The way I feel about going to life drawing is, I imagine, much the same as other people feel about going for a run. The class looms large over my day, like a cloudy mixture of duty and dread. Even once I’m there, I find it difficult, frustrating and exhausting.
And I’m bad. Not just a little bit bad, but pretty awful. When you set up a life drawing class, as I did, people assume you are good at drawing. But in my case, they are profoundly mistaken.
There is something about the class, and my tutor’s desperate attempts to encourage me, that makes me feel like some hapless Austenesque spinster who has decided to ‘better herself’ in the various ways a woman might. The tutor in question (who is also a friend – giving him a bit more skin in the game) will often grapple for positive responses to my drawings, although not always with complete success. One week the only upside he could find was the way I’d set up the paper on the easel, and this he later retracted when, on reflection, he decided it was too low and too close to the centre. Another time all he could say was ‘I can see what you’re trying to do but I’d take a rubber to it’.
Give my lack of talent and the varying degrees of anxiety and despair that accompany my drawing classes, you may (rightly) question why it is I persist, or indeed, why it was I set up the classes in the first place.
But the thing is, after the class, again much like I imagine people feel after getting themselves out for a run, I feel like I’ve done something to really challenge and improve myself. The fact that I find it hard and yet persist regardless has to be good for my character surely? And the fact that I’m actively bad at it makes the fight to keep going all the more valiant and the victory of getting through the two-hour class all the sweeter.
So I keep drawing. And I keep forcing my tutor to find more euphemisms to describe my work. And maybe one day I’ll improve or, better, just enjoy it for all of my failings.