I’ll be starting two new online courses this week; Animal Drawing and Analytical Figure Drawing from CGMA. I’ve taken their Storyboarding course previously, and found it really helpful- there’s just nothing like having a real (well, alright, virtual) classroom environment and homework and feedback to keep you going when you don’t quite know which way to go. Storyboarding was great, and I’m glad I studied it and worked commercially as a board artist- but it was very much a career- driven decision. I like storyboards and thumbnails but they’re not exactly the best formats to really explore original characters.
The decision to study animal and figure drawing, however, is not career driven- it’s the most personal thing I have decided to seriously commit myself to in a long time. It’s going back to the very core of drawing and illustration, back to the foundations which for me, were never explored in great depth. I’m excited; it’s not just drawing from reference this time, it’s also learning loads of biology and anatomy and technical things, all of which I’m looking forward to. It’s nice to look at my syllabus and feel that familiar sense of nervousness that precedes a learning spurt.
It was whilst reading a book, William Dalrymple’s City of Djinns, lent to me by my favourite cousin, that I came across the passage that helped me make up my mind. Dalrymple interviews a calligrapher from Old Delhi. Only vestiges of the great, high culture that once defined Old Delhi still linger there- and like William says, you have to look pretty hard to find them. But this particular calligrapher, in full awareness of the changing times and tides, said that he could not abandon calligraphy because it was his craft, and he must be loyal to it.
I can’t help but admire the humbleness of that idea- that we must be loyal to our arts, as if they have a life of their own. As if what we do isn’t just something we do, but something we partake of, and to stop doing it would be tantamount to betrayal or abandonment. It’s a naked defence against the pressure of going commercial, but an oddly respectable one all the same. I’d go even further than that and say I can’t abandon art because it has never abandoned me; not for too long, and never too much. I’ve lost sight of it every now and then but I keep finding my way back. In spite of an art teacher who bullied me every chance he got and derided me, and in spite of going on to study literature and quite liking it- after all that, I still find myself wanting to draw. So I figure I may as well commit myself to getting better at it.