Winter, an artist’s sketch in charcoal,
so clearly etched against a cloud-filled sky ~from Winter by Lynn Emberg Purse
For the past few years, I’ve been taking non-credit courses in subjects that interest me as a way to recharge and challenge my creative juices. This semester I’m taking a studio art class in drawing, something I haven’t done for many years. I was a bit nervous – could I still do this? – but as I began to haunt art stores and buy supplies, apprehension was replaced by growing excitement. I remember the gathering of artistic tools from my college days and the delight I felt in drawing and painting classes. Sketchpads, pencils, charcoal, erasers – a potential treasure trove!
We are using Betty Edward’s classic book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, as a way of bypassing the logical linear part of the brain and getting to the visual side that supports the creative process. The process of shifting perception in order to see and record what is there is markedly different from creating symbolic shorthand, like a child’s drawing of a house or stick figures, to represent what we think is there. I remember discovering that perceptual shift in my tenth grade art class while sketching this still life. I suddenly realized that if I looked at it in a certain way, I could reproduce it on my paper. I became obsessed with drawing and painting and continued to take classes in college; I only dropped the practice while traveling when photography became more practical.
There are lessons to be learned from this new challenge. I wasn’t sure if I could still draw but I realized as soon as I began the first exercise that I’ve never really stopped using my visual skills, whether in photography or gardening. According to Edwards “Learning to perceive is the basic skill that the students acquire, not drawing skill.”
Ironically, we don’t work with color in this class until spring, about the same time that color returns to the natural world. As someone who feels that she is banished from colorful Oz every winter, I quietly laughed at the weird synchronicity of using pencil and charcoal in the season of brown and gray and white. Looking through bare trees into a gray sky, I feel as if I’m living in the monochromatic world of Dorothy’s Kansas. Yet, if I look closely enough, I find color in leaf and lichen and a few daring flower buds. I will content myself with reconnecting to a familiar and beloved art form, embrace the artist’s sketch, and look at the world with fresh eyes. Enjoy a few scenes from the winter garden – click on any photo to start the carousel. (All photos ©2016 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved).
The painter draws with his eyes, not with his hands. Whatever he sees, if he sees it clearly, he can put it down . . . Seeing clear is the important thing. ~Maurice Grosser, The Painter’s Eye