Monday, September 28, 2009

I Came, I Saw, I Cantered

I went to art school when I was 28. (It seemed like a good idea at the time, really, it did.)

I remember my first drawing class: a bunch of us in the studios with the huge skylights, a still life set up in the middle, easels on which to rest our drawing boards, pads of paper clipped to them.

"Draw!" said the teacher, "draw what you see."

And me? Oh, dear reader, I was beside myself. I was never any good at drawing (I'm still not, even though I finished that damn art course) and I could see quite clearly how I would frame that still life as a photograph, but had no idea how to draw it, how to capture it in charcoal on newsprint.

Where, I asked myself in dismay, is the book? How can I learn anything at all without a book? What does he mean, "draw what you see?" Somebody point me to the bookstore, I'll learn all I need to there.

Writing school and drawing school are very different: when I was learning to be a writer I was told to put everything down on the page, and edit later. In drawing school, you have to start lightly and build up gradually - the opposite of what I was trying to do.

It was not the first time I would be contrary like that.

I've been taking these riding lessons, even though they're costing a lot, and I love them. I'm pretty proficient at a posting trot, and now I usually only put one piece of tack on the horse upside down, or backwards. This is progress, oh yes indeed.

And a few weeks ago, my teacher said it was time to canter. "It's okay!" she said, "You can do it!" I could do it, in fact, but I couldn't steer or stop, both of which are rather important (at least in my humble opinion). Then she put the horse on a lunge line so I didn't have to worry about steering, (after a near miss with a parked car and a paddock gate) and that made me really dizzy and not much more successful.

I thought to myself, where the hell is the book? Where can I read about this? How can I possibly understand how to do this if I can't consult some kind of text first?

I don't think I can adequately express my disappointment, no, my utter dismay, that there is no book for this kind of stuff. There's no parenting book, either, which is awful! How am I supposed to know how to raise up a boy person, without any kind of manual? And teaching? Don't get me started. (A professor at university, when asked about classroom management, shrugged the question off. "If there's inquiry in your classroom," he said, "discipline will never be a problem." Ass.)

So there's no book. There's no experienced voice telling you what to expect, what to do next, how to make everything work with the minimum amount of damage, to yourself, to other people.

But I've managed so far, I think. I finished the BFA, my boy shows few signs of becoming a psychopathic serial killer, and (best of all) last week I cantered. (Hold the horse to a slow trot, squeeze with the outside leg, lean back, hope for the best. Don't panic.) I'm sure it seems like a small victory to you, but right now it feels enormous.

And I did it without a book, which, to be perfectly honest, is nothing short of a miracle.

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