A short story about how I overcame my fear of drawing
A pencil drawing of the word ‘no’, a drawing of the footballer Peter Beardsley that I made when I was ten years old, and a spoken word performance.
My head teacher, Mr Swann, took the pencil drawing I did of Peter Beardsley and photocopied it for his wall.
As it came out of the printer he asked me which I’d prefer to keep; the original or the photocopy. I turned to him and said ‘Sir, what the public wants is the idea of Peter Beardsley without having to consider the implications of a real Peter Beardsley’.
Four years later, when I left middle school, the xeroxed Pedro (Beardsley’s nickname) remained on Mr Swann’s wall.
I took some pride in that. I also quite liked that Mr Swann was called Trevor, the first I’d known outside of my own home, where there’d been two since the day I was born.
My art teacher, Mr Smith (I liked that, too), believed that drawing was an essential part of every artist’s make-up. He used to say it underpinned everything that was good about art.
Is it possible to be too good at something too soon? The classrooms and corridors of my first, middle, and high schools were wallpapered with my drawings. It’s certainly possible for a child to believe the hype around them.
Later, I entertained and titillated my classmates by drawing nudes on the blackboards – rubbing them away in the nick of time as teacher re-entered the room.
In my adolescence, poor Miss Milner had to punish me for distributing a comic strip I had created in which a talking penis shuffled around on his balls. She laughed, and kept a copy, but of course it was detention for me.
At 18 I zipped up my pencil case. Had the pressure of perfection been too much? I never missed it. Drawing. Or draw-ring, as some of you no doubt pronounce it.
And then, when I was 35, my son was born. And in the small and quiet hours after giving him a night feed, I drew him. Just a few lines. His face, his perfect, tiny lips, and the curve of his cheek. And then I fell asleep with him on my chest.
It’s very dangerous, that.