CC Issue 07 / Fine Art

Put Your Pencil Where Your Mouth Is

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I hate drawing.  I can’t do it, I never have been able to do it and I will do anything to avoid it. No, I don’t think you quite yet get the magnitude of my lack of ability.  I can’t draw.  I can’t.  I have never been able to draw anything other than a stick figure and if ever in primary school I had to write and illustrate a book, I would always write a work of art, such as my 1988 masterpiece, ‘At the Movies’ (in which I commented excitedly on ‘The Princess Bride’, ‘The Chipmunk Adventure’ and ‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’), and con one of the arty types in the class into illustrating it for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have been able to draw.  I have a memory of sitting at my kitchen table as a young fella and sketching the microwave.  I knew what I wanted it to look like and I did my best, but when I looked at the picture it looked like anything but a microwave.  I was so disappointed that I vowed to avoid drawing wherever possible and concentrate on fitting in, playing sport and attempting to make people laugh.  Art is an indulgence and completely unnecessary, I convinced myself, although in my seven-year-old mind it probably sounded more like, “Waaaaah, this sucks. I’m gonna get a Milo and watch some telly. I hope ‘Home and Away’ is on.”

Up until recently, my avoidance technique had worked perfectly.  I am a teacher and whenever I need someone to draw a picture on the board, I either do a comically rudimentary stick figure with an “I know this is comically bad but I’m kinda doing it like this on purpose because it’s quicker, but I could really do much better if I tried… obviously”  attitude, or I ask a talented student to draw for me.  This works well for me and I could have continued in this way for the rest of my life.  But along came courage.

‘Courage’ is the value of the month at my school this month.  I found myself talking about what it means to have courage to a group of 7-year-olds.  Courage means doing something that you might be nervous about or scared of, but that will ultimately be rewarding.  For most of my kids that involves something like sleeping with the light off.  I designed a worksheet and was in the midst of showing them how I wanted it done when I thought, “I should probably commit to doing something myself, so they understand.”  I asked, “Is there anything that you think I would be scared of doing?” and one little treasure said, “I know you don’t like to draw pictures,” and right then and there I made the commitment to try my best, learn about drawing and produce my best piece of work in the next week for the students to look at.

I have just finished my little comic strip. If you, the uneducated reader, look at the picture and think, “He didn’t even try. This is rubbish,” you’re only half right. It might be rubbish but I did try. I am still embarrassed about how bad I am at drawing, but this is probably the best series of pictures I have ever done. It took me about two hours. Don’t laugh. I have courage. Courage, I tells ya.

To see the beginning of my new career as a professional cartoonist, click Courage cartoon strip.

We do crap on a lot as teachers.  You should do this, you should do that.  It’s sometimes worth thinking about what lessons are worth teaching to our little ones and what is a bit of old bollocks.  Courage, though, is a little ripper.  It is one of five values which I try, and fail, to live my life by: Justice, Wisdom, Courage, Moderation and Benevolence. If I can just get all those down, I’ll be right.

3 thoughts on “Put Your Pencil Where Your Mouth Is

  1. Well done Nick O! I confronted my fear of singing in public last weekend when I took over the mic at a karaoke bar, everyone else wished I hadn’t!

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