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Saturday, 18 May 2013

A good lesson.

When I was a wee boy, probably around eight years old, I asked my dad to help me with my homework.  I was to draw a picture of a cow and I wasn't very good at drawing cows (I suppose we must've been doing a project on farming or dairy produce.)  My dad took the pencil and paper and quickly drew an outline of a cow with the idea that I should finish it off.  I noticed right away the cow was missing an udder, so with great enthusiasm, I quickly scribbled in an eight year old boy's idea of what a cow's udder looked like.  My dad smiled, shook his head,
    "Whit's that? A bunch o' bananas?  That's no whit it looks like."

We needed a picture of a cow.  I found one in a nursery rhyme book - it was jumping over the moon.  My dad took a fresh sheet of paper and the pencil and began the drawing lesson.  He showed me how to look at the outline of a shape, told me about proportions, how to compare the length of the leg to the width of the body, the angle of the neck to the back,  how to hold the pencil very lightly and draw over and over again till I got the lines right, and not to be afraid of making a mistake.  He taught me that most important lesson of all - that drawing was all about looking, looking harder than you ever looked before.  The result was, for the first ever, I'd drawn something that looked like the thing I was drawing; for an eight year old, that was terribly exciting.  It was like I'd been given a key that unlocked one of the great mysteries of life.

That was a very important lesson for me, not only because all these years later, I still remember it, but because it was the start of a journey.  That drawing lesson made me best in my class at art, and that felt good; I'd not been best at anything before.  That in turn, led to me being the best in my year at art when I went to secondary school, where I got into the habit carrying a sketch book everywhere, and every morning on the school bus, other pupils wanted to see what I'd drawn, and my ego didn't mind the attention.   By the time I was seventeen and getting ready to leave school to go to art school, I was selling drawings and paintings of local views and saved up a tidy college fund.  Art school opened up a whole new world of possibilities which in turn led me to many new experiences and adventures.

My dad died last week after a period of illness and I came to realise that when you lose your dad (or anyone close) they leave stuff behind.  You know, the usual things - and I'm being general here - signet ring, wrist watch, fishing rods, books, tools and in my case, some snazzy shirts and a dazzling array of geraniums.  All lovely and sentimental stuff to hang onto, but these are not so important.  The things that matter are not the material things, but the memories of the times you shared, and the inspiration they've given you to look at the world in your own unique way;  that's the real inheritance which you will carry with you always.  I'm very grateful for that.

In memory of James Prott McGinn.  1937 - 2013

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

and you in turn inspire. so it passes down the generations. All talented people who evoke deep thinking and inspiration. x

Oculus Mundi said...

My dad was an amazing artist. Unfortunately he went out of his way not to share any skills even when we asked, it was his thing, he was terribly jealous of it. I loved reading this, it made me smile.

Oculus Mundi said...

I should also have said, of course, how sorry I am for your loss. Apologies, distracted.

About Me

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up in the hills, Co Durham
tree climber, painter, stilt walker, musician. After 20 years of city life and all the late nights and fun, returned to my country-boy roots. Open fires, tranquility and muddy boots.