Drawing and Talking
I rather admire artists who can paint and talk at the same time; “I’m just going to put a spot of red here….” “a highlight there….” I find it impossible to even think rationally, let alone explain what I’m doing.
I have written before about how I think that drawing can be a mindless pursuit (see the archived blog ofFebruary 2014 on my website www.jenicaruana.com )
The connection between eye and hand can become so strong that all thought disappears. Using the left/right brain model, the left, logical linear, language-based side is over-ridden by the right, creative, shape-based side. I love that feeling; it’s as if I step outside myself and watch me drawing. I feel as if I am a very long way off and it takes a conscious effort to come back.
I can also become so involved with the subject, whether it’s a person or a stone, that I can feel it physically. My senses of touch, taste and smell are as engaged as my sight. I know how a wall tastes, how the sky smells and how a sound moves. I suppose that this is mild synesthesia (Wikipedia defines this as ‘a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway’). It only happens when I am really involved with a drawing, and I slip in and out of it.
My drawing may or may not work, the end result might be rubbish and not worth keeping, but the experience is always worth the effort.
When I’m working outside people often come up to see what I’m doing. I try not to engage in conversation because I’ve just set all my stuff up to paint, not talk. I can be quite rude in a dismissive way. Their first question is often “What are you doing?” Which doesn’t deserve an answer, now does it? I am standing in front of an easel, up to my elbows in paint, surrounded by art paraphernalia – isn’t it obvious that I am waiting for a bus, or perhaps fishing?
Most people want to tell me that their aunt/brother/cousin is a REALLY good artist. What can I say to that? Obviously my efforts aren’t as impressive.
If I don’t respond, one person usually decides to enlighten the others and describe what I am doing. “See, there is that tree, and she’s just doing the house next to it. Now she’s going to paint the tree – oh I don’t know why she’s made it that colour…..” I can’t tell you how tempted I am to write GO AWAY or BE QUIET across the picture, or draw a naked man in the bushes. But I don’t, because I am a Nice Girl and I just pretend to be deaf.
I tell myself that anyone who stops to watch someone painting is just jealous. They simply wish that they were standing in front of the easel instead of me. So I’m the lucky one.
When I am doing live paintings of musicians or dancers it takes so much focus that I find it difficult to recognise anyone, let alone acknowledge them. I’ll never forget one well-meaning person who popped up at the Jazz Festival between my easel and the band I was painting, and said “Hi Jeni! Do you still go to yoga?” I’m afraid I was very rude. Sorry, whoever you were.
The point that I started out with is that some artists can talk while they’re working and I can’t. That’s one reason I rarely teach by demonstrating. The other is that I really don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. I said that to one of my students the other day and she laughed in disbelief, but it’s true. I seem to approach things from different angles all the time – it’s always an adventure and I honestly never know if the picture will work out.
I teach by giving people the tools they need to start seeing differently and thereby drawing accurately and confidently. Simple exercises can help people shift from left to right brain perception and make drawing easier than they ever thought it could be. I find that people who say “I can’t draw but I’ve always wanted to” make the most remarkable progress by learning in this way. I love seeing their faces when they discover that they can draw after all.
It’s always good to learn by inspiration and imitation, and seeing someone demonstrate a method of working is very valuable. I’m just not very good at it! But I know someone who IS…..At the end of June (24th – 29th) I am going to be co-tutoring a painting holiday with fellow watercolourist Tonio Mallia. We will be taking a group of about 15 from Malta to Erice in Sicily. Tonio is very good at demonstrating and I’m really looking forward to working with him. I think we’ll be a great team and have a lot of fun helping people to create memorable paintings of this picturesque town and its surroundings.
If you would like to join us on this adventure, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org