Having been in Covid lock-down for months on end now, the big smoke plume above us has lent a new “quality” to this probably strangest year in my life. Last Saturday, when my husband backed-up my desktop, I had already been reading for hours, and watched a movie, I started getting truly restless. Did I say it was way too early to prep dinner yet, too? I needed to do something, and going outside was not an option.
That was when I remembered an old hobby of mine that I had neglected for easily 25 years. One that can be done at hardly any cost, too. And one that enhances your skills the longer you keep doing it. Drawing.
As a little girl, I owned a huge box of wax crayons, and my parents provided me with all the paper I could have wanted. Of course, drawing houses and trees and bubbly brooks was something enticing, usually with a big sun in one upper corner of the paper. But I also painted stories – that of princesses meeting princes, and getting married, and having a family. I guess it was inspired by all the fairy-tales my mother read to me and my little brother.
There was another big inspiration in my life. One of my great-grandfathers was a renowned German painter of the Art Nouveau movement, and somehow my family had been able to rescue some of his work through the chaos of World War II. I grew up studying his oil paintings and lithographs of Silesian, Northern German, and Bavarian landscapes. I knew I’d never be as good as he. But try my own hand, at least, I could.
Another inspiration were visits to the Stuttgart State Gallery, a museum that holds wonderful art from world-renowned international artists from all eras. My mother used to tell us the stories that go with the paintings. We knew our Bible stories, but the Greek and Roman legends were something new – at first. Also, the symbolism in the paintings was quite striking; I still love checking paintings for the secret messages they might hold. Or to find that a story is set into a familiar landscape, like my native Swabia, though the legend or Biblical story would have placed it somewhere totally else.
In short, I remembered all this and a wonderful book that my husband had given me a couple of birthdays ago. It’s an inspirational book with hundreds of ideas to draw. So, I sat down with a case of pencils (I prefer soft mines), a rubber, a sharpener, and a pad and started off. It was daunting at first. Where to start? Now, I’m first breaking down an object into geometrical shapes. Then I draw in the contours and the shadows, only as a last thing do I draw the rest of the shading. Sounds easy, right? Well, I’m far from an artist. But it makes me consider the texture and surface, the light and angles of things. I try to make my hand “see” – and let me tell you: That is a huge distraction from any smoke plume outside!
Maybe drawing is not your thing at all. Maybe it’s some other kind of crafting. Maybe you want to learn a language. Maybe you always wanted to put your photos into order and pack them off into albums. Maybe you always wanted to write down your life story for your children or grandchildren. If now is not the time to do it, then when?! The smoke will disperse hopefully soon. But Covid will stay around for a while. So will self-isolation. And the darker season with what I call “indoor weather” lies ahead. Make your pick of what you always wanted to do and get more skilled in. Concentrating on what powers lie within ourselves beats any gloom outside.