Neale Donald Walsch is one of those people I feel like I need to listen to very closely. I listen to each word with that deep listening, the ear behind the ear kind. He’s soft-spoken, both in tone and ego factor. When I think of modern motivational speakers that are humble and wise, I think of Neale. Homeless at one point in his life, he approaches each moment as if that moment is the most important one. Such a great paradigm for living.
So when I was watching the documentary “Infinity” last week and it was Neale’s turn to talk about his experiences, I listened. One thing caught my ear. “Fear,” he said, “had come to be known to him as feeling excited and ready.”
What a great acronym! It reminded of the book by Susan Jeffers I read so long ago, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. It reminded me of the liberation I felt in Berkeley last year in the middle of Hot Topics when I held the boa constrictor despite my long time fear of snakes. It spoke to me about the growth and experiences that come when we refuse to let the Wall of Fear block our path.
In this vein, I signed up for a full weekend sketch class. Now, perhaps this may not seem scary to the average Josie, but I’ve never had a sketch class in my entire life. I never remember taking art in school (surely we must have had some) and my real visual art expression was through music and dance. I had no idea if the people taking this class would be completely new like me, or if they had been drawing for years and were just fine-tuning. Would I be the kid who just didn’t get it? I decided that was not the point at all and it didn’t matter. Nobody cared. This was about pushing my own boundaries. I didn’t have to become a professional sketch artist or anything. I just had to be a student and be open.
When I got the supply list I’m pretty sure my heart stopped. There were about 20 things listed, some of which I’ve never heard of. Do you know how awkward it is to wander around Joanne’s or Michael’s in search of esoteric supplies? As I soon learned, most supplies weren’t even available there. I needed to get them online. (And, on that, I now know that nobody in all of Redding has a Stylus in stock so have my $2.99 Stylus on order. Thank you, Ellis Art!)
It occurred to me that drawing was way more complicated than I’d thought. I needed B pencils and H pencils and three different kinds of erasers. And smooth paper and sketch paper and paper with “teeth” in it. No wonder I hadn’t been able to make good horses in my second grade class. Obviously, I was too limited in my tools of a white board and dry erase markers.
Snark aside, I came to learn that tools are key to producing certain results. Also, learning tricks and techniques is a cumulative process. You learn new ideas from each teacher and from other students. By the end of the first day I was feeling pretty good about my first non-traced drawing, Dude Sitting on Chair. Granted, his head looks like he could be an alien and his fingers look like they were in the garbage disposal when it was turned on, but I completed it and an onlooker (pretty sure) can sort of tell what it is. Progress, right?
Denise Kerbs was a brilliant instructor with great exercises that engaged our right brains and by the end of Day 1 I was feeling like I could draw something. She’s an extremely talented artist (that’s her sketch of the cougar’s eye up in the corner). I was determined to soak up as much as I could from her 40 years of experience and resolve to just enjoying the process without too much invested in the end game.
Then came Day 2. She told us we’d be spending much of that day drawing Cougar. So much for enjoying the process. If you know me at all you know I’m not exactly a cat person. Staring at a big wild one all day would be challenging, especially one that looked like this.
Nevertheless, I went through the steps, learning at every turn which pencil to use and not use. I also learned to look more closely to detail than I usually do. I had hoped that developing my artistic brain would help develop my writing. I felt that happening over the course of drawing Cougar. When I returned to a manuscript on Monday following the class, I saw my scenes in much clearer detail. Fascinating.
By the end of the second day I was drained. My cougar looked more like a wolf and less like a cougar. Maybe it was just me. I came home and held up my drawing board to show my husband.
“Looks like a wolf,” he said.
Nope. Not just me. Oh, well. It’s not a competition. Besides, I like dogs better anyway.
Feeling excited and ready for my next adventure: watercolors! What’s yours?