Beginner Drawing

It's been a busy year for us. 10 months ago, I got engaged to the sweetest, gentlest, and most unassuming man I've ever met.

Since then, it's been a whirlwind of activity: my coworker and I made a pact to get project management certified (why I agreed to this in the middle of wedding planning...I'll never understand), I traveled to India for wedding-related shopping (and to visit dozens of cousins), planned a wedding in my hometown of Greenville, SC....from my current home of Washington, DC, bought a house, moved in with a boy for the very first time in my life, and got married.

We've been married for three weeks now. Our friends ask us how it feels to be married. It feels safe. Natural. The period preceding our wedding -- our entire engagement, was a period of uncertainty. Not in our relationship, but for the future. We had thrown so many balls into the air, I wasn't sure if we could catch them all in time. "Wedding" was a stomach-churning word, an unavoidable event that was hurtling closer by day. We couldn't guarantee its success and could only hope for minimal disaster.

The wedding itself, after all the stress, was a joyous event. Friends from different social circles mingled, danced, and spread genuinely happy energy. It was a romantic and memorable event we will always cherish.

We now live in a small home just inside the city line. Windchimes are hanging on the back porch. Our home is in the middle of a cul-de-sac, sandwiched between narrow rowhomes on either side. We take the bus to the metro and the metro to our offices downtown. The commute is long, and he holds my hand the whole time. He tells me he loves me when I wake up in the morning and when I go to sleep at night. I love him too. Life is good, and marriage is a comfort.

With so many "big events" behind me, my schedule suddenly cleared. The busy-ness of the past few months has died down, and I feel I can finally tackle various bucket lists created over the years.

That's what brings me to the topic of this post: Beginner Drawing. I signed up to take a 2 month drawing course at a studio school downtown. We meet for three hours every Tuesday, and last week was my first class.

I was a few minutes late to class, and the rest of the students had already set up easels in a circle around various animal skulls:

An object that became the center of my attention for a full three hours

After clumsily setting up my easel, I took a closer look around the room and at my fellow classmates. Everyone was eagerly listening as our instructor explained the difference between multiple grades of drawing pencils. We crowded around him as he gave a demonstration of blind contouring - a drawing exercise in which the artist draws the contour of a subject without looking at the paper. He told us to imagine we are tracing along the edges of the object itself. With that said, we were tasked with choosing a skull and practicing the exercise ourselves - with explicit instructions not to peek at the paper and keep our lines continuous (not lift pencil from paper until the outline is finished). Here's my attempt:

The lines are faint since I used a 2H drawing pencil (H indicates a hard inner core). Softer pencils will leave darker marks behind. This was a challenging exercise - it forced me to really concentrate on the object as it is rather than how I see it.

Next, we pulled in for another drawing demonstration. This time, our teacher drew the same object using a continuous line - but allowing himself to look back and forth between the object and paper. Then, it was our turn. Here's mine:

I was glad to have done blind contouring first. I could tell the blind contouring exercise had left an impression. This felt easier in comparison, but I doubt that would have been the case if the instructor had started off with this exercise. Whenever I felt a little lost about where to lead my line next, I leaned back on blind contouring to get the focus off my drawing and back on to the object.

After that, we were instructed to draw the same object - but this time starting from the center of focus and traveling out to the edges to create the outline last. I switched to a 2B (harder core pencil), so my lines are darker in this image:

As I started this exercise, I gave mental kudos to our teacher for structuring the class in this order. By building on top of each exercise, what would have been a daunting assignment became much simpler. I started in the middle with the eye, trying to take in every detail. By this point, I was getting tired. We had reached the 2.5 hour mark in our class and drawing had really drained my mental energy.

Luckily, it was time for our last exercise: straight-line contouring. In this exercise, we were told to take a straight-edge ruler, close one eye, and hold the edge of the ruler so it's running along the edge of the object. The aim of this exercise is to accurately depict the proportions of the object. Hold the ruler in the air framing the edge, draw this line on your paper, and continue to re-position the ruler to frame the entire object, drawing each line as you go. When the initial outline is complete, go back and re-outline while 'zooming in' on specific areas of the object to gain detail.

Unidentified skull

Simple explanation, but difficult execution

That was the end of Day 1 of Beginner Drawing. I went into the class expecting to learn a relaxing hobby I may be able to someday unwind with. I came out feeling exhausted and with a deeper appreciation for the arts and the people who are drawn to them. Drawing is highly technical and requires great mental focus. I'm looking forward to my next class.