Tuesday, 27 September 2011

One squashed gecko out of a million

They say that drawing and painting is a natural ability, and I have found this to be true as I always envied those who produce beautiful hand drawn art with little effort.  Some people can just pick up a pencil and draw.  I am not blessed with that ability.  I have the interest, but not the gift.  However, they also say that a lack of natural ability can be remedied with practice, to a degree.  Not everyone can become Andy Warhol, but it is possible to bring your drawing ability to a respectable level - at least that's what most art teachers say.  Art is a very unique, beautiful and often frustrating experience.  Unlike most skills, it is extremely difficult to teach and is something that unfairly rewards the talented.

When I was 13 I was impressionable, sensitive and didn't take criticism well.  I remember the first art assignment we were given in high school.  The art teacher told us to draw just about anything we wanted.  Given the fact that I was a novice, I decided to keep it simple and drew one of those pencil sharpeners with an attached bin that collects the shavings.

I gave it hours and re-drew it many times, until I had what I felt was a pretty good pencil sketch.  It had depth, shading, and perspective.  It wasn't mind-blowing but I felt I had something to be proud of: My first piece of work in big school.  Besides, I thought that my Grade 8 art teacher, Mr Litchkus, would give me some constructive feedback and set me on my way to becoming a better artist, even if my drawing wasn't perfect.  What this douchebag of a "teacher" did instead was pick up my work, look at it with a bemused look then say, "Yuck!  This is teeeerrrible!"  Then he scribbles down my mark: one squashed gekko out of a million (word for word as he wrote it).

As usual he was being his eccentric, larger than life self, and that was part of the problem.  He was belittling my work in front of the whole class.  It may have been all fun and games to him, but after putting in 5 hours of my weekend time into that drawing I was deflated and I never tried hard at any subsequent art assignment.  I just stopped trying for the next two years.  When we could elect our courses in Grade 10 I left art out.

Teachers too often ignore the effect their outbursts and mutterings can have on a child.  Some kids are more sensitive than others and this has to be respected.  A child needs to be mentored and developed in whichever direction they choose.  It is not the teacher's job to decide what a student must study.  In fact, a teacher should keep her opinion to herself and be very careful with the words she chooses when providing an assessment, taking into consideration that she is not just assessing a piece of work: she is leaving a mark on the student's confidence and self esteem as well.  It is the teacher's job to maximise the student's ability in whatever the student wants to learn and shows an interest in.  Leave snide remarks and insults at the door.

I doubt I would be able to become a professional artist no matter how I tried, but I would have definitely enjoyed it as a hobby.  I know that I can take it up at any time and that my experiences in eighth grade shouldn't stop me, but somehow I never had the urge to pick up a pencil and draw anything more than a doodle since then.  Now as an adult I will take up anything if it interests me and I don't hear the assessments of others, but drawing is just something of a sensitive spot for me.

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