Perhaps I should draw a breath….

I don’t know what happened but I lost my first draft of this post before I had finished. Let’s start again…

There was a joke in our neighbourhood cows needed short legs on one side so they could walk around the hills without falling over. (By international standards our hills were hillocks, yet when the cows grazed they tended to walk around them. Thus they drew tracks that resembled map like contour lines across the country. So long before I learned about those lines I understood how geographers arrived at the notion of them.)

It has been hard to avoid lines because they were everywhere I looked. From our vantage point above the plains, through the clothesline mum used, I could see the steel lines of the railways beyond the Princes Highway. In fact lines were so common I wrote about them in my last essay. Here is another story where I expose much more about myself than I should feel comfortable about, that uses lines of another type to draw you closer.

After qualifying to teach I worked at earning a Certificate of Art. This was a short undergraduate qualification accepted by the Education Department as an additional study needed for promotion. Twice a week, David,( a more experienced teacher), and I, would drive to a city tech school after work and take lessons on art. Art history, painting, ceramics, sculpture, fabrics, commercial design and other subjects such as costume and figure drawing were all part of the curriculum. Included in this study was a unit on Art Philosophy. I found the text book chosen for us to study included the most difficult of any reading set for me. The language chosen had me reaching for the dictionary. (Perhaps, to constantly remind me of how difficult this reading was, our youngest son has almost finished a Ph D on, you guessed it, Art philosophy. Such is the mysterious workings of the Universe.)

These were busy years as the study and folio presentations had to fit around work and family commitments. Of all the subjects undertaken the one subject I got lost in was drawing. One of the drawing skills we practiced was to draw what we saw without lifting our pencil, or charcoal, from the paper. This became even more difficult when the medium was changed to applying fluids such as ink or paint in an unbroken line on wet paper. Any pause in our movement was a reminder of the unintended blot made when learning to write.

It was from experiences like these the mastery, and the genius of stroke makers whose work rests on gallery walls around the world even centuries after it was produced that has compelled me to visit these celebrated works whenever I could. (I could deviate from my story and write about my visits to these hallowed halls of famous artists but I will plod along reflecting on the things I learned by drawing lines.)

The goal as I have said was not to produce artwork but to get a qualification. Come to think of it it has been the only motivation in nearly all of my studies until after I fell off the ladder of ambition. (I believed, falsely, I could only be recognised properly if I was something other than myself.) When I did return to visual art for a short time, I rediscovered a love of drawing. For instance, I amused myself holding a pencil in my hand and drawing images on paper while I watched television. (The images came from my deep unconscious mind. The surrealities emergence often surprised me. The outcome was unimportant but it stimulated me to discuss my life with a psychologist, or two, and discover Carl Jung’s concepts of anima and animus.)

To lose myself, (Infrequently,) I have joined life drawing art groups. (Life drawing is the polite way of saying I drew nudes.) In life drawing I lost myself and discovered time evaporated. The ability to examine positive and negative shapes and express them on a one dimensional piece of paper I find absorbing.

As a warming-up exercise the model might hold a pose for thirty seconds. In those thirty seconds the task is to record the shape of the pose. There is no time to concentrate on detail. After several short posed exercises the poses adopted might last five or ten minutes. This allows the executioner more time to capture detail and some chance to indicate light and shade and indicate shape.

The remaining hour of so goes like minutes as the model adopts longer, more complicated poses. Some models like to bring along props to model with. This includes a little drapery, a sphere, or a hula hoop. (A hula hoop is distracting because you are aware when someone is viewing your work they will recognise it for what it is. Therefore it’s scale has to remain in keeping with the body you are attempting to capture.)

The drawings I produced were never the motivation for drawing. (I have only ever framed one and that is to remind myself how I get lost in the execution of the drawing.) Nearly all the drawings produced in groups like this allow the model to walk away into the community unrecognised by any viewer of the work because it is rarely truly illustrative. Over time my work has been destroyed, or lies forgotten somewhere in the house. Only twice have people shown any interest in purchasing my drawings. The first time it happened the parents of one of the costume models we used for Cert A wanted to buy a drawing of their son. The other was a friend wanting to help me financially who bought a two minute sketch from me. (One nude model that sat for us did say she was sitting for a recognised realistic artist in her spare time because she had commissioned the work so she would have a permanent record so she could say, “I once looked like this.”)

Sometimes I have got used to drawing the same model each week for a term. It is difficult to then draw with another model. To draw a female figure one week and draw a male the next is difficult. The more muscled body is harder to capture in flowing lines. The poses adopted are often more extorted. Therefore the softness of the female form is more easily captured. Although none of it is easy without regular practise. Some models will sit immobile, others cannot hold a pose for long. The models that move are really hard work for the sketchers.

For modelling is hard. The pose might sometimes be kept for two hours, except for short breaks. In the days of supervised work the teacher might have forced the model’s body into an uncomfortable position for lengthy periods just to obtain an interesting negative shape.

If the work is to be done in natural light it is easier for the model than to pose in the heat of a spotlight. But light and shade do make the work of the artist easier than flat light.

These lines are almost done. I have attempted to tell you something more of how I now wear lines on my face because they were drawn in days of light and shade. Perhaps this is why I prefer sunny days. May we both enjoy many more.

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