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I’ve been preparing course materials for the Sketchbook for Beginners course, and in doing so I’m revisiting a lot of the drawing techniques that they tried to teach me in art college.

At the time I was so desperately trying to transform myself from a reading writing talking person into a drawing painting photographing one. I knew I was creative, but it was usually expressed by the process of making something, everything was informed by time, space, budget or some other practicality.

Everyone else had done art at school, and then done a foundation course before starting First Year which was essentially another foundation course. I had done one semester of unfocused art in my penultimate year of high school, done Latin and Scottish History for a year at Edinburgh University before realising that I was in no way prepared to learn two highly unintuitive languages at once and that I really just wanted to get my hands dirty.

The next two years were miserable.

I couldn’t draw, I couldn’t paint,  I couldn’t sculpt.

I could almost understand what they wanted from me some of the time, but didn’t have the skills to create it or confidence to explain that it was going to take some time. I truly believe that I passed because I was paying overseas fees.

Then we did the photography module…

All of a sudden they wanted ideas, they wanted a story and they wanted a title. There was a process that, when followed, gave you a better image than if you hadn’t followed it. If there was an image in front of you there was an image in the camera, if it was in front of you it could be pulled through the lens onto a page.

I distinctly remember going to the interview for entrance into the Second Year, I had four images, one of them was of a Lego plane. There must have been some discussion of my pictures, but I can’t remember it. Mainly I remember that we just talked (the art of being able to fill three-quarters of an hour with nonsense and sound good doing it was definitely encouraged) about pictures I’d seen, what I liked, and what I read.

It was absolutely the best course I could have done, and I am overwhelmingly grateful to the tutors and technicians who ushered me through it. (In case you’re reading, I always have a title in mind, I sometimes find I’ve even written a statement…)

…and now I find I can draw, if not well at least comfortably enough to try some of those things they were going on about in First Year.