Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Comparisons

http://tomsarmo.blogspot.com/
I can't learn to play an instrument. Years of piano lessons didn't take. Same with the guitar. It kills me.

I've always believed that drawing--making art--is a skill that can be learned. It's about repetition, practice, persistence, right? That belief comes from the difficulty I had learning to draw. Making art didn't--and often still doesn't--come easily for me. 
As a kid, my desire to bring the vivid images in my head out onto the paper led to much frustration, especially when it seemed many of my peers simply held their pencil to paper and amazing drawings leaked right out. Compared to them, I stunk. 

I used to tell my students "It's no different than playing the tuba. You get better when you practice--even the boring stuff, like scales. Your drawings too, will get better when you do a lot of them." Well that's sort of true and sort of not true. Unfortunately, it's all about comparisons.

I've heard "I can't draw" from at least one person in every beginners workshop I've taught, and it has troubled me for a long time. 
I finally realized what those words really mean this morning, after a dream I had last night: 
I was in some orchestra class, trying to play the clarinet. The teacher told me to "just flex your hands and let the music come out of your instrument." My clarinet suddenly became very heavy, and my hands felt like a couple of lead slabs. The unfortunate sounds that came out of that clarinet were not the beautiful notes played by Chloe Feoranzo https://fandalism.com/chloefeo/b96J or Pete Fountain. 
So what then, do those words really mean?
http://tomsarmo.blogspot.com/

They mean "I can't draw/play as well as ___________. "

Fill in the blank. The minute a comparison sneaks in, damage gets done. I can look at the sketch above and know it's not perfect. So what? But it'd start to bug me if my brain put another artist's name I admire into the equation. These days I've figured out how to stop that next thought before it happens, and I'm a happier man.

But I can't learn to play an instrument.

6 comments:

  1. Me neither. I tried clarinet, guitar, piano and violin. Fo'get about it. But I do play a mean blues harp, but that's because its diatonic and I only have to worry about one key. Can't play a chromatic harmonica. But, that's a pretty nice hand you drew, in my opinion.

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    1. Thanks for the kind compliment, Ted--and for checking out my blog! (Is a "diatonic blues harp" the same thing as a kazoo?)

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    2. Oh no, it's not a toy, but a true instrument made by Hohner. It's what you hear in almost all blues music when harmonica is featured. The Chromatic harmonica is also used in blues but not as much, because it's more difficult to 'bend' notes. It has a fuller sound. It's used in movie soundtracks a lot.

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    3. I have one of those too, Ted--can't play it neither. I was really just kidding about the kazoo =]

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  2. yep, a person gets into all kinds of knots with comparisons and you are so right - it means I can't draw as well as ---
    I always love it when musicians say to me 'oh, I wish I could draw' and I think yeah, sure you do, but not as hard as I wish I could play music. never did try again after sometime way back in grade school when listenable music seemed hugely not something I would be doing anytime soon. brave you for drawing a hand, love the sense of grip and movement.

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    Replies
    1. Great comments. I laughed about "listenable music"--something never created by this guy! I appreciate the visit, Tanja :)

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