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Hands

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From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been good with a pencil. Posting about Aaron’s much greater talent reminded me of when my mom hired a drawing tutor for me when I was 12 or so. I can’t remember the woman’s name, probably because I resented her so at the time, but she was, I realize now, brilliant.

I had been fooling around for years with my drawing, mainly copying what was in the funny papers. I was good at mimicking other people’s styles, which served me well when I spent some time doing edits and corrections at Marvel Comics a few years later. But this tutor seemed so abrupt and so cold.

She handed me a thick spiral-bound pad of toothy paper and an Eberhard Faber #2 pencil and said, “Before we meet again, draw me 150 hands. Use this pad and number them as you go. Now get busy. I want to feel the bones beneath the skin.” I couldn’t believe it, but I got busy.

The following week, I handed her the pad and she looked over my work. She nodded and said, “By about #80 here, you’ve begun to draw a decent hand. Now do 150 more by next week.”

I was outraged, but I did it. The tutor never talked much but what she said was correct and guided me. After the hands, I got to draw tree bark, and the surface texture of bricks and then I did hundreds of drawings of wadded up paper of different types; some were blank paper wadded up and some had photos or type on them. I drew them all, struggling with the shading and texture. I was glad when I was done drawing the paper wads and moved on to folded cloth. By then, I was able to see the textures with a practiced eye and instead of being frustrated I felt challenged to master the tools; the pencil and the paper and especially my eyes.

The tutor’s rule was that if you want to draw, you have to be able to see. Terse but true.

Perspective was a bear, but she was able to explain it to me and once I got it, I loved it. I still love to draw perspectives; it’s somehow soothing.

I wish I could remember more about that woman. She taught me how to draw. The attached image isn’t my work; it’s something from the Web. But it is correct in what it shows us. Now get a pencil and get busy!!!

That Elusive Popeye . . .

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I hate to brag, but I must get this off my chest: While I should have been paying attention to what was going on around me, I finally succeeded in drawing a picture of Popeye that actually looks (somewhat) like him. Crazed with success, I then added Olive Oyl and Wimpy. I was able to draw a creditable Dick Tracy in the first grade, and have a dated colored-pencil rendering from then to prove it, but Popeye has always been beyond my ability. Until now.

Those with a critical eye can probably detect the painstaking wobbliness of my linework and the hesitant feel of the effort, but I still am proud. The fact that I forgot to draw his arms doesn’t detract from the achievement, I hope.