“Smell it, smell it!” He urged, while thrusting the stick of crayon in my face. “Doesn’t it smell like childhood?”
I’ve been attending art classes for a month now. I highly appreciate my teacher, K, even if he has crayon-smelling quirks. And I have to admit, they do smell like childhood.
Before K I actually tested out the neighbourhood art class, which seemed to be more daycare than art centre. I was almost ready to sign up to something, anything, that would make me start drawing again, but decided to try K’s class out before I executed the decision. K’s class is literally on the other side of KL, and it takes me a little more than an hour with public transport to get there. I was dubious that I would actually make that sort of commitment weekly – I’m not such a huge fan of commuting and my idea of accessible is ten minutes’ walk. (Daycare Art Class was a five minutes’ walk from my home. I was ready to sign on the dotted line.)
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon that I reluctantly dragged my ass out to Ampang. I arrived with very low expectations as Daycare Art Class with its shrill kids and tiny chairs did not have me aiming high. K was alone – his other students arrived late – and I had him to myself for twenty minutes.
“Everything starts with drawing. Even if you paint, if you don’t know the basics of drawing, you cannot paint properly. Learning art is like learning a language. Lines are the alphabet. You need to first master the lines, so that others will be able to understand what you are seeing.” He began, in the way of an introduction. I love languages. I was sold.
Here’s my first drawing – K had asked me to draw something, anything that I wanted. Because I have no imagination I chose to draw the table that was next to ours. He said that it was courageous to take on the first thing that I saw. I said nothing about my imagination. This was a good start.
And so I started by practising lines. Then circles and ellipses. Then proportions. I realised that I am not half bad at proportions. It took a while to make bolder lines, but I realised that I more often than not found them visually (“hunt the lines down!” said K), even if my hands weren’t skilful enough at translating them to confident lines on the paper. But everything is about practice. K was always spot on in pointing out exactly where the problems were, so I could quickly improve it on the next piece of paper.
I sketched these two teapots in class. The first one is the first attempt, much more careful than the second one. But K liked the second one better because of the lines that are quicker and more confident. It takes all of my resolve to swallow my control freakiness and trust every stroke that goes down, even if they end up to be misplaced and I have to correct them later. The result may be less accurate, but with more character. A life lesson right there.
The two-hour lessons fly by like nothing. I started practising at home.
Here’s my cat series. I think sleeping Suki and Spot look fine but Uno looks like a devil-cat. This was before we learnt values and shadows so there’s not much going on in shading and contrasts except for the minimum.
And here are some colour pieces that I did last week, in anticipation of this week’s foray into colour.
I chose this because it is basically a colouring project, once the lines are down. Here’s the original. Google Arts and Culture is a treasure trove of masterpieces of the ages, if you want to dive in and imitate any master. You get to zoom in and see all the details up to the brush strokes.
Naomi has got such good energy, I couldn’t resist drawing this one. Besides the energy bit, I chose it because it was so colourful and is basically, again, a colouring project, since I don’t know how to mix colours yet.
This is a sketch that I did to try out the one point perspective technique.
There is a vanishing point, and a horizon, and all those architectural lines. I had no idea what I was doing at all – check out the dwarfy little paramedic on the bottom. K said that it is because of the values (shading) that he looks so weird. And the story of how I chose this one is that I was constantly thinking about perspective after reading a book on sketching, and when I was watching this Japanese drama with this ambulance scene, it struck me immediately that here’s a perspective! So I made a screenshot and sketched it. Here’s the screenshot.
And this is what I did today.
This is the first time that I’ve done still life with colour, I think. I must say that it was rather enjoyable, even though I’ve never been confident in using colour. But, as with many things in life, a good teacher is essential in pointing out the right way. I’ve realised that once I understand the concepts and ideas, it becomes much easier. Never use black or grey (they kill the painting) but instead mix different colours to end up with a black with life. Use a limited palette – mix the colours chosen to arrive at secondary colours so that the piece doesn’t look chaotic, but harmonious instead. I’m still trying to “feel” the colours – so that I can interpret what’s in front of me, into what will go onto the paper.
And what I like about K is that he gives memorable quotes from artists that he admires – he’s so in love with art and the masters that it is infectious. Said Vincent van Gogh, brush strokes should be executed like how an experienced lion strikes, placed at the exact position so that the prey is killed with one stroke. And said someone else important, art does not have to imitate reality, but the intensity should be the same. (I looked it up, this seems to be the actual quote, by Alberto Giacometti: “The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.”)
Suddenly, with K’s guidance, I have started to see. See, like never before. First it was the lines – I’m constantly molesting things with the imaginary pen that is my eyes, trying to measure one line against another. Then came the values – where is the light? Where are the shadows? Do they come from many sides? After that, perspectives. Where’s the vanishing point? Where are the invisible lines? (I cannot tell yet.) Then now, the colours. The blues in the greens, the contrasting colours in the shadows, the tones, the blends.
What’s the purpose of art? I haven’t quite found the answer – but – looking around – isn’t the world we live in truly wonderful?