Picasso and a Drawing Club

For the last ten years I’ve taught drawing to adults. When I began, I thought only that I’d share some tips and we’d all have some fun drawing together but so much more has happened. When we started out, some people were afraid to draw. They’d been discouraged in school, told that their work needed “improving” to that they weren’t getting it “right”. They were afraid their drawings would be hopelessly inept. All of us, even those with less concern, even me, still practiced a kind of reserve. In our early observational drawings we could see the effort of trying to make it “good”. None of us drew like children do—freely and without concern for what others think. I remembered what Picasso said, “It took me four years to learn to draw like Raphael, and the rest of my life to learn to draw like a child again.” Even Picasso had to let go of getting it “right”. He taught us to try new things, to see what happens, to put our whole selves into our art. And that everything we do has value. So, in our class, we began again. We started at the beginning as kids do—scribbling, making marks, making a mess! By doing it together, we could see immediately that we each have our own hand, our own way of making marks, and each has character. Soon we were scribbling with some abandon. But, when we returned to drawing what was in front of us, we all seized up again! In those early days when we didn’t know each other some of us felt vulnerable to potential criticism. We made a rule, just one: We will only look for what is good in each other’s work. There would be no criticism or suggestions about how to make things “better”. We proceeded in the belief that when we’re aware of our strengths, we can build on them ourselves and they will overcome weaknesses. This has proved to be true. We started to draw in all kinds of ways like Picasso did. We drew without looking at our paper, upside down and right-side up. We drew with chalk and pencils, brush and watercolor, even twigs dipped in paint. We drew with our fingers made black with charcoal. We drew delicate flowers with a two-inch brush so no-one could get it “right”. We got something more— great marks on paper and, best of all, the fragrant whiff of freedom! Gradually, like water dripping from a tap, we wore away our insistence on doing something “good”, something that already existed in our minds, and started to just show up to explore—to go where we haven’t been before, even make mistakes. The greater the challenge, the more fun we had! Picasso also said, “To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.” We started singing, each in our way. And so our class became a kind of club—a place to explore in all sorts of ways together. The unconditional support we give each other amplifies our courage. Together, we try more things, care less about failing; we allow our lapses in attention, our wobbly hand as well as our certain one. We applaud our successes. When we meet, we mostly find the freedom to simply be fully where and who we are; and to be seen as we are. That’s always beautiful. ©CatBennett2015