I’ve always wanted to draw.
As a child I fell in love with Herge’s Tintin and they were magical books, images which were so evocative that I could not understand how they were created with a few lines and a splash of colour. In time I progressed to 2000AD, superheroes and more mature works but then my interest shifted to pure art and design. All of which had the ability to draw, to create a representation which others would recognise, at their heart.
However, I had a problem. I was diagnosed as dyslexic as a child. This was in the 1970s when such ideas were only just entering mainstream educational thinking. A child nowadays with my problems would be diagnosed with a mix of dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and dyspraxia though the labels do not matter. The problem I had was very poor hand/eye coordination making my handwriting illegible. The educational consequences of this and other aspects of my dyslexia left me with a poor psychological relationship with pens, paper and showing people anything I did.
After leaving school at 16, I kept trying to overcome my handwriting and English problems and by the time I was in my thirties, things were much improved. Yet, despite several efforts, including going to college as a mature student and doing Art A Levels, my drawing and visual art skills had not progressed (see these old images from poosk.com for an idea of my skill level).
In 2016 my Mother died after a very long and debilitating fight with dementia. Inevitably, one’s thoughts turns to the past, the future and mortality at times like that. In my case, I decided that if I ever wanted to be able to draw, that I had bloody well better start now. Otherwise either or death or dementia would take me before I got round to it.
This time, this attempt to teach myself to draw, would be different.
Firstly, I would be serious about it. Previous attempts had involved a few hours here and there with a sketch pad plus the odd life drawing class. This time, I am going to put the hours in. Malcolm Gladwell publicised the concept of “10,000 hours” – the amount of practice it takes to become truly good at a task. The amount of time I had spent learning in previous attempts at learning to draw was considerably less, probably less than 100 hours in total. So for this attempt, I need to practice everyday for at least an hour a day.
Secondly, I would do this all in public. Dyslexia left deep scars – when everything you do is wrong, or at least considerably worse than your peers, school is not a particularly fun place). This fear and embarrassment of sharing my work deprived me of the natural support network of friends. The constant whisper of one’s inner demons – “this is terrible, people will laugh at you” – creates stress which impacts both on muscle control and the brains ability to learn. Neither particularly helpful when trying to teach yourself a complex skill. To learn to draw, I needed to face this fear, to accept that I would be terrible and that people might mock or judge me for it.
So I started drawing in coffee shops and posting on Twitter (@tregenza) using the hashtag #LearningToDraw. Every appalling sketch, every failure, every mistake would be embraced and shown to the world. Going to the coffee shop everyday gives my drawing time structure – helping me to put the hours in and stay focused.
This all started in late March / early April 2016 and the structure of the #LearningToDraw sessions and hashtag has developed. As of Late May 2016 I am now sharing daily posts of my progress here on my blog (#LearningToDraw) and on other social media – Facebook and G+.