If I could draw houses like I can draw your breasts…
Whether my mother and father ever really appreciated my art is beyond me. My earliest work must have been the wonderful mural I made for my parents in their student home in Alberta. It was an abstract piece – arrows pointing the way to my nursery. My parents whitewashed it the next day.
Colouring books bored me quickly. I have always been more preoccupied with form, rather than colour. Whenever there would be large spaces to draw in, I would draw smaller pictures within the space and then fill in the in betweens. I also had no concept of poster making. I recall entering a poster competition entitled ‘Peace’ with a myriad of little descriptive pictures – perhaps I was quite the six year old Hieronymus Bosch.
The other children would ooh and aah until I started taking art lessons. No one understands that going to an art class is not the same as taking piano lessons. When they insinuated I was learning my talent, I quit.
I always preferred to draw portraits – landscapes and still lives were of little interest to me. I am funny to watch… my own face moulds according to the expression I am trying to create on paper. I also drew mermaids even though I was too shy to draw exposed breasts. To my mother’s delight, I would dream up the cross section of fairy houses from time to time. In truth, I used to draw many things, but I suppose I remember these drawings most clearly because my mother had made such an awful fuss about them.
How this worked into a desire to become a perit1, should not be beyond the reader.
I dragged myself through Pure Maths at A level, spitting, kicking and screaming. I also took Art Intermediate, since it sounded like an easy A. My amazing art teacher encouraged my love for portraiture and introduced me to oils. I would drag friends along to act as models. One of my least fond memories was when my Pure Maths teacher let me know I had earned a ghastly 37% on an exam. To the horror of my class, this ex national champion body builder stood before my desk, and then lifted and shook it, until all my stationery and doodles had fallen, crashing to the floor around me. He must have known what he was doing. I never earned a mark lower than 80% in my subsequent Math exams. University was another kettle of fish.
I spent the next five years studying architecture and civil engineering, at the University of Malta. Despite never having drawn a streetscape in my life, I was praised for excellent sketching. Knowledge of technical drawing was not a prerequisite so I joined the course without ever having touched a setsquare - a mistake of titanic proportions. Getting the hang of it took up much of my time and I abandoned portraiture almost completely.
A few months before my final exam, a friend dragged me to an art class she had been posing for. I performed something I always knew I’d be able to do -.drawing the nude female body. In “Dominique” a serene face is turned, gently allowing the viewer to enjoy her sinuous curves. Most of my close friends who have seen this picture have begged me to draw them sometime soon. Since then more sketches have graced my desk, and there will be more to come.
I solemnly promise that I will never abandon art again. Now, if I only I could draw houses like I can draw your breasts….
1 Maltese architect and civil engineer