Friday, October 21, 2011

Life Drawing at the Gladstone

I find myself wondering why I feel the need to keep this blog alive.. maybe because closing it seems like it would signify some sort of resignation about Cat-in-a-Box which I'm not prepared to do? It's been a hectic and roller-coaster-ish sort of year and the fact that my art has suffered a backseat through the ride is not shocking or unreasonable given the circumstances. Nor does it mean that my art is dead or without hope. Things are settling down now, and my right brain is quietly asserting it's position again. Fortunately I am better able to hear it than I have been at times in the past.

I am currently living near Toronto. Near enough that I was able to attend life drawing night at the Gladstone Hotel this week. Apparently the Art Bar at the Gladstone has had an ongoing weekly figure drawing meeting since 1957. Going down there took a bit of mental effort on my part. To be perfectly frank, the idea of interjecting myself into a completely new and unknown social situation is nerve-wracking for me. The stress can be alleviated somewhat by knowing exactly what is expected during said situation, however in this case I could find precious little about the life drawing session other than the location, date/time and cover cost (can we say 'stressful' boys and girls?) But life drawing... I LOVE life drawing!

I NEED to sometimes do some structured gesture drawing (is that an oxymoron?). Left to my own devices I know too well what will happen... after a long break in making art I will dive in to a complex scratchboard or something similarly detailed and demanding, I will of course fail miserably because I've been living left-brained for so long, and then I will quail and give up. The left brain will tell me that I have more important things to do anyway, and my right brain will wither and fade. I know this, I know how far this can go, but I also know the solution.

After a hiatus (all the time really, but especially after a hiatus) I need gesture drawing to work the art muscles. I need low expectation, fast paced, right-brain directed activity to loosen up, build confidence, and get the creative juices flowing. The more I do it the less stilted and stiff my work is, and the more I enjoy what I do. My work turns out better and it smooths the pathway for doing the complex and detailed scratchboard. It's like an athlete warming up, in a way.

So armed with the conviction that this was necessary and good for me, I decided that I WAS going to this session. Social anxiety or no. I plotted the location into my iPhone and set off with plenty of time to get there (and a secret plan to scope it out knowing that if it was too much I could always run away and go back home :D). Of course I somehow got the wrong address entered into my phone and spent some confusing minutes wondering if the whole thing was a hoax as I drove around a slightly scary downtown area of Toronto. iPhone to the rescue though, the correct address was found and I arrived... late. Nothing helps the social anxiety of putting oneself into a new situation like showing up late, interrupting the session, and oh... entering through the wrong door.


Yet despite all of that I made myself press on, I went around to the correct door, slid in as quietly as I could, and despite some annoyed looks from a few people the suffering ended there. And what I can say is that the anxiety was well worth it. I arrived in the middle of a pose, quietly took out my art supplies (which were kind of sad since my spectacular organizing skills have resulted in being unable to find most of my dry media stuff since the move) and started sketching. The room was quiet and every five minutes or so the leader would announce the change and the model would reposition herself for the next pose.

I say 'quiet' because there was no talking - there was a background supply of jazz music and the scratching of pencils or occasional swish of a brush in water, but no human speech. There is something about being in a room of a dozen people who are all in right-brain mode. It is out of the ordinary, for my day to day life at least, and it is really, really refreshing. There is no chitchat, almost no interaction, everyone is focused on the model and the page in front of them. Unlike so many other social interactions each person is doing their own thing, being in their own mind, you don't have to measure and weigh what you say, how you look, what the other person is thinking, how they are responding to you. You can sit and enjoy the presence of other humans, sharing an experience, in some ways likely sharing a similar state of mind - and there are no expectations or judgments.

I remember such situations throughout my life fondly - sitting on the periphery of the group, drawing, resting in the right side of my brain where there is no need for speech (indeed, sometimes it's hard to deal with speech when I'm really into the 'right brain'), but also soaking up the energy of people being nearby whether they are engaging each other or, as in the life drawing session, each in their own right-brain world. I wonder if it's an introvert thing, or an art thing. I wonder if other people enjoy that sort of interaction. I have to assume so, but perhaps it's a sign of personal growth that at the end of the day I don't care anymore whether other people do enjoy it - as much as I'd like to know that I share this with someone else, even if I don't it's enough for me to know that I like it.

So one point to the Gladstone, one point to the right brain, and one point to blogging :)

1 comment:

Nicole said...

Hi Pam- glad you are keeping the blog going, I enjoy reading what you are up to. I recently discovered figure drawing and have to say that I love it too. And about the armor- if you are ever in Calgary the Glenbow museum has a spectacular (overwhelming?) permanent collection of weapons and armor through the ages that you might like:)