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Old 05-25-2010, 09:27 PM
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Anne-Marie Anne-Marie is offline
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Smile First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Hi everyone--
Well I experimented with both photographing and scanning my journal, and am in the midst of figuring out what works best for what.
A little about me, to give context for the notebook:
As a kid, I loved to color and would just get lost in the beauty of children’s books. It was a disappointment when books had fewer and fewer illustrations as I got older!
I loved all things art but I was not considered talented in the least. I drew outside the lines. I scribbled. I “couldn’t draw.” I don’t recall a single time anyone ever said anything I drew was the least bit nice.
My mother was a gifted artist, but she kept this gift to herself. I recall being 13, 14, and trying out her paints, but didn’t know how to use them, didn’t know how to draw, and my mother did not get any joy out of sharing or showing me how to do things, and so she didn’t. Art classes in elementary school did not teach us how to draw. It was very much a 70’s, “do your own thing” kind of deal. My only art teacher in jr. high was scary and antagonistic. I never tried took another art class again, although I did try a community workshop when I was around 12 or so. That totally flopped, and I put aside my artistic yearnings, focusing on writing instead.
I got a degree in English. I loved English because I had so very many wonderful teachers who enjoyed sharing their knowledge and showing one how to develop and apply practical skills in analysis and in writing. It also took me back to being able to create a world of my own--like the children’s books once did for me. But I wasn’t a few months out of school than I knew that I longed for a career that would have a strong visual component. I chanced upon Alexandra Stoddard’s “Create a Beautiful Life” which is basically a design book, and realized for the first time that that is what I really wanted to do. I had NO idea how I was going to explain this to my family, however. I finally got up the courage one day in the car with my Dad. “Dad, I want to be an interior designer,” I said. His response was no response: he said absolutely nothing. And I knew that I could not depend on any help whatsoever to realize that dream.
I pushed off on my own, cobbling together temp jobs and whatnot. I got married. We lived in Rome and in Turkey, bringing the kitty we adopted at the Humane Society. Came back to the States. Eventually I decided to go to grad school. I got an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Afterwards, I found it easier to get better jobs in the corporate world and settled down doing technical writing for a pharmaceutical company.
When I was 40, my mother died. I also sustained a serious back injury caring for her, and ended up taking a medical leave of absence from work. I healed enough to go back after a couple months, but kept getting more and more depressed. I also gained more and more weight.
At 42 I decided I had a choice: I could just give up--on life, on finding a suitable career, on my weight, on my health, or I could fight. And I decided to fight.
My neice was just graduating from high school. She was thinking about going into interior design. I was wistful: I wished I had! And then I thought: so why don’t you then?
I looked into various programs. I found one I liked, that was close, had a great reputation, would exempt me from taking any general education classes, was reasonably-priced, and had interesting classes. BUT. And that “but” was a single course called “Observational Drawing.” And I couldn’t draw! How could I possibly pass??
And so I put off the program. I put it off and I put it off, lamenting all the while: if they didn’t have that ONE course.
Finally my husband wisely said: so? As in: So what if you have to take a drawing class? It’s ONE class! So what if you flunk it? You can probably take it over again, right? You can probably take it a couple times! And besides, you don’t have to take it right away. Maybe you can get a tutor or some books and practice a little before you take the class!
The admissions counselor at school told me: Don’t worry. Lots of people don’t think they can draw. That’s what we teach you.
Okay, I thought. I’ll TRY. Thank goodness the first class wasn’t a drawing class but a design class, I thought. And “thought” was right: it turns out that “Fundamentals of Design” was not a “design” class at all but . . . you guessed it: a DRAWING class! AUGH!
I practically threw up in that first class from the panic, at one point blurting out: the last time I took an art class was in 1976! This made the class laugh: most weren’t born even a dozen years after that!
But the professor (the artist Nancy Lu Rosenheim) was wonderful--such a Godsend. I loved her. She was warm and smart and funny, in addition to being extremely accomplished herself. She had gotten her MFA solely with the hope of teaching art, and we were her first class. She poured everything into it: patience, knowledge, support. She explained different styles, different techniques. She started us off very, very s-l-o-w, which was exactly what I needed. To this day, she is a friend, and I love her for her beautiful spirit and for being such a positive and encouraging soul.
Nancy told us that artists keep sketch books and encouraged each of us to start one. I wasn’t sure what I would put in mine, but I was willing to try. The notebook I share here is that book.
I’m proud of this book for its spirit: for my willingness to risk. I was very unsure and unconfident, but I decided to try anyway. In doing so, I gave myself permission to experiment with technique, subject matter, and media. It combines the collage, stamping, book arts, and card-making of my scrapbooking background, and hesitantly moves into experimenting with colored pencil, watercolor, gouache, egg tempera, soft pastels, oil pastels, graphite, charcoal, markers, and ink, as I sort of feel my way through a safety zone of patterns and collage and then move to tracing, exercises, and finally some attempts at drawing.
One last thing: remember how I thought that I had that one drawing class, and there ended up being two? Actually, there have been at least 6: the following quarter, I took a class called “Rapid Visualization” which I thought meant “rapidly visualizing interiors” and it turned out to be rapidly sketching out ideas! The quarter after that I took “Form and Space” which sounds like a furniture class, right? WRONG! It was a 3-D design class and required constant thumbnails. Then there was “Perspective” which I had assumed was a history class (i.e. “Perspectives in Interior Design”) but was, of course, a class in perspective drawing. And “Rendering”--which I thought meant “bringing about” but turns out to be a fancy word for “coloring”. In each class, I am incredulous (oh no! A DRAWING class???) and feel dread in the beginning, and with the exception of a single class (that I indeed dropped and re-took with a wonderful profession) I grow more than I could have imagined with each, until now I am actually beginning to fantasize about writing and illustrating children’s books. I know that I have a long way to go in terms of growing in skill and technique, but I no longer think “I can’t draw.” I think: I can learn. I can improve. In the meantime, my back and healthy and strong, I’ve lost 50 pounds and to the size I was when I got married over 20 years ago and I’m over halfway through my program with a 4.0 GPA and the knowledge that I NEVER would have pursued this degree if I had known I would have had to take SIX art classes!
Below: My notebook, an 8-1/2" x 11" Canson. I has some silver alpha stickers from scrapbooking, so I stuck those on the cover. I also am fond of ribbons as book marks, and have always been partial to pink-black-gray.

Below: Simple cover page, using colored pencils.
The first thing I learned in my first art class: how to find the exact center of a page. I was exicted to learn a real "technique".
I left a few pages blank so I could later add a table of contents.


First Page: Notes for Floor Study.
I was pretty worried about my first entry, since I didn't know how to draw anything. I do like colors and patterns, though, and I was very drawn to to color tile pattern where I work, and that seemed easy enough to draw! I just had to measure out squares! So this is the first thing I did. To give myself even more latitude, I did both the notes and the colored pencil drawing on typing paper, which I then glued into the book. This quelched my fear that I would "ruin" the book if I didn't like what I did.

Second page: Center First Floor tile at Abbott Molecular, in colored pencil.

I need to fix supper now so I'll continue posting more pictures later
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Old 05-25-2010, 09:49 PM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

What a great story! Enjoy interior design, drawing, and not letting tactless comments or noncomments from years ago put limits on what you do.
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Old 05-25-2010, 09:54 PM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Anne-Marie, so glad you found the courage to follow your dreams. It's a shame this modern society feels it has to stomp all over people's dreams. Nice tile pattern.
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Old 05-25-2010, 10:10 PM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

I applaud your persistance, Anne-Marie. You know, your experience isn't peculiar to the 70s. When I was 4 years old, I was sent to live with my grandmother. I was always drawing, scribbling and coloring, so my sweet grandma sent me to a private watercolor teacher on Saturday mornings. I still have some of the stuff I painted way back during the age of Dinosauers . After my grandmother died, my mother had to accept her responsiblities of a mother and came to take care of me. She was anything but supportive of my activities that were not utilitarian. I was to do my homework, get a parttime job, clean the house, etc. etc. Her influence on me was so damaging that now as a 60-something Grandmother, myself, I'm afraid of messing up a piece of white paper.

My grandkids, they've had access at my house to just about every kind of art supply available, and I'm seeing some really great stuff coming from them. They are making me very happy!

I'm going to do art though. I have sketch books and doggone it, I'm going to get busy and mess up some of that nice white paper! I've been an observer for a very long time.

I'm looking forward to seeing more from you and your progress.

Carole A
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Old 05-25-2010, 10:30 PM
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Smile Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Allrighty: more pix.

I didn't like working in colored pencil. I felt more comfortable with paper, from my paper crafting days. So I decided to do another study of the tile, this time using colored paper, which is Page 3:



Actually, I kind of didn't like that, either. So I thought: if you don't at first succeed, try and try again. I had some watercolor paper and some old Koi watercolors. So I decided to try with watercolor:

Page 4:



This was the closest to what I liked. I still wasn't really happy with it, but I did notice that I enjoyed working with watercolor the most out of the three mediums I tried

I used the experience to make some notes and also to re-inforce some of the vocabulary words that Nancy was teaching us. I made it fun for myself by using vellum paper and eyelets and scrapbooking stickers. (Page 5):




Then I thought about what to do next.

I was not confident about attempting to draw anything yet. So I looked around and found something another pattern I liked: a quilt that my grandmother had made. The pattern always fascinated me because I could never figure it out. Looking at it, I realized that it was a series of squares with some curves and some straight lines in each square. I sketched it out, square by square, using my water color paper. I didn't have any colors that looked right, so I went to the art supply store and decided on some egg tempera which was the EXACT color of my grandmother's quilt.

Back at home, I realized that if I scaled the quilt down too far, it lost proportion. I decided to use a BIG piece of watercolor paper and then when the piece dried, I folded it up in such a way that it could be glued to a page in the notebook and unfolded. I made a "title card" with the egg tempura and some scrapbooking stickers and tied it up with a ribbon:

Page 6:



When you open it up, it looks like this:



I still sort of didn't have the hang of using water media, but I started to understand that the varigation of the color is actually beautiful.

One of the things I also realized when doing the floor tiles is that all my strange, crytic little notations and drafts were almost more interesting than the "finished" entry itself. So I pasted in oneof my drafts, and attached my Design Notes to it (Page 7):



So those were my first two sketch book "projects".

I will post more pix in the coming days. I know this is a little untraditional as a sketchbook--I don't think I understood what a sketchbook is really for or how it's "done". Thankfully, my professor and friend Nancy was super nice and supportive with my early attempts. Hope this helps give others the licence to do whatever in their sketchbooks and have fun playing with different things.
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Old 05-25-2010, 10:40 PM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Thankyou Maryin Asia, Dr. Derby, and CaroleA for the kind comments! They made me smile!

CaroleA: I know exactly what you mean about being afraid to "mess up" a sheet of white paper. That is a sad legacy. It's so nice that you were able to break it and encourage your grandkids to create.

I encourage you to create, too! I look for ways to not make things a bigger deal than they are. One of the reasons why I have come out of my shell and posted something here on WC (after being a member for 3 years!) is because I want to keep up the momentum I built in the drawing classes I was taking before. Now that I'm not in a drawing class, I find I'm not drawing--and the funny thing is, I really LIKED drawing! But like you, I still get afraid. So this is my way of banishing fears and re-involving myself in making art.
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Old 05-26-2010, 12:03 AM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Loved reading your story. . . and I can totally relate to the being afraid to mess up a page of paper. I feel like that almost every time I begin something and have to tell myself, its ONLY paper. I also feel like that when I write my fiction, that I just can't possible do it and will screw it up and have to force myself to just get going.

The first book I ever bought on drawing when I decided a few years ago to go for it was So you thought you couldn't draw. Which is EXACTLY what I did think all my life. But now I know that I can! We can!
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Old 05-26-2010, 01:51 AM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Anne-Marie, your story moved me so much! I take it for granted that everyone always believed I would become A Great Artist when I grew up, though they all also believed I had No Talent for writing and would never be A Real Writer. They were right on one and wrong on the other.

That caused me to disbelieve the whole "Talent" theory completely. It's not something that gets decided by the people around a child, other than their succeeding in discouraging the child from ever trying to learn. I can't count the number of great artists I've known who got that discouraged and came to it late, fought through those social barriers to get so breathtakingly good at it that I'm thrilled.

Your sketchbook is delightful! Creative, unique, original, it has a great story and theme and such interesting early projects. You started out good at several important skills that you didn't realize were drawing -- coloring well, creating and choosing patterns, using a ruler well -- these things are all drawing too. Being able to observe and record what you see, that's drawing. You always had it in you. They were wrong, as surely as they were wrong about my writing.

Your beginner book is elegant.

Your early pages don't have the flaws my old sketchbooks did. I'm looking forward to seeing more. Your layouts worked from the git-go! I have so many pages in older sketchbooks that have one rather small drawing crawling off one edge and nothing else on the page because there wasn't room for anything else on that page.

I am so glad you found a good teacher and a good friend. That's another part of your wonderful story. I was always grateful for the "do your own thing" outlook of art classes in the sixties and seventies because they were my only respite from a Kafkaesque childhood of impossible demands and Catch-22's. I never stopped to think about what that did to anyone who was afraid to draw. It was such a joy to me compared to other classes.

You have inspired me. Thank you for posting this. I'm looking forward to more -- seeing you free yourself and grow is so beautiful. You belong to you, your life is yours, your drawing is a wonderful thing to do with your life. And if there is such a thing as Talent, you're dripping with it.
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Old 05-26-2010, 02:50 AM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Thanks for sharing your work and your story. I hear stories like this and I shudder. We have three kids and all are going to school for, or working in, graphic design and fine arts. Other parents think we are crazy, but I know our kids are following what they have a passion for. Good luck with the rest of your schooling.

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Old 05-26-2010, 04:43 AM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Anne-Marie, I read your story, and it sincerely moved me. Congratulations on your achievements so far, and thank you for sharing your journal! Don't worry about how a sketchbook should be or how it should be done. You really are doing good, and I like the way your journal is so personal. Looking at the pictures, I could see them telling a story, then little by little becoming more free and confident

Love the vocabulary page, and that gorgeous shade of blue... really looking forward to see more!
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:22 AM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Anne-Marie - I enjoyed reading your story and applaud your determined spirit that has surfaced in many parts of your life. Your journal may be a bit different, but aren't they all? I can see a change in your work, especially in the floor tile pages and that gorgous quilt. I will be watching for your next installment.
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:23 AM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Anne-Marie - I enjoyed reading your story and applaud your determined spirit that has surfaced in many parts of your life. Your journal may be a bit different, but aren't they all? I can see a change in your work, especially in the floor tile pages and that gorgous quilt. I will be watching for your next installment.
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Old 05-26-2010, 10:32 AM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

What a great story, well done and good for you for pursuing what you really want to do! I'm liking your journal so far, fascinating to see different things. Looking forward to seeing how you progress
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Old 05-26-2010, 11:36 AM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

I love your story, and your creative way of using your sketchbook. I'm so glad that you got to study interior design, and DRAWING. LOL
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Old 05-26-2010, 11:52 AM
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Re: First Attempts From Someone Who NEVER Thought They Could Ever, Ever Draw

Never let anyone push you down or dictate what you have to use or do unless it's grounded advice with facts or results. This is your journal, YOU decide what to put on it. It's easier if we draw/paint what we love because you'll never get tired of that.

I also tend to muffle my ears to these so called "artists" that talks the talk but can't walk the walk even if they have expensive materials. Completely dismiss the idea that art/drawing is an innate ability of certain individuals. Don't let these insecure snobs take you for a simpleton.

Even the greatest of artists never stops to study their craft, even striving to be better despite their current level. In that aspect, the learning process never really stops and it's always wonderful to learn and apply newly acquired knowledge.

I do believe that some people woud fail terribly and give up, thinking they don't have the ability. Most typically, these people skip basics, never practice but always expect results like it's magic! That's where the real hump is. The real truth there is to it is practice and time.

Looking forward to more of your stuff. Thanks for sharing.
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