. But then I decide that I’m far to busy, and not quite pysched up enough to do it.
Until today. Today, for some reason, I picked up my pencils and a pad and wandered outside to the front yard. I sat down in my beach chair and looked around, considering what I could draw. I figured it would be too difficult to essay a close-up of anything, even blades of grass, so I settled on the house across the street. Here’s the view:
And here’s my picture. (Yes, I noticed that the house is actually not fuchsia and orange in real life, but I wanted to use more of my colors.)
This is my deconstruction of the experience:
* After I’d been drawing for about five minutes, I started feeling insecure, and deciding again that I couldn’t draw. But I decided to tough it out, and finish the picture.
*I used several of the ideas I’d learned in Drawing With Children, like choosing a starting point and then planning the rest of the drawing around it, drawing things in front first, and turning mistakes into something else (yep, that was my favorite).
*About halfway through, I actually started enjoying the process, even though I was still afraid that I would do something irreparable and my drawing would be destroyed.
*By the time I was nearly done, I looked at my picture and felt a little thrill of excitement that the scene had somehow magically transferred itself onto my paper. I’m still no Picasso, but I think maybe I could make friends with this art thing again.