Feeling my fear about art – and drawing it anyway

cygnets online art courses


Recently I’ve been taking a good look at my thoughts and how they impact my life (clue: a LOT!)

According to science we each have around 60,000 thoughts each day, but it seems we only have about a dozen different ones. In other words we loop endless dross around our grey matter every second of every day.

I decided to keep a ‘thoughts diary’ for a couple of days, and it wasn’t pretty. In fact, I felt kind of depressed at the end of it. I realised I’m very positive, optimistic and upbeat about others, but I’m very critical, pessimistic and harsh about myself.

Do you resonate?

So I decided to tackle my thoughts head on. After all, I can choose what I think, right?

To avoid going into overwhelm, I picked a small thought – not one that really holds me back in life – but one that I would rather wasn’t there.

As a child I was told by my teachers that I was ‘no good at art’. I remember my art teacher taking an active dislike to me, telling me I was boring in the art room and it ended up being a self fulfilling prophecy. I lost any confidence I had and stopped progressing. To this day I tell everyone I’m no good at art, that I don’t have an artistic gene, that I was at the back of the queue when the artistic skill was handed out and that I can only draw stick men (and even those are bad).

But is it actually true?

There’s nothing like questioning these beliefs and just at the time I was considering my best course of action, three things aligned for me:

First I discovered an awareness campaign running throughout October called ‘The Big Draw‘ – which is a worldwide celebration of drawing. Not only that, but the theme for this year is Climate Change, which is something I’m both concerned and passionate about.

Next I found out that 4th October is World Animal Day – a topic close to my heart. Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a love of animals. I’m the person who ends up with the runt of the litter, the homeless cat no one else wants, heck even butterflies live in my house all year round!

Finally, I discovered a company called Cygnets Art School, who deliver online art classes for ages 6-106. As I fall somewhere within that age range I decided to put everything together, face my fear and take a short course.

I chose a project in which I didn’t need to invest in any expensive equipment – all I needed was a piece of paper, pencil and rubber, plus I could work online at my own pace, and most importantly, because I’m not in a room with others, I could make as many mistakes as I liked!

I signed up to draw an elephant, in keeping with World Animal Day. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, elephants are vulnerable to climate change as they are sensitive to high temperatures, invasive plant species are out-competing their regular food sources, there is a loss of natural habitat loss and they have a need for high amounts of fresh water.

 I learned, step-by-step how to draw an elephant in pencil. The concept of online teaching is that it’s just like being in a classroom – the tutor draws one bit and I copy. There are benefits to using video because if you need a bit more time to do something, you can simply pause the video and start it again when you’re ready. 

So I spent a rainy Saturday morning taking fear for a journey into the wonderful world of art. I loved that the camera was above the tutor’s piece of paper, so you can literally follow step by step. Parts of it went too fast (I have never done any shading or blending, so was at a complete loss) but rather than have to put my hand up and slow the rest of the class, I could simply pause and rewind the bits I needed more clarity on. The tutor gave all the right ‘you’re doing great’ motivation and gave some great hints for a complete novice like me – such as reminders to do curved lines rather than straight, to give an idea of movement and reminders to really look and study the elephant we were drawing AND most importantly, that rubbing things out and starting them again was all part of the journey.

After an hour and a half I had indeed created a semi- reasonable elephant. It was a lovely way to spend some time switching off from work and it’s given me the courage to find some other online tutorials and follow along.

I know you’ll want to see it, so here is my elephant!

elephant tutorial result from cygnets art class online

Disclosure. I was gifted one video from Cygnets online Animals Short Course in exchange for this blog post. They have a subscriptions service which is perfect for dipping your toe into the wonderful world of art.They are also launching a sketchbook challenge live event over on Facebook where you can learn to draw a lion’s head – see you there!

All views are honest and are my opinion.


1 Comment

  1. Rebecca Goodyear on October 6, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks for the fab review, Rachelle! Like you, I was led to believe I couldn’t draw as a child, and having taken this course too I can say that I have had this belief reversed in just over an hour!