My students are drawing still lifes. There are books and boxes, a tipped over porcelain cup, a soccer ball sitting in an urn in place of flowers. They graph out 18×24 inch paper, then use a viewfinder to make a composition. They use rulers and protractors, because they think this will make their drawings accurate. They couldn’t be more wrong. But I don’t tell them that.

I took over this class five weeks in, so I have to stay within the parameters their real teacher set. I’ve never graphed a drawing or even used a ruler to draw. Not sure I ever had a viewfinder. They make a pencil line drawing, then use charcoal for light and dark. I suggest they start with a middle tone for the brown paper covering the wall in back of the vases, cups, etc, then figure out light and dark from there. Some do, others stubbornly draw each thing to completion before going on to the next.

I’m not much interested in telling them to draw like me. I walk around from easel to easel and try to see what they’re trying to do and say something helpful. A couple students have headphones in, so I have to pantomime taking them out and turning them off before speaking. I’m not their mother or babysitter, so I don’t tell them to put their music away. Besides, I know from experience that music makes drawing better. They’re all beginners, so anything that helps shouldn’t be discouraged.

The thing I get a kick out of is how different each drawing is. If I didn’t know what the subject was and saw them hung on a wall next to one another, I’d guess each was from a different setup. Will any of them ever pick up a pencil after this class ends? I hope nothing I’ve said over the last month-plus discourages them.

This week we start on one point perspective. We’ll be using rulers for everything. The students who believe rulers help them make things “right” will be thrilled. It will be like pulling teeth for me. I haven’t thought about one point perspective in nearly forty years. It’s an idea from many centuries ago, that has only tangential relation to how we actually see. Basically, it would help to be a cyclops to see under this system. Also, a statue. The tiniest tilt of the head or flick of an eye throws the vanishing point and disappearing parallel lines all to hell.

Maybe it’ll be my turn to put on headphones. It will be hard to explain something I don’t believe in. The kids who are worried about getting a good grade will be happy, while the ones who actually enjoy drawing will be bored out of their skulls.

We’ll slog through the straight straight lines together.