As an aspiring writer, I was struggling along, often finding that my stories or poems need illustrating. My friends eagerly assure me that they are absolutely marvellous at drawing. Great. But, when I set them to work, describing in detail the pictures I have in my head, the end results are nothing like I imagined.
Frustration getting the better of me, I decided to solve this once and for all. I would draw them myself. Slight catch. I could not draw. Sucking on my teeth, I scoured the local papers for inspiration. As luck would have it, the new term was starting shortly in the adult learning centre. Perfect. I would go and be taught by the professionals.
Enrolment day came and I eagerly added my name to their long list of hopeful artists. I virtually swaggered from the room; it would only be a matter of time now before I could draw anything I wanted. The next week dragged by as I counted the minutes to my first art lesson. I wondered what we would draw first, a model no doubt, suitably clothed of course. I was getting extremely excited, I had a great story writing itself in my head and, as it would be for children I would be able to embellish it with all the characters I was creating. Things were looking up!
“How did the art college go?” one friend asked innocently. “Don’t ask. I enjoyed it, but drawing jars with sticks of charcoal wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. The rest of the students are nice though, but some of them have been going for three or four years now. Some even have their own seats!”
“Never mind. It was probably a warming up exercise. It could be the full paints, brushes and palettes next week.” “I certainly hope so. I have seen some lovely pictures I would love to draw then paint, particularly one of an elephant swimming that I glimpsed on the television.”
“An elephant swimming? Why an elephant?” “I don’t know. There is just something about them that appeals to me.” The next week came. Hooray! No more jars. Now we are on to drawing the windows! God! I would never get on at this rate. Patiently I smiled, determined to carry on regardless.
The next session, paints, real paints, and big long-handled brush. I was raring to go. “Can we start now?” I asked naively. “Copy these colours,” said the tutor, handing me a tiny piece of paper with four colours on. “How? I’ve only got red, yellow and blue, plus white for lightening!” “You have learn to mix them first, get the shades right, then the tonal values and then you might be able to make a good impression of tree.” A TREE!
“I want to paint a proper picture. Large, in oils on canvas. Something to prove that I am artistic by nature.” “It will be a long while before you get to that stage!” Thoroughly disheartened, I decided to teach myself. After all, how hard could it be? Pictures and pictures later, I was discovering that yes, it was hard, much harder than I had ever imaged, but, I appeared to have a natural knack for capturing the essence of things. Now for the elephants!
Failing to find the right image to portray what I wanted, I visited my local library. Thousands and thousands of books filled the place, but only one was available with photographs of elephants. Eagerly, I signed it out on my library card. Having bought watercolours, pastels and some oils, I was ready to start. I had been reading copiously on the subject of sketching, underpainting, shading, etc. Now I felt that I could be let free to express myself.
A picture of two young male elephants fighting quite stirred my blood. It wasn’t exactly an elephant swimming, but it would get me into the language of elephant behaviour. Covered head to toe with paint; I viewed my efforts with some degree of pride. You could tell they were elephants, and that they were fighting, but I could not get the texture that I wanted. This would have to be sorted out. Also, I was no further towards my swimming elephant. Now what?
I decided to consult the experts. Hastily I dashed around, chatting to all the Artists and painters that I knew, hoping to acquire the magic formula. “Draw from nature, Dear,” an established artist encouraged me. It’s always the best method.” Sound advice you will agree; but…….’whoever heard of elephants in Yorkshire’?