Monday, July 06, 2009

I Have No Style

When I was young (primary school age) I took piano lessons. I was pretty good, too ... passed exams, got grades and all that. My Dad wanted to send me round the pubs, to make some money off me. Better than going up the chimneys or down the mines, I suppose. Fortunately, we moved and had to sell the piano.

My piano teacher was Hirioth Davies and she lived up "The Pitching" (an old, cobbled street up the side of a steep hill) in Llantrisant. She had a long pencil (about a foot long) that she used to annotate the music, to keep time, and to rap me over the knuckles with when I made a mistake.

That happened a lot because I didn't practice as much as I should have.

I was supposed to do half an hour's practice every day. Yeah right.

First I had to do scales. Up and down the keyboard practicing fingering and developing what I now know as 'muscle memory'. Eventually I would instinctively know where the notes were, how to get to them, how to combine them , how to transpose from one key to another.

This led on to practicing specific pieces of music. Usually classical. Starting out clunky and cacophonous, eventually I would get the hang of it and then be able to play with greater fluidity and expression.

As I developed my abilities, I was able to tackle a new piece of music more easily and get the hang of it more quickly. In the later stages, in exams, I was able to sight read pieces of music I had never seen before.

Pretty cool, huh? Imagine how good I would have been if I'd actually put in the practice!

Now I'm learning to make art instead of music.

I go out sketching most days and, to me, that's like practicing my scales. I usually sketch the same things over and over again - landscapes and tree trunks mainly.

But I've been worrying that I don't sketch in a defined style. Or rather, that I do for a while and then it changes.

Lately, my landscape sketches have been much more fluid and colourful - using ink and coloured pencils, rather than pens or charcoal. My tree trunks are more linear and I'm using ink and wash rather than pencil.

But now I'm thinking that this is all part of the process and that it's OK ... necessary, even.

When I learned to play scales, I learned different, more complicated ones as I progressed. This enabled me to tackle more difficult compositions. That's what it's like with my sketching. I'm developing a broader range of skills that will enable me to tackle different pieces of work.

Perhaps it's not so much that I don't have any style ... it's that I have many styles ... depending on what I want to do.

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