This past Saturday I had the pleasure of instructing an afternoon workshop with the Quadra Village Community Centre. This workshop was part of Art Thrive, a program created and run by the QVCC and funded by the BC Arts Council. Art Thrive provides art classes to youth and adult residents of Quadra Village (and beyond) free of charge, including materials. This program helps build a sense of community, while offering recreational, stress-reducing activities and bringing encouragement to individuals.
I have been anticipating this workshop for about a month — prepping materials, putting together a handout, gathering supplies (some at the store and some at the beach) and borrowing tools for this workshop. Needless to say I was excited when the day finally came to meet the students and see the workshop in action.
I was asked to teach this class on drawing with wire. I started the class by talking about drawing. What is drawing anyway? What can it be? Drawing is not like painting. In painting there is a specific medium that is referred to in the word itself: paint. However, the word drawing is more open-ended. It does not refer to a medium, but rather to an action. To draw, meaning to pull or to cause movement. It is only in relative recent history that drawing has even been considered an art form in of itself. In history, drawing was always a preliminary tool used to prepare for the “real thing”, like sketching a composition before making a painting or sculpture. Drawing is one of the oldest ways we humans have made art, but it is only now finally coming into its own identity — which is why it gets me excited and is one of my favourite things to do.
In this workshop a student told me she couldn’t draw. I explained that drawing is in her nature, it is part of being human. In fact, we do it all the time without even realizing it. Can you write? Yes. Then you are drawing. Art is not about doing something you cannot do, but about trying something that maybe you haven’t done before. Maybe you haven’t given yourself the freedom yet to make something that is not “perfect”. Learning to give yourself this freedom is such an important lesson – something that art has been, and is still, teaching me. Perfection will rob you of the joy of exploration and might hold you back from making exciting discoveries. So, if drawing is an action, as long as you are doing that action, you are drawing. You have overcome. Of course, patience is a virtue. If you want to fine-tune and develop your control and techniques, then, just like any other thing you can learn, it comes down to time and practice.
We started by first making drawings on paper with a single line. This type of drawing is called a ‘continuous line drawing’. You can make a drawing like this by putting your pen on the paper and not loosing contact with the page as your pen moves across it. This is the same concept as drawing with wire. A long, single line that loops and twists into a shape to create the impression of an image, an animal, a portrait or an abstracted object. After this drawing exercise, we moved on to talk about wire and practice some techniques to get a feel for the different ways you can manipulate wire.
Wire can be difficult to use. It is spring-loaded and can have a mind of its own. Learning how to work with wire is a process and the students in this class all managed brilliantly. They also remembered to employ safety techniques as they worked, such as curling the loose end of the wire so it doesn’t surprise and poke them. This was a two-hour workshop, and by the time we started making drawings with wire, there was just over an hour left of the class. Some students gravitated towards creating words in hand-writing with wire, others tried a variety of smaller projects and some spent the entire time working on a single, more complicated drawing. I brought in a collection of small driftwood pieces and showed the students how to attach their drawings to a wooden base and used the light on my phone to show them the incredible shadows their drawings cast. I should have taken more images of their works, they were truly wonderful, but honestly it was hard to remember to take pictures with so many great discoveries happening all around me.
The afternoon was a beautiful two hours spent with nine amazing students, and the lovely Carol and Marissa from the QVCC. I walked away from the old gym building feeling a greater appreciation of the value and importance of drawing. During the class some students commented on a deep sense of inner focus and body awareness as they drew. It is a wonderful feeling to enter into this headspace of deep concentration. When we started using the wire I heard comments about the process being more difficult that expected. When our time came to a close I heard exclamations of pleasure and satisfaction. At the end I asked if anyone had drawn with wire before. No, not one. It is exciting to have a room full of people trying something new, pushing past difficulties and making personal breakthroughs.
Art Thrive is about bringing the community together, but I was able to witness this on a larger scale, on a scale that reached beyond the classroom. In order not to go over my supply budget, I put out a call to my family and friends to ask for tools to be lent for students to use during this class. I was overwhelmed by the response and the support of my community. It is a beautiful picture of one way that art never ceases to surprise me — in how it brings people together.