It’s possible people look at me and think “oh she’s an athlete, probably taking drawing just because she thinks it’s easy”, but that could not be more wrong. I may not be the greatest at drawing, but I have loved it my whole life.
When I was little, I got a sketchbook for Christmas and I loved drawing in it. I had all these books to help you draw and they taught you the steps to draw different animals and pictures. I was never that great and would easily get frustrated because it didn’t look how I wanted it to.
In grade 9, we had to choose between art and music. I chose art and absolutely loved the class; I can easily say it was one of my favourite classes in high school. Everything that I knew about art and drawing before this year, which I can’t say was a ton, but was still useful, was from that class. Throughout high school, I wasn’t able to continue with art because I never had any space in my class schedule, but my best friend kept taking art classes and I would go to her art shows, especially because I missed the class.
When I came to Duke, I found out that my roommate is quite the artist and we were shocked that we went all of first year without finding out about the Arts Annex. Upon it’s discovery, we both were ecstatic about the thought of an artistic escape from our academic and athletic responsibilities. Throughout my first year at Duke and even in high school, I would find myself sitting in class, slightly bored, drawing the person in front or beside me, or drawing something in my surroundings, and it makes me laugh when I study for my tests to go back and read my notes and see whatever I was doodling in class.
Finally getting to take a drawing class was exciting, and even better, it was completely based off observation. Drawing from my imagination is most certainly not my forte, especially because I never practice it, but I love drawing off observation. The class itself was so different from my other science classes that I would appreciate having drawing homework because I could get into a completely different mindset for it.
However, I soon realized that I don’t as much like being “forced” to draw. I don’t feel as creative, my drawings don’t come out as nice as I’d like them to and I don’t get the same satisfaction and relaxation that I would drawing on my own for essentially no reason. That was one thing I struggled with this semester. When drawing became homework, something that was an obligation with a due date, I struggled to enjoy it as much as I had enjoyed drawing before. With regards to my sketchbook, there are only a few sketches in there that I am actually happy with because the other ones were not as spontaneous and simply were me saying “hm I need to do another sketch now, what should I draw to check another sketch off my list?”. Instead, I loved the times when I could say that I was drawing a sketch because I actually truly felt like it.
Another thing that I learned throughout the class is that most of the learning comes from the act of doing. I expected to be taught more techniques with words and explanations, but we would sit in class, listen to a short lecture and then draw. I remember for shading, I have never learned how to shade in my life and we were supposed to shade some objects and I just didn’t really understand how to do it. I would look at the girl’s beside me and her’s looked great and I would try to watch her and see what she was doing and try to learn, but I was struggling. When we had to do a final drawing with shading, I did the best I could but didn’t really understand what I was doing. Even with the drawings now, I don’t feel like I know how to shade properly, but I am thinking you must just learn through practicing and observing. I really do feel like I understand the importance of really observing, and preventing your brain from taking over, just trusting your eyes.
Another thing that I found hard was making my drawings so big. I had never drawn on such large pieces of paper before and that was really difficult. Not using a ruler and trying to have straight lines for buildings was tough. I had also never worked with charcoal before and I still don’t feel like I understand or enjoy using it that much unless you fill it in completely black like for our negative spaces drawing. I would like to learn how to combine the pencil and charcoal as I’ve seen other students in the class do.
However, one thing I really liked was the atmosphere within the classroom, I feel like I made some friends and met some friendly people and I liked getting to interact when sharing our thoughts for our big final drawings. It was fun to hear everyone’s ideas and contribute some of my own. It was especially fun to see everyone’s initial ideas and then get to compare that to their final product, examining everyone’s drawings was interesting and useful, as I definitely feel like I learned a lot just from comparing my drawings to others.
In the end, I liked the drawing class, I liked that it was completely based off observation, and I liked that we had to do a big drawing per week so I could practice a lot and use my techniques and dedicate time to trying to improve my skills, which I feel like I really did improve on. I can’t say I really love any of my drawings or think they are that great, which is a bit of a shame, but I always seem to have trouble feeling satisfied with what I’ve created, since it never really turns out how I imagined it would in my head. I’m really happy I took this class, and even though I most likely won’t have any more time in the future to take many more drawing classes, I know that I will continue to sketch things on my own, and keep in mind the skills I learned in this class.
When I told my friends I was taking a drawing class, they were surprised, but happy for me. Other than drawing, my classes are all math or science. I can say that I am really happy about getting to do a different kind of work this semester, work my brain in a different kind of way, and get to draw every week.