Sunday, June 19, 2011

This'll learn ya!

You may have noticed that I've been absent from this blog for quite a while - I had intended when I started it to blog each week, but my brain has been focussed on my studies and my new life.  As a result, I just haven't been able to come up with good ideas for subjects.

Currently, there's one more week of Term 2 left before we break for a fortnight.  This coincides pretty much with the Shortest Day (in the Southern Hemisphere) although it's not considered mid-winter for another couple of weeks.  But I digress...

As a student, my world revolves around learning.  My Drawing tutor has told me that I have a negative attitude to my work, and this means I don't see good bits that I draw.  Yes, it's true that I'm very critical of my drawing, because I'm continually frustrated by my inability to reproduce what I see - have you ever tried to draw drapery?  You know, a sheet draped in bunches over a trestle.  I wrote on my effort that it was "Mutant Drapery", which elicited the tutor's comments.

Anyway, this got me thinking.  Naturally, we humans tend to spend our time, as we go through life, doing the things that we're good at.  I can't remember the last time I willingly spent time doing something that I had no experience in and did poorly at.  Until now.  And Drawing is not an elective - I have it for the whole 3 years of my degree.

This tutor insists that there is no such thing as talent, and that drawing is just a skill that can be learnt by anyone.  Maybe he's right.  The problem is that, at tertiary level, you're not actually taught to do things, like draw, because it's expected that you already know the basics at least.  If you don't, you look to your classmates to help.  I understand this, and have resolved to spend time drawing each day over the holidays as I certainly need the practice (plus I have to draw 3 portraits as an assignment - which I've never done before except for one day in class at the start of the year).  Problem is, because I don't really enjoy it, or the results, I don't look forward to doing it - in comparison, I adore photography and get totally excited about taking photographs.  But I digress again...

How do you, dear readers, feel about learning?  Do you stick pretty much with what you know you can do, or do you go out of your way to do things that you find difficult?  Tell me your stories!


  1. Interesting question. I am a lazy learner! I love to hear about new things but as soon as it gets difficult I switch off. I would love to study again but would only be willing to do the reading and attend the lectures, I would not be prepared to write essays or sit exams. Why should I? I don't need to prove anything to anyone anymore!

  2. Have you read 'The Artists Way' by Julia Cameron. She advocates drawing and writing everyday, (order it from your Library). She has a website too

  3. I find you questions interesting. I at the age of 44 went back to uni to study, I am doing a Bachelor of Education Primary.For me the idea of going back to uni took a long time for me to do. My husband for years said that I should do it, but I did not feel that the timing was right or that I was capable of doing it. But after a lot of thought I applied and was accepted to the degree. I have found the lectures and the study very stimulating and I am enjoying. The mixing with people of all different ages and the use of the grey matter again after not challenging it for years has been wonderful. The assignments though are difficult. I do not enjoy writing essays, but am getting better and the marks I have been getting really surprise me. I think that we should all challenge our selves in some way, as we are all learners and should be life long learning. So take a challenge you never know what the out come may be , it may just surprise you.

  4. Didn't mean to take so long to answer this but there was a lot to think about. In essence, I like a challenge. I like to learn new things that push me a bit. But I usually like to do that on my own. Have always operated on the assumption that I should be able to figure it out on my own, or with the help of a book or magazine article or research of some kind. Once in awhile, though, there will be something I admit I need help with, like constructing a mariner compass block, and then I seek out a class.

    For the most part, these things I like to try do fall within a general comfort zone that I feel I know something about, and I just assume I will be successful (although I have been terribly wrong about that at times). But I also like to try things that are totally foreign and may not even be something I use again, like basket making. I was really feeling stale and in need of something different. I love the basket I made, still can't believe that I actually made it, but gained a respect for real basket makers who definitely are not asking too much for their wares. And it was only a one day commitment.

    I do have an odd thing I do though, when considering taking a class on something I know nothing about - I seem to think I have to have a certain level of knowledge about the subject before signing up. I put off taking a drawing class for several years because the class descriptions weren't spelling out specifics about the supplies and I must have been embarrassed to ask. I finally found one that declared no prior experience needed and we provide everything you need. Perfect.

    Once I get past that initial "I don't know enough to take this class" thing, I quickly become immersed in the sessions. Sometimes there will be things I'm not crazy about doing, but I soldier through hoping to see the value eventually or knowing if not, I don't have to keep it up once the class is over. However, I'm not taking them for credit or grade, and rarely for more than a few sessions. I'm just in it for my own self-improvement. I'm not sure how it would change my attitude and approach if I were in your shoes, a sustained effort over a long period of time with the assignments that can't be blown off.

    As for your negativity about your drawing skills, I'm siding with your teacher, based on my own experience with drawing class. Think of approaching it the same way you do making a quilt (provided this is the way you approach making a quilt), i.e. broken into manageable units, focusing on one small part, adding the next until the whole thing is done. If you only looked at the entire process, it would overwhelm you to the point of being convinced you just couldn't. My teacher told us to stop looking at the whole thing we were drawing, but instead focus on a line here, a shape there, until the whole thing was done. And just like in quilting, where your first efforts certainly are not as good as subsequent ones, it takes a lot of doing for the image the brain perceives to come out the fingers intact.

    She also insisted that we stop altogether when we ran into an area we couldn't seem to get right. No point in continuing when all you were doing was getting more frustrated. Take a break, rest your eyes, work on a different part, come back to it later. Of course, I thought, that's what I do with my quilting.

    And when you hit a snag like that, grab your camera and go have some fun!

  5. I am right in line with your tutor. "Talent" is the result of lots of practice and I do believe anyone can learn to draw. Get the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain." It will help you see how we defeat ourselves and how to learn to really see what you draw, which is the key to drawing well.

  6. Hi Shirley,amazing I should find your blog.I'm a 53yr. old studying Visual art on a small island off the Irish coast. Count yourself lucky!My degree is 4 years!I'm not too good at drawing but that is the least of my troubles.Let me put it this way,I feel I am the only one in my class that seems not to know what its all about.I feel alone and a bit bewildered most of the time.My marks are good but I seem to put myself through 'hell'when creating.So... we seem to have a few things in common!

  7. Dear Anonymous,

    I wish you'd left your email address so I can connect with you! If you get to read this, please get in touch with me at I would love to talk to you more.

  8. I Love learning and I enjoy the challenge.
    I realise I'm not going to get it right first time so I just persevere. I did a 4 year Art Diploma and I was not good at drawing about 14 years ago. Im still not all that good but I realise I dont have to be. IThats what cameras and photcopiers are for.
    You could try the exercises out of the book "Drawing on the Right hand side of the brain " I always turn pictures upside down to improve and yes I should draw every day but I dont.

    What i find witrh women is often they are down on themselves with their efforts . They let their little negative voice tell them they are useless.
    The thing is they are not. I tell them over and over. Its all about the journey.

    Whereas the kids I teach are always happy with what they do.

    I dont know why people are like this but it certainly makes me very wary of complaining thta Im not good enough with the Photography Diploma I am sdoing from Southland. Its just going to take time and already i can see how much I have improved.
    Cheers janet keen from Rotorua
    Doing the second digital photography paper