Drawing Thursdays #1

Yeah, I really need a better title for Thursdays. Drawing! I draw! A comedian friend of mine works at FIDM and I was telling her that I started out drawing fashion designs, and that I actually applied for a scholarship to FIDM. When I went back to school in 2008, I had three possible majors; English/Writing, Drawing, or Fashion Design. Glendale Community College offered zero Fashion Design classes, so that eliminated that. My first semester, I took a Creative Writing class and the Design prerequisite for all of the drawing classes. I loved the writing class and hated the design class, so there you go.

I don’t really draw fashion designs anymore, but I still love fashion. I was a fat teenager and knew that fashion was for skinny chicks, so I never told anyone of my interest in fashion design, except for my mom, who was my biggest fan in everything I did. I remember expressing my shame that I was interested in such a superficial thing. My mom was offended. She said, “Do you know how amazing it feels to try on a dress that looks and feels like it was made for you?” I didn’t, but I got her point. Aesthetic beauty does something to our insides. Still, I didn’t really tell anyone that I drew clothes.

When I entered to win the scholarship to FIDM, I did get called in for an interview. The interviewer seemed surprised that I’d been offered a $5,000 scholarship, I guess she wasn’t the one who called me. But I couldn’t afford tuition even with the scholarship. Maybe if I believed in myself more, I would have applied for more scholarships or chosen a community college that did offer fashion design classes, but I was pretty heavily into agoraphobia at the time and the idea of any of that stuff would immediately make me need a nap. I spent the next 10 years napping, watching Oprah, and drawing.

Toward the end of my 5 years of community college, I took another drawing class, this time with David Attyah, and I name him by name because he changed, and possibly saved, my life. David John Attyah is a renowned artist, check out his stuff, he is amazing. I took Drawing 1 pretty much exactly a year after my mom died, and I was flailing (not failing, I graduated with a 4.0, thank you very much). I basically took a drawing class because it fulfilled credit requirements even though my major was English and because I thought it would be an easy class that I wouldn’t have to take too seriously.

Not a blow-off class like they talk about in movies, but something that wouldn’t require too much of me. It was a beginner class and I’d been drawing on my own for 15 years, so I was one of the better students (okay, I was the best, although, some of those kids are definitely better than me by now). It was four hours, one hour of lecture, three hours of drawing. At that point, I didn’t know how much I needed to just sit somewhere for three hours a week and create. If I hadn’t been taking a class, I wouldn’t have spent three hours a week, sitting in a room, drawing. That would have been ridiculous. I had too much real stuff to do.

If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know that you lose a part of yourself right along with them. And my mom wasn’t just someone. She was everyone. I didn’t have a hope or a dream that wasn’t connected to her in some way. Any accomplishment in my life would have been immediately followed up with a phone call to her. Every step of building up to those accomplishments would have been taken with her. Without her, those ghostly future victories deflated and crumbled into nothingness.

When I signed up for that drawing class, it wasn’t in the hopes that anything would come of it. I wasn’t looking to be a professional artist, I wasn’t even looking for an A. I was grimly moving toward my future, not even sure why I was still going to class every day except that I hadn’t actively decided to stop. In my last post, I talked about how being in the moment is so important in order for good art to be made and I was introduced to that by David, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

I got better at drawing, sure, but honestly, without the relief of having a few hours a week in which nothing was expected of me, I probably would have gone crazy. I loved that class. I could put on my headphones and listen to music, so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I didn’t even have to smile. Nobody was looking at me. I didn’t even have to be good at drawing because David Attyah drove home how much class time was for practice and I have a lot of terrible charcoal attempts at still lifes to prove that I believed him.

I graduated from elementary school, junior high, high school, and community college, and I never cried on any of those days. I never cried on the last day of any kind of school. But the last day of that class, a year before I graduated, I had to leave before the class was over because I started crying. I cried the entire 45-minute bus ride home. I remember how sad I was that I wasn’t going to be going to that class every week.

I still feel that sense of loss when I think back to it. I still can’t quite articulate why that class was so important to me and why I was so sad to leave it, but I think it was because it was the first time in my life I didn’t try to be something, I just was. Of course I was sad. I thought that that time in my life was over, that it was some magic that was connected only to that class, to that teacher. I didn’t realize that I was taking those skills that David Attiyah taught me, not just in drawing, but in living, with me. That was just the beginning of learning to live in the moment, not the end.

(Note: the drawings in this post were done in 2007. This was 11 years after I graduated from high school and 4 years before the drawing class I describe here. I chose these images because they were done not long before I stopped thinking of fashion design as a viable future job.)