Draw Because You’re Afraid

Sketchbook page with studies of arms

The white paper glows under my hovering pencil and I hesitate at its blank perfection. An idea dances in my mind, waits in my fingers. But there it stops, caught in mid-air like a bird in a net.

Why do I wait? Why is drawing a line so difficult?

I know the answer before I ask–I’m afraid to fail. Simple as that.

Art is a singularly cruel lover: she takes every one of your ideas and dashes them against the merciless bedrock of your own skill. If it meets the concept’s requirements, good! You have a success on your hands. If not…woe betide the artist who did not take time to practice.

But too often, fear of failing shackles you from practice–the sharpest sword in an artist’s arsenal. Oh, fear draws a very convincing spectacle. You know the color will be too bright–the line will go wrong–the drawing will not be accurate. Why even try, if it is to be so bad?

Sketchbook page with thumbnail sketches

Hogwash. (And the fear knows it.) In reality, the chance that the line comes out wrong is only proportional to your own skill, or lack of it. To be sure, your first few (hundred) attempts might be ghastly–just ask me–but as surely as harvest, your skill will sharpen and the line will come out right.

It just takes practice.

So, draw because you’re afraid! Put your pencil on paper and spit in fear’s eye. Practice for all you’re worth and expect results, as seed produces sprout. They will come.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

Music Thursday: “The Rabbi’s Wedding at the Palmerston Street Shul”

Not long ago, Spotify’s algorithms had the good taste to suggest a particular song to me: Srul Irving Glick’s “The Rabbi’s Wedding at the Palmerston Street Shul,” movement III of his “Old Toronto Klezmer Suite,” performed by Angele Dubeau. I had never heard it before.

But before we dive into the song itself, who was Srul Irving Glick? In a word, one of Canada’s greatest composers. Born in Toronto in 1934 to a Jewish family, Glick composed hundreds of pieces for all manner of instrumentation, from guitars to full orchestras to choirs. His music retains the traditional sound of Toronto’s Jewish community–his father was a cantor, and Glick composed a great number of liturgical works for synagogue use.

According to The Glick Society’s website, Glick began studying piano at the age of 12. By 15, he knew he wanted to be a composer (and not a concert pianist). He dedicated the rest of his life to this pursuit, and was awarded the prestigious Yuval Award by the Cantor’s Assembly of America (among other accolades) before his death in 2002. For a more complete biography, click here

Glick first wrote the “Old Toronto Klezmer Suite” itself in 1998 for pianist Catherine Wilson and her group “Ensemble Vivant.” Of the piece, he said, “This work is based on klezmer style in a chamber music idiom. I wanted to express my deep love for the city of Toronto. I wrote this quintet for pianist Catherine Wilson and her Friends, performing the violin, viola, cello and double bass. Each movement reflects reminiscences of some aspect of my growing up in Toronto.”

“The Rabbi’s Wedding at the Palmerston Street Shul” is the fourth movement of the suite. Here it is performed by violinist Angele Dubeau and her own ensemble “La Pieta.” As for the song itself–the haunting melody first hooked my attention, but the transition to energetic Jewish dance in the second half cemented my enjoyment. What fun! Now, enjoy it for yourself:

 (Can’t see the video? Click here)

Golf Course Sketch Trip

I ventured out on a sketch trip across the golf course the other day, armed with necessary supplies packed in a little bag. The golf course is a beautiful area to stroll and sketch–an unusual oasis in our arid country–but it can be hard to avoid golfers and find a surreptitious spot. I first found a little bench a half-mile from our house and parked myself there, as it offered a fine view of the course’s rolling hills, clubhouse, and local mountain.

(Please ignore the smudging–a little bit of it is an experiment gone wrong, but the rest happened with careless handling.) I definitely want to come back to this spot…the mountain adds a beautiful backdrop and the little hills make lots of interesting layers.

Funny story: As I sat on the bench, a couple golfers drove by and said, “Are you grading us?!” (I only realized later what they said.) I shook my head and was quiet as they teed off (the tee was right next to the bench). Then, as they were packing up, one said, “Wait–are you drawing something?” I said yes, and they seemed impressed, complimented the view, and drove off.

Art always attracts such interest from passers-by. 😛

I moved on to draw some trees–I should have done the little shape sketch (in the corner) first and then done the big one. Also should have taken more time, but this was done standing in a large path beside a fairway, and it’s hard to concentrate while standing holding a sketchbook and trying to ignore the golfers walking by.

Another path. There were all sorts of interesting lines from rain flow, which I tried to capture.

I wasn’t too pleased with the day’s results, done hastily, but plan to remedy that on future sketch trips. Thoughtfulness always pays off!

Quick Sketch: Sleepy Dog

My grandfather’s art assignment for me the last few weeks (I do bi-weekly art lessons with him, as he is an accomplished southwest landscape painter and has much to share) has been loose contour sketches, like Shari Blaukopf’s shown here. In her post, she mentions Charles Reid’s “blind contour sketch” approach explained in his Watercolor Solutions—a method that has astonished me in its effectiveness. To put it briefly: keep your eye on the subject, your pen on the paper, and follow the outline (or contour) of the subject, checking occasionally to make adjustments on angle or proportion. I’ve been amazed at how accurate my drawings have been, while staying loose.

I used that method for the outline of this sketch, and added my own extras for detail and shading. The detail is fun—dipping the pen in from the outline for a quite squiggle that adds dimension and interest. I’ll be using this method more in the future!

Materials: Strathmore 5.5″ x 8.5″ sketchbook, Pentel Stylo sketch pen

Laurie