Watercolor Study

“The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible”
— William S. Burroughs

Artifact from Museo Bahia de Caraquez/Ecuador (This museum is still closed)

Manabi Province/Ecuador –   Every so often a planned event affects me in unexpected ways.   This happened yesterday while giving an art workshop to a group of very-deserving people from the area.  Ranging from 5 or 6 year olds to 40-somethings, some were in small family units, and others were alone.  All I knew was that they were facing some personal challenges,  and an organization sponsors and gives them assistance as they find their way to a better stance in life.   I’ve worked with this organization in the past and wrote about the first group in 2012.   I am always sobered by how a tiny slice of attention gives an emotional boost to those who put a brave face to the world while hoping that that same world will be kind in return.

Alexandra Cevallos at Vicente Ferrill’s inauguration.

With Alexandra Cevallos’ help, I told them the high points of my childhood years and how books and art and connection with nature always provided soul comfort to me.  I told how I pulled my average grades a tad higher by writing and illustrating my reports and research papers.  We then walked to the other end of the museum and toured the exhibit.

 The young ones immediately plopped down on that extra-glossy floor, and they careened from display to display.   The older students and parents spent time with each painting, and after ten or so minutes, we returned to the meeting area.  We asked if they had a favorite painting – and why.    I left my notes at the museum, but I remember that one lady stated that she loved the 7-foot tall Jama-Coaque ‘Mano’ with the spiral.

She said that the spiral made her feel calm, and she mentioned that it reflected my energy, etc etc.     Another lady beamed and stated – with respect – that unlike the first lady, she couldn’t pick just one – she loved them all!      One of the children loved the New Year’s Effigies, painted in bright and happy colors.   Another loved ‘Full House’ – and I happened to be wearing a t-shirt with that same design.

My life-long friend the pencil!

Their first drawing lesson was about using a pencil, and I reminded them that it cost little, you could tuck it in your bag and use it even on a scrap piece of paper.  They practiced making tornadoes, and I explained how just that simple free-style movement can lower one’s stress… We practiced making those circles while looking around the room, into each other’s eyes, all the time while the pencil went round and round.

“Now turn your paper over and make one circle without looking…” – and most did exactly that – lovely and effortless circles!

I asked, “Who needs drugs when drawing puts such a calm spell on the soul?!!” I stressed that I had never done any type of drug – not marijuana – not even smoking cigarettes.  “Why?”  I scrunched my face and grinned, “when all I need is this pencil and paper!”

Then, (aha, the profesora had a plan) – I had them recall an event that made them angry or perhaps scared – and I quickly nudged them to remember the moment the earthquake hit…. Everyone agreed that they were very frightened.

“Take those feelings and transfer them out of your soul and on to the paper!” and then I illustrated very strong circles on the paper while using a 4B pencil.  They replicated the motion, and for a few more minutes, everyone was focused on their own new-found techniques to deal with stress!

Next we discussed feeling alone or sad or tired, so with weak and frail lines, we put that emotion on paper…

“Now see if you can make those lines stronger – pull yourselves out of that low mood… but remember to acknowledge it and know that it’s ok to feel all emotions.. it’s your way of knowing how you feel…’

After practicing shading – from dark to light and from light to dark, they sat across from each other and studied the eye of the person across the table.   They were really looking – and most were smiling!  Serene smiles.. calm smiles.. “I am doing this” smiles!  We did a fast detour for a reminder about drawing the face.  I drew an oval and quickly placed the eyes near the top, the nose half way down from there and the mouth at the bottom.    “Where is the brain?”  I asked, “Remember to make room for a brain!” and repeated the demonstration but placed the eyes about half way down the oval.

Sometimes it’s so easy to pass along hints that stick!

Whew…  even the very-young students did well, but they were growing restless!

There were several breaks, including a lunch break – and before the day was over they had drawn butterflies and also used markers and colored pencils on various designs.   The best was when we had to part.   No longer did a few ‘glazed’ eyes look back at me;  their eyes were sparkling – some were glowing.   Parents extended heart-felt tanks, and participants shared bone-crushing embraces.

They seemed delighted, but I was even more comforted – and humbled – by how busy we can be with the business of living –  that we sometime overlook our fellow man.  Many people might be a little lost in this maze of life, and sometimes all it takes to turn their day around is a pencil and a bit of encouragement.

“Is it safe to come out of this shell of adaptation?  Maybe I can try drawing in the sand!”

(This was written in a shopping mall food-court area, where it seems that the entire city was watching a soccer game on the big screen! All mistakes are mine!)

Heading home and will be back on line sometime next week!