When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college - that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?”I’m not sure I ever knew, and I certainly never received any training. So instead of the logical and probably most effective course of action—taking a class with an artist who could direct my efforts—I fell back on my usual course of action—hitting my local Borders bookstore. My first drawing-related purchase was Carla Sonheim’s Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists. Sonheim presents a year’s worth of weekly drawing exercises or challenges to “put fun back in drawing.”
The first week’s lab invited me to draw cats in bed. “Draw about thirty cats from your imagination while sitting or lying in bed.” Since my imagination is feeling a little malnourished, and all of my daytime drawing basically takes place in the family room while the girls watch Mickey Mouse cartoons, I sat on the sofa instead, and accepted Sonheim’s permission to copy some of the cats she included in her book. So essentially I was making bad sketches of someone else’s sketches. Doesn’t sound too promising. And yet…
Katy and Bayla came over to see what I was doing, and they were amazed. Their mommy was taking a white piece of paper and making kitty cats appear! Out of nothing! And so began a chorus of, “Draw another kitty here, Mommy!” “Draw one here, Mommy!” I happily obliged, feeling like a cat-drawing rock star with an instant fan club.
Now, just so you know what kind of standards the toddler set has for its artistic rock stars, I’ll show you my page of sketches:
(In my defense, they look quite a bit like Sonheim’s sketches. No, really, they do!)
No matter how much I may try to convince myself otherwise, I cannot deny the energy I get from others’ compliments and approval. Having that positive response from the girls gave me a boost that first day with my drawing book. Suddenly I was “a Mommy who draws.” They don’t know I’m not any good yet! My pictures looked like kitty cats to them, and that’s all that matters!
And this opened up the possibility that they could draw, too. Every day now, Katy has some piece of paper—often magazine subscription cards or a note we’ve gotten in the mail—that she spends hours drawing on at the breakfast table. Suddenly she is a “girl who draws”! I probably have more of value to learn from her about confidence and imagination than I have to learn about technique from any library book. (But don’t worry: I’ll try to pick up a little technique before I subject you to any more pages from my sketchbook!)
P.S.: Here is a small gallery of some of Katy’s recent work.