"You know what that poster makes me think of?" I said to a fellow at work. I was referring to this year's Alberta Arts Days poster that was hanging on one of the office walls. "It makes me think of a really nice set of pencil crayons. You know, the ones where, when you draw with the red pencil crayon, it's really red. Not pink or orange... just red."
"Yeah," he said. "The ones that you love so much on the first day of school..."
Each day I passed it, I got thinking about those first days of school when I was so happy to have a new set of pencil crayons. I thought even further back to when I got my first set of Crayola crayons, the 64-pack with the built-in sharpener, complete with the exotic copper, silver, and gold crayons. I remember saving those colours for only the most special pictures. Not everything deserved the use of those waxy metallic beauties.
I've never really considered myself an artist. I think most of us get that drummed out of us during school when we realize that our pictures of cats/dogs/houses/cars aren't as good as the resident artistic genius. We prefer to guffah and huff when people ask us to draw things. "Oh no, I couldn't do that," we say.
When I was in university, in my final year of my Bachelor of Education, I was fortunate enough to be in a special program for Early Years Education (early years meaning kindergarten to grade 4). One of the main elements of this training was not just to teach, but to be "lifetime learners." We were to challenge ourselves all the time to do the things we were asking our students to do: write stories, play, sing, dance, run, and draw.
Draw? Hmmm... I thought to myself.
I went out and and got myself the a sketchbook, as we were all required to do. I started out tentatively, trying to draw the things around me, criticizing my every pencil stroke, every shape and line. My hand ached with the effort. I searched vainly for something interesting to put in there.
Then, something strange happened. I learned to play.
I got some watercolour paints and spent time playing with them. I was delighted by how the water took the paint and stretched it across the page. I tried restricting the water and loved how deep the colours could be.
I found some charcoal pastels and smudged my way through several drawings... some of forest scenes, some with just lines of different weights, different thicknesses. I walked around my house with black smudges on my cheeks. I started looking at plants and wondered what they would look like in my smudgy drawings.
I spent an entire afternoon looking at myself in the mirror and trying to draw a self-portrait. I learned how to draw a nose, an eye, the ridge of my brow. Then, I drew a picture of my cousin's daughter from a photograph. I was becoming a good observer of life, and how it could be depicted on paper.
Then, I graduated school and promptly stopped drawing.
Lately, I've been itching to feel the slippery feeling of oil pastels on paper, and to hear the sound of a pencil scraping a line into a drawing. My brushes and charcoals and paints had all disappeared - some gifted, some given away, some thrown out. So, I've begun to collect supplies again.
Some of them are economy brands, others aren't. Since I have no formal training whatsoever, I had no idea of what I needed, just that I wanted to explore again. I haven't done anything yet... for now, I'm just enjoying having these things in the house. I took them out tonight and looked them over, touching the colours, smudging my fingers with the charcoals, sliding brushes between my fingers.
And those pencil crayons: They were recommended to me by a friend. They're the kind that are strong enough to withstand lots of sharpening, and that don't fall to bits each time you do. I'm loving them so far...
They're like the ones I loved so much on the first day of school. Ah, yes... those ones...