Saturday, 27 October 2012

Final Moult in pen & ink

Hey, look who's actually drawing again! For those who haven't seen my whinging and generally feeling sorry for my self on my other blog, I've been trying to get something ready for a show that's being hung next week, and in my world that's the signal to become completely blocked. Doodling for myself is fine, but the thought of putting something on a wall purposely for others to see it scares the bejeebers out of me enough to ensure that all arty things come to a complete, screeching halt (that "I'm not an artist" bit on the About Me tab? Not false modesty. I'm not an artist. The thought of putting my "art" on show is terrifying). Add that to the fact that this non-painter decided to work in acrylics this year, and... yeah. No art at all until the time crunch forced me to get something done. Pressure's off now, though, because the completed piece is all I've got and I can't do anything more about it.


This week's Illustration Friday prompt is haunted, and I promise that there's a reason why my brain went to dragonflies.

Entomophobes (of which I am a somewhat-reformed one) would be forgiven if they were creeped out by being around during the moulting time of some species of dragonfly. It doesn't happen with all of them, but for some species they exit the pond en masse looking for good, sturdy places to grip during the time it takes them to finally exit their nymphal skins. I don't want to bore you with the biology of the whole thing (for a change), but there's a good write-up here for those who are interested in the process. For me, the most incredible part of the whole thing is that it can take hours. Just imagine the vulnerability during that time, when your legs aren't yet solid enough to hold your weight and your wings haven't even inflated (and yes, I do mean to say inflated). If that happened to humans, I don't think humans would even exist.

Geez, all these words and I haven't even got to haunt. Get on with it, Dee.

I've been around local ponds in the late spring (doing school pond studies at work, mostly) in years where we've had masses of dragonfly nymphs climb out of the pond at once to metamorphose, and it really is a sight to see. All these rather large insects crawling along the ground and up any strong vertical surface, then splitting open their skins and starting the struggle to emerge. It truly looks exhausting, especially when you see it in real time as opposed to the sped-up versions you see on the internet. It's always a good learning moment for kids, to see metamorphosis up close.

What's left afterwards, though, is exuvia. Skins, that is. In peak years, hundreds and hundreds of skins all over the deck and picnic tables of the area where we pond dip. That's where haunt comes in for me. You can walk around the place and it looks like it's haunted by the ghosts of those hundreds of animals who have all shed their water-dwelling existence for an entirely new life. If I was feeling more poetic I could get absolutely purple here, but it is kind of a neat metaphor when you think of it. Shedding your skin, leaving the things that were haunting you behind, flying away... a lot could be done with that, I think.

Not by me today, though. It's enough of a triumph for me that I got the sketchbook out. It should happen more often now that the other piece is finished, I expect. Wish me luck with the staff show.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Symmetry in graphite

This week's Illustration Friday prompt is mirror. I have a bad habit of saying "this is a quick doodle...", but this one really is. Not at all obvious, I know. The fact is, I wasn't really in the mood for drawing this evening. I did, however, have something I wanted to say in regards to mirror.

When I was a kid, I drew. Just about every kid does. You draw, you explain to people what you drew, and you're happy. There came a point as I grew older, though, when that wasn't good enough. I started to hate drawing faces.

I never seemed to get them to come out right, you see. I'd start out great, but then they'd go all lopsided and uneven and my (even back then) slightly OCD self would get frustrated. In desperation, and since I hadn't yet been introduced to tracing paper, I used to draw half a face, fold the paper, do my best to trace what I could see of what I'd already drawn, and then unfold the paper and try to follow those traced lines to get my "perfect" face.

Is this sounding familiar to anyone else out there? If so, you know that faces done that way generally turn out worse than anything. The proportions usually aren't right. Eyes are too far apart. Chins are too wide. And for me, for whatever reason, mouths were often too small. Frustration on frustration, so I stopped drawing faces.

I've since learned through taking Early Childhood Development courses that pretty much every child goes through the perfectionist stage. Just drawing isn't good enough; the drawings have to be right. In the same vein (and I notice this at work particularly), children in that same stage will be very bothered if something they've written is written wrong and there's no way to erase it. Trust me, "just cross it out" doesn't work for kids who need everything to be perfect.

It's the stage, by the way, where a lot of people stop drawing all together. I can't draw this good enough becomes I can't draw, and there's the end of it.

For me, I didn't stop drawing. I wasn't as enthusiastic about it, maybe, but the drawing didn't stop. I didn't draw faces, however. Come to it, I still don't. Nowadays it's because I really don't have any interest in drawing people, but I'm sure that the disinterest started with my failed mirrored faces.

Now, the irony in all of this is that faces aren't mirrored. One of my little biological fascinations is symmetry. It's come up here before, so for anyone who actually reads this stuff I'll skip the diatribe and say that, for the most part (and we're talking about the so-called higher animals here), symmetry is bollocks. It's "apparent". Superficial. Our apparently symmetrical bodies are only apparently symmetrical on the outside. Cut us open, and things are shifted all over the place. You couldn't sew the left side of a body together with a created mirror image and expect it to function. And even on the outside the whole symmetry thing breaks down. Noses are crooked. One eye may be slightly higher than the other. One breast is very likely bigger than the other. And testes?

Well, ok, you get my point. The sad thing, though, from the kids' art side of view, is that telling a child that a lopsided face drawing is ok because faces really are lopsided probably isn't going to stop most children from getting bad face frustration.

So what to do? Well, I'm no expert and there's plenty of expert (or sometimes "expert") sources out there, so I think I'll let you look them up if you're interested in the subject. One suggestion, though. If you have a child who's hit the frustration stage there is NOTHING WRONG with letting them trace and copy things. Sure, it's not creative. Yes, we've been brought up to believe that stifling childhood creativity by telling kids the right way to do things is wrong. It would be wonderful if every child out there could make it through the perfectionist stage by figuring things out on their own, but most of us don't. If a musical kid gets frustrated by plinking away at the piano without being able to figure out how to make his or her fingers work right, we send the kid to piano lessons. Why do we seem to expect that a kid who likes to draw but is getting frustrated for lack of technique will eventually just blunder some way to success?

Um, yeah. Obviously it's something that matters to me, and I've blathered away too long about it. For anyone still reading, well, thanks.

Maybe I'll draw a face for you someday.

A happily lopsided face.
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