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Z fails to draw part 8

I didn’t get to it until after dark and found that it would have been better by natural light. Also, the felt pens I ordered haven’t arrived yet, which is not terribly helpful as the ones i had were quite thick, so not ideal for drawing with. This is all making excuses, however.

Modified contour drawing of your hand, is what the exercise was called. In short, you put your hand under the sheet of glass or plastic and draw it. It’s a three-dimensional form drawn in two dimensions.

It was tricky, mainly because of balancing the sheet of glass on fingertips and drawing it, but not being able to rest your drawing hand as that would tilt the sheet of glass. It reminded me of when I wrote on my iPad with a stylus; I couldn’t rest my hand and so it was unpleasantly awkward. And, as I said, the felt tip pen was thicker than the ideal. Nevertheless, I achieved *apparently* three-dimensional drawings. I ran out of time because I had to go out at 7.15 for our Friday Night Takeaway but tomorrow I’ll go onto the next stage, which I think is translating the drawing on glass to one on paper. I don’t read ahead, so I’m not sure what is in store for me.

But it’s fun. I have no expectations but I’m enjoying the trip. I have learnt and I’ll learn more and the end result doesn’t matter – I’ve let go of anxiety about it. If I don’t much enjoy a particular exercise, it doesn’t matter, it’s still something to learn from and just do. Just do it. I could say that louder, actually. JUST DO IT.

They are really poor, I know. But it doesn’t matter. I’m starting to understand the principle of it. It’ll get better.

Wink’s op

No drawing today, I didn’t try because I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate. Wink’s operation has gone very well and we’ve had a chat this evening. I hope she’s asleep by now, or will be soon, but now it’s just recovery. No more arthritis and, once the wound has healed, no more pain. I am so thankful for this wonderful operation, without it I would be totally crippled and so would she. Though I’d have been crippled a decade ago. An awful thought.

Feeding the chickens is endless amusement. Shut in as they are, I give them treats. I have kale growing in the kitchen garden, which they love and I also sometimes give them sunflower seeds or mealworms. Rose’s two girls, Scrabble and Polly, eat out of my hand but not many of the others do. Jabba is still moulting badly, so she appreciates a little extra attention. Amusingly, Polly Garter has realised that if she jumps up onto the feed bin when I open it for mealworms, I’ll hold a handful just for her. Few of the youngsters will eat from my hand, it’s only the more intelligent ones. Good that PG has had some babies, not that I know which are hers.

Polly (Polly and Polly Garter are two different chickens) is ageing, however. She’s over five and a half years old and her cousin of the same age, Canasta, died last winter. I’m not sure that we’ll have Polly much longer. I’m fairly sure that some of the chicks from last year are hers, though. Scrabble is still going strong – indeed, it’s the comparison between two hens of the same age that makes me realise Polly is fading. She still eats well, which is the main thing.

Not making unnecessary journeys, we make food last as long as possible. It must be said that I’m going to need more vegetables before long. We have plenty of onions and a parsnip, plus a quarter of a cabbage – and kale in the garden, of course – so we’re not exactly short of food, but it’s not the most exciting. I used everything else today for soup – sort of minestrone, but I didn’t have a carrot, so I’m not sure that it counts. I know Nigella doesn’t approve of tomatoes in minestrone (she’s wrong) but I’m not sure you can manage without carrots. I had onion, obviously, celery, kohl rabi, garlic, a couple of random Jerusalem artichokes and tinned tomato. And a leek and some home-cured bacon bits. And some stock out of the freezer, plus vegetable stock made from the veggie trimmings. We had it for dinner and it was very good. Oh, a heel of parmesan in the soup and grated parmesan with it at the table.

Tomorrow, probably mostly cheese. And the rest of the soup, maybe eggs. I really don’t think we need to go shopping yet.

Z fails to draw 7 – Z has fun

Surprisingly, today’s exercise was one I enjoyed, though apparently it’s one that the writer (Betty Edwards, I should use her name) finds many of her pupils hate. The chapter is Perceiving Edges and the exercise is Pure Contour Drawing. One has to set a timer for five minutes, then look at the palm of your non-drawing hand. Curve the hand so that the wrinkles show, start the timer and then draw the lines. Not the outline of the hand, just the wrinkles, very slowly and in as much detail as possible. The important bit is that you look at your hand, not the paper. You just keep drawing, never mind about getting anything in the right place. You’ll end up with a great number of marks on the paper and some of them might be recognisable as bits of the lines on your hand. But it won’t look like a hand. Each wrinkle leads to another wrinkle and then another line and you’ll get lost, but it doesn’t matter.

She suggests you do it again, with other objects and I used a leaf, a lychee and a feather. Surprisingly, the feather turned out very well. The two halves are the wrong way round, no idea how that happened but, not only did I draw it surprisingly accurately (which wasn’t even the intention) but it’s even the right size.

The feather, next to the drawing. I did not glance at the drawing while I was doing it. Not even a sneak peek.
I surprised myself

I started, probably wrongly, with the central quill. I did a bold stroke down, then up again, and then started drawing the right side of the feather. When I got to the bottom. I did the fluffy bits – that was where it started to go wrong – and then up the left side, which inexplicably ended up to the right of the right side. No idea. But it was astonishingly accurate and life-size.

So, the critical bit. Betty wanted me to draw very slowly and I didn’t. With five minutes on the clock, I finished with about 20 seconds to spare. I wasn’t as painstaking and observant as I was supposed to be. I don’t care, though. It was fun and freeing.

Why was it freeing, I wondered? I think, not sure, that I knew it didn’t matter; the lines on the hand, that is. I expected it to be totally inaccurate – and, to be fair, I should show you that picture, which is one to laugh at. Also my hand, though I had put a sheet of white paper behind it, not to distract me. It was relaxing and engaging. I had already noticed, when I was doing the drawing of the horse, that I drew without looking at the paper – not the intricate bits, but the long, sweeping lines that had to flow.

Wrinkly hand

Next time, apparently, I’m going to have to draw my actual hand. Eek.

Catching up

Yesterday’s lesson 6 and the lesson 5 of the day before were posted together, unintentionally. I was writing on my phone and didn’t realise that the first hadn’t gone live.

The reason for this is that I’ve been away for a few days, taking Wink down to her old home because she’s booked in for her hip replacement on Wednesday. We are locked down again in Britain and can only travel at all for appropriate reasons. One is for medical appointments and another is to accompany someone to a medical appointment; so both of us were covered – even though it was 250 miles away. But we stayed in the car apart from buying petrol, when I paid at the pump, so we had no contact with anyone.

We didn’t actually stay at her old house, because it’s empty of furniture. Wink’s lovely friends Bob and Elizabeth have both died in the past four years and their house has been kept by their son, who lives in America but – in normal times – visits two or three times a year. Wink loved Bob and Elizabeth and spent a lot of time with them. They were old enough to be our parents but that’s irrelevant. Age and friendship do not have to relate to each other. Since the house has been empty, Wink has kept an eye on it, opened post and sent it on, etc and the son kindly has offered it for her to stay in whenever she wants to visit. So that’s where we’ve been.

She had a Covid test yesterday and is isolating until Wednesday, when a taxi will take her to the hospital. Since she’s not had a call, she is clear to go ahead. Another dear friend is having her to stay afterwards, because she won’t be able to travel for another week or two. Then I’ll go back down to pick her up and she can recuperate fully here. And, by the springtime, she’ll be fully recovered and good to go again.

Today’s drawing was a recollection of a childhood landscape drawing. Basically, a house in a garden. Whipped it off in a couple of minutes, with the observation that the only bit I remember having drawn is a chimney with smoke coming out. Meh. I trust there’s a point to it but never mind anyway, hardly worth uploading.

Lovely to be home with Tim again. And Eloise, of course.

Zoë fails to draw 6 – a horse of a different colour

What a contrast from yesterday’s effort. I tackled the horse picture and I loved it. I dashed it off in about 20 minutes at most and, though it’s got a lot of faults, I had few rubbings-out and enjoyed the process.
So, what made the difference? For one thing, it was a horse and horses make me happy. For another thing, I could sketch it fairly quickly and I wasn’t too worried about being precise. Broken lines, gentle strokes of the pencil seems to be the style I’m less afraid of, for now.

Turning it over and looking again, I can see that the horse’s face could be given much more definition. I’ve made an attempt at shading elsewhere and I think that I might try to improve this, if I can bear to revisit it. In fact, the more I look at it, the more there is to criticise – and yet, I am not inclined to. And the forelegs aren’t bad. The horse’s weight is on his left leg and the angle of the raised leg isn’t far off. Pity I didn’t do his lovely head justice, but never mind.
I’m sure it’s apparent that my effort is the third picture.

Z fails to draw – part 5. Z really fails to draw

I’ve admitted defeat today. Another upside-down drawing, this time of Spider-Man, crouched, from above. It’s not easy to disengage from the fact I’m drawing a figure, it’s extremely intricate, which should be good but I found it both too hard and very boring. After doing the head, one shoulder and arm and coming back up to start on the curve of the back, I looked at it and it just isn’t working, nor could I see how to do it better except by starting again. I looked at the alternative suggested upside-down drawing, which is a man in armour holding an upright lance, riding a horse. That looks intricate but not boring, so I’ll have a go tomorrow.
Looking for a positive out of this, I glanced at my watch before starting and when I gave up, and I’d been a quarter of an hour. If asked, I’d have thought half that. So I was concentrating enough to lose track of time. Slightly desperate to find something good about the drawing, his head is a pretty decent oval. I think I needed some sort of a grid, if I were to keep parts of the body in proportion. I don’t know how to do that.
The other excuse I’ll give myself is that I’ve got quite a lot on my mind and I only had a spare hour. I realise it would take me far longer to do such a complicated drawing. I am sorry to have given up, but it wasn’t actually sensible to have started. It’s okay to fail as long as you learn something from that.
I’m trying to evaluate how I react, it’s not really that I’m being negative. Dispassionate, rather. I am going to have to work harder and practise more if I’m going to get far with this and this won’t happen for a few days. I’m wondering if I should try easier pictures to copy for a few days before tackling the next stage, to trick myself into a sense of achievement.

Z fails to draw – part 4 – the twist

Today’s exercise was in two parts. And I found, to start with, that I’m hopeless at symmetry, even if I’m really trying. I knew that, of course but I know it again.
The second exercise was drawing upside-down. That is, copying a picture that’s upside down; in this case Picasso’s drawing of Igor Stravinsky. It’ll take about 40 minutes, the tutor advised.

It was certainly hard and my concentration flagged by the end – or perhaps it was the left side of my brain clamouring for attention, because I got bored before I finished. I didn’t find it hard to concentrate and focus, but had to push myself to keep going, I really wanted to dash off the last part quickly. Since this was an upside-down face, which was really difficult to do, I couldn’t. Thing is, you know what a face looks like, even the wrong way up, so you know you’re not doing it very well. I was quite gratified by the rest, though and even the head was better than I expected it to be.
So, here we go.


The well known optical illusion of a vase or a pair of profiles. I tried it twice and did a lot of rubbing out and trying again of the right-hand side. I wasn’t unhappy with the left one, the first one I did – it wasn’t good but nor was it awful. But if I looked at the picture and copied it, it didn’t match the first side and if I tried to copy my own drawing in reverse, it was quite confusing because I was going out when I was looking at in. Still, never mind.

As for the Stravinsky, I had to overcome the temptation to draw the spectacle lenses the same size. The hardest part was keeping everything in alignment. I started with the top – that is, the bottom of the picture – and worked back and forth, trying to manage proportions. I note that the tie was better than I expected – very tricky – but I haven’t really managed the collar at all. He’s rather a chinless wonder and the upper lip and the moustache are all one. But I did try really hard and was tired and headachy by the time I’d finished.

The twist is a literal one, of course; twisting upside-down.

Z fails to draw Part 3

Except that I didn’t fail to draw, I took the plunge. I should, perhaps, change it to *fails to draw well* because I certainly did that. I failed wholeheartedly, however, by attempting the picture of my mum (rather than a stick figure) – yes, it’s laughably bad and I can’t think of anything good to say about it except that it’s the face of a woman rather than a man or a llama. My picture is marginally better – looking in the mirror, I had a bit more idea about drawing a nose, but the whole thing was extraordinarily difficult and it’s going to take willpower to see this thing through. I don’t mind doing it badly and I showed all three to Tim, which shows I have no vanity to care about, but it’s hard to convince myself that it’s worth persevering. I am taking the correct view that the teacher knows what’s what, so if I fail it’s down to me. And, since this is my choice, it’d be stupid to give up at this stage. I genuinely wonder why I’m bothering, though – but I’ve worked it out. It’s a learnable ability that I’ve never been taught and it’s about time I learnt. No point in doing so unless I genuinely want to and am prepared to work at it.

*sigh* I could just dabble in watercolours and not do it very well, but amuse myself by buying a whole lot of equipment. I know people who’ve done just that.

The book says to put my pictures away, once I’ve studied them to see what I like about them, and not look again until I’ve done the course and repeated the experiment. Fair enough, so my apologies for not showing you them yet.

A longer post

I shopped for food for the first time in a fortnight (apart from the Christmas roast) and, I’m glad to say, Simon the greengrocer had opened the shop again. I bought a lot of fruit and veggies, though did actually restrain myself, because I’ve eaten so many nuts in the last ten days that, healthy though they may be, a Z can have too much of a good thing and I find them hard to resist. Harder than chocolate, certainly, though I did eat a couple of those after lockdown was announced. Because, although I accept and welcome it as necessary, I wish it were not necessary because of the actions of those who spread it to places where the idiots have second homes or persuade people to let holiday homes illegally. I’m still feeling very sad and sore about Jo’s death, don’t expect me to be my usual measured self.

Anyway, we’re stocked up. Also with deli stuff. I trust that the ready meals I bought there at startling expense will prove absolutely delicious when Wink is isolating before her op. I don’t begrudge the cost at all – but they’d better be good.

I had to ask my accountant for some papers that either hadn’t been sent or I’d lost. I’m honestly not sure which, but we’ve both apologised, which is the right way. They were sent encrypted, so I had to go through the ‘create a password’ rigmarole, which I’ve promptly saved on my computer. I’ve told Tim and Wink how to access my info if I were to pop my clogs. Their immense grief would turn to vast irritation in moments, if they didn’t know how to get hold of all the Stuff. All The Stuff, that probably should be.

I’m planning to buy a new phone. It’ll be an iPhone, that’s the only sort I’ve had for more than 11 years and it would be daft to change now. I bought Russell a different smartphone once, thinking that an iPhone would be wasted on him as he wouldn’t use any of the features. We both loathed it. HTP, I think but the initials could have been in any order or even a bit different. Awful thing and worse, Russell dropped the wretched thing and cracked the screen, so I couldn’t even sell it when I put things right by buying a new iPhone and giving him my old one. But that’s by the bye. I have to choose which vastly expensive phone I want and I can’t even go to the shop to choose it. I want to be beguiled and enthused, not pick something dully online. Still, the anticipation piques my interest. I should add, my present phone is more than four years old and the battery isn’t what it was. It’s still pretty good, in fact, but I don’t think I can rely on it for too much longer.

A short post

My children were talking about school yesterday – Weeza and Dilly both have a son at primary school, Gus’s school had already shut but Hadrian’s hadn’t. Dilly didn’t want him to go and we agreed that it was pointless and unnecessary. Because it would undoubtedly be just for a day, and so it’s proved.

How on earth is it that the government is taken by surprise every single time? They have had time to learn, but they just don’t.

Anyway, back to the Zedery. Wink has been doing more unpacking and I’ve helped her move furniture, so now even the back room is looking much better. She’s ordered more picture hooks, so putting up pictures will be next on the list, along with putting away the rest of the books. It’s all going very well. But, my word, how on earth do people manage if they’re considerably downsizing and have to do a full move in a day?

My drawing stuff arrived today, but not until the afternoon and I might be busy for the rest of the week. No great hurry, I want to be able to give it due attention. Tim’s a bit bemused by the whole thing and trying very hard not to be discouraging. Not actively discouraging, of course, but he can’t quite think of anything positive to say. It’s okay, I’ve long since learned to be self-reliant and be prepared to laugh at myself, and I don’t mind.