Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Death of drawing, Sutton Hoo & the Worrier King

This post was originally published on my Crud Dad blog on 5th September 2017

When I was a kid I loved drawing.  I know that's hardly unique, in fact I doubt there's a child on this planet who doesn't enjoy drawing.  Perhaps this drive to draw is part of our natural development as humans.  Learning to make a physical mark on the world around us could lead directly to us making an emotional mark on those around us.  But hey, what do I know?  Admittedly I did study post-natal / early years development when I was at college, but that was a long time ago.  Let's get back to the drawing.

While it's probably true that all children love to draw my fascination with doodling was bordering on obsession.  Drawing was all I ever wanted to do.  One Christmas, while my friends asked Father Christmas for Star Wars figures etcetera my gift desires were focussed elsewhere.  All I wanted for Christmas was some brush pens.  I got them.  I was ecstatic.  So the fascination with drawing continued to grow.

Drawing and the Blue Peter Bring and Buy Sale

In the early 1980s the BBC program 'Blue Peter' ran a huge charity campaign called (if I recall correctly) 'The Great Bring and Buy Sale'.  Any non-British Readers, or possibly any readers under the age of thirty are probably wondering what the hell a bring and buy sale is.  The concept was that you attended an event whereby you took all the old clutter from your house that you no longer wanted and handed it over to be sold in the name of charity.  While at such a sale you would have the opportunity to part with cash for the old clutter that other attendees had brought from their own homes.  Several tonnes of junk could thereby move from one home to another, but more importantly a load of money would be raised for whatever cause Blue Peter was focussing on.

For reasons lost to the mists of time the pre-teen me lacked the resources or the inclination to organise a bring and buy sale.  But I had an urge to help raise some money for charity.  So I convinced my mum to buy me a scrap book and proceeded to draw a cartoon on every page.  I then hawked this book around friends, family and the congregation of the village church.  The proposition was simple, choose a drawing you like and for a modest fee I would recreate the drawing right then and there.  The fact I managed to sell a lot of drawings is testament to the fact I was surrounded by a nurturing community of amused / tolerant adults.  I can't remember how much money I sent off to the Blue Peter great bring and buy sale, but I can remember the feeling of pride when I saw the fund 'totaliser' go up a notch.

The death of drawing

Then high school happened.  I have a memory of an art teacher at school assessing some of my drawings, then telling me that my talents may lay elsewhere.  It was a official - I was shit at drawing.  As a caveat I would like to make it clear that none of this might have actually happened.  But for some reason or other during the first year of high school my passion for drawing was snuffed out.  I abandoned any desire to pursue a life of scribbling for a living.  Despite the modest success of my Blue Peter fundraising.

As the years spun by I never lost my love of illustration, but it became a passion for enjoying the work of others.  Each time I considering taking up drawing again I'd find some work created by someone else that was so amazing I couldn't possibly match it, so I wouldn't try.  This attitude of assumed failure is something I generally disregard in my life.  I've been a musician for over twenty five years, despite the fact my musical talent appears to be buried very deep indeed.  Or at least deep enough that it is yet to surface.  I have written novels despite the fact nobody is terribly interested in reading them.  Hell, I even write this blog despite the fact that...

The re-birth of drawing

Yesterday something changed.  Yesterday was my daughter's sixth birthday.  On route to a family gathering at Sutton Hoo we called in at a giant shop called Hobbycraft.  My daughter loves to create.  I met my wife while she was studying for a degree in art.  They both know Hobbycraft well, but I had never been inside the place.  The purpose of this post is not to celebrate Hobbycraft, but oh,-my-goodness, that place is amazing.  We had only been in the shop for a few minutes when I casually mentioned to my wife the fact that I adored drawing when I was a child.  I proceeded to tell her that my passion for drawing was crushed out of me at school.  She was horrified.  In fact I was quite taken aback by how appalled she was by this fact.  At that moment I decided the time had come to start drawing again.

Under the semi-excuse of drawing being another activity I could share with my daughter I treated myself to a sketchpad and some nice pens.  I am loving watching my daughter's creative side blossom and being able to be a part of that is something I am extremely grateful for.  My wife draws wonderfully, she has a natural talent for creating beauty.  A couple of my friends are astonishing artists (look at Steve Larder and Graham Birks).  I am realistic in my own expectations.  But I love to create.

This morning I watched a quick couple of tutorials on YouTube then sat down with my sketchbook and pens and did something I haven't done in perhaps thirty years.  I drew for pleasure.  What happened next really surprised me.  Within a few minutes of sitting down my daughter and her mate from next door joined me at the table.  A handful of moments later both girls had picked up their own bits of paper and some pens and started drawing.  They watched as I sketched out the pencil guidelines that help me draw faces, then they used the same method in their own creations.  By deciding quite quietly and privately that I would spend some time drawing I had accidentally taught these girls a method of drawing they hadn't previously known.

So what? Sometimes as parents I think we forget that our children aren't our peers.  I know I'm occasionally guilty of holding back in some way in front of my girl, based on the same reasons I might quite sensibly hold back in front of my peers or people I don't know.  As parents we are undeniably role models for our children.  By showing our children that the urge to create doesn't need to spawn a masterpiece I think we're giving ourselves to opportunity to pass on something quite wonderful.  Creating almost anything is wonderful in it's own right.  As adults I think we can be too goal orientated.  Over the past few years I've learned from my daughter than doing is often more important than achieving.

So if you've read this far then you might be wondering what the significance of the Sutton Hoo mention and the drawing is all about.  While we were sitting around the table drawing, my girl explained to her friend that yesterday we went to Sutton Hoo.  Her friend asked what is at Sutton Hoo.  My daughter replied 'Sutton Hoo is where they found a buried worrier king'.  I asked if she had meant to say 'warrior king', she replied that she had said what she had intended to say.  Fair enough.  So I drew her a worrier king.


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