Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Can I Draw?

The answer to the question is: I wish.

During my high school years, while hanging out with the other nerdy girls (although we wouldn't have called ourselves that), I secretly longed to be one of the Artists. Those were the cool girls: they were beautiful and talented and oh so sophisticated.

Although I did make friends with a few of the arty girls, and even hung out with them for a few school lunches, I couldn’t fool our art teacher, Miss Gabrielle. I loved all the projects I did for her: a papier mache dog, a mosaic (of a peasant cottage), a tapestry (of a Spanish city). But she knew I wasn’t an artist. She acknowledged my art work with a nod of her head, while heaping praise upon her pets. And, I think she must have had a good aesthetic sense, because all of her favorite students, have gone on to become working artists. And that is amazing, considering how many people make a living as artists. Lisa Leone is an art director. Mary Heebner is a fine artist (also the subject of an entry in Wikipedia. I think this is my new goal!). Jane Bauman teaches art.

Despite Miss Gabrielle’s discouragement, I’ve always dreamed in design. It used to be that when I closed my eyes I would see designs for fabrics, for china, for wrapping paper, flashing behind my eyelids. These went away as I got older. Where did they go? Perhaps they atrophied out of misuse. But even now when I look at the plates from old herbals, the ones I like the most are the ones in which plants are “reduced to decoration” or “stylized beyond recognition” in the words of Wilfrid Blunt in his book The Illustrated Herbal.

William Morris is one of my heroes and my current wall calendar features his amazing floral patterns. Perhaps I was his wife, Janey Morris, in a former life and my visions of designs were simply etched into my brain because of all those hours spent embroidering them into curtains.

It’s with excitement and a great deal of trepidation that I began drawing again, using the simple technique of contour drawing I first learned from Miss Gabrielle to try to capture the flowers I’m studying. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow. And even share a few drawings. If I get my courage up.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely post! It made me think
first of Islamic art. Since the religion proscribes drawing the human
figure (perhaps all living objects, I forget) their art is abstract and floral. Like the Alhambra, which has beautiful floral patterns.

I also thought of my high school years in art classes. I too wanted to be an artist but never felt I could make a living at it. I did become a botanist for a time.

My point (since you needn't care about me)is that your post was evocative.

Waverly Fitzgerald said...

Au contraire, Phil, I do care about you. I think the whole point of blogs is that personal connection, where we recognize ourselves in the words of others.

I bet you know a lot more about flowers than I do.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that your teacher's favorites going on to become artists may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy situation. She saw them as talented so that's how they saw themselves. I think she did you a disservice by not recognizing the artist's soul within you. Art isn't about technical expertise; it's about passion and love and having a unique perspective on the world. I can draw quite well, but I've never felt the need or desire to express myself through drawing.I think your drawings are wonderful and as you've noted, they're more evocative when you don't overthink the process.If your dreams were filled with design, you already are an artist; the rest is just practice.

Carmine said...

Waverly, I didn't get much encouragement or support from my art teachers either--even in high school, the vibe of art class felt exclusive rather than inclusive. I think that's a shame. Just because they didn't provide you with any affirmation, it does not at all mean that you aren't artistic. And some of us take longer to come into our gifts than others. You've inspired me to try contour drawing, too!

Waverly Fitzgerald said...

Dear Bree and Tib,

Thanks for your encouragement. I think some of my confusion comes from the cultural expectation that artists should be able to make money or show their work. Others who simply draw for pleasure or knowing a plant aren't artists. Julia Cameron's book,The Artist's Way, really helped me challenge this belief. Also I just read Frederick Franck's wonderful book, The Zen of Seeing, offers the same message, that drawing can be just part of life, a sort of meditation, a way of being.

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