Learning of Drawing

by Alison O’Connor

Dear diary,

I’m nine and in Ms. Mullen’s fourth grade class. She keeps throwing my drawings in the trashcan for me to collect after the lesson has ended, but I really wish she wouldn’t. My friends think the punishment is logical, but I really hate it when she does that, since they’re my creations and I felt proud of them. 

Drawing RoboCat is the first time I’ve felt like I can create something of importance, that’s all mine and that lets me use my drawing skills for something good. I wish that I could draw like Michael does, he does the best work, really, but RoboCat is done well, at least in my mind. He’s like Jenny from My Life as a Teenage Robot, but I’m drawing him and I’m getting better, I think. I was supposed to be studying the metric system, I know, but I really don’t understand any of it. I wish I was normal and smart and had nice handwriting like the other girls in class do, the other girls with their neat outfits and tidy pencils, who don’t have metal colored hands from the pencil scribbles left over from doodles. I never thought I could draw, I never felt like I could create my own cartoon and I think he’s just like Jenny, or just as powerful. He has lasers and a battle-axe and everything! He can save the world and I program him with a remote control, which is just a square shape on the page but still a remote. I think that these cartoons are my best drawings, and I keep him in the most careful square-shapes I can make. 

I think RoboCat, or drawing him, is the most important drawing I’ve done so far. I create clay mummies and plaster sarcophaguses in art class, but this is my own thing, my own structure. I know my art teacher has these model-dummies for practice drawing, but my figures are my own, and unique, and I don’t feel like I have to make him normal for anyone else, he’s my art and making these Robo-Cat cartoons are my favorite. I love making him all metallic and shading him in with the different pencil-pressures I put on the paper. I love my RoboCat, with the sound effects I gave him “REEEEEKAAAA, REEEEEKAAAAA” and the way they surround him and the page. I love having all the control over him, since he’s the only thing I started myself and can claim some kind of control over.

It all started when I was daydreaming of Jenny from My Life as a Teenage Robot, and how many crazy gadgets she’s able to unleash from her arms and legs and even her ponytails. I was daydreaming, or thinking, in class one day, during social studies, no, math, since math is more confusing and strange. I thought of how Jenny looks in that cartoon, the squares and rectangles she’s made up of, and I began constructing square after square of my cat’s body, and then his triangle ears and his tail with the axe-spikes and made sure to make his feet clunky and his hands full of claws. The hands and feet had to be paws, but the feet are more like rectangular boots and the paws are circular but with sharp metal lines of thin knives. I drew on his eyes, circular, like Jenny’s but colder and more fierce. I don’t have much practice drawing bodies or figures or even things like faces or arms and legs, but I try to think back to all the cartoons and Cartoon Network and then I draw all the body parts, or animal parts, in this case. I have a pretty good memory, and certain parts of different art styles stick in my brain, which makes the parts of RoboCat something I can construct naturally and using the different straight lines and loops to form the actual being.

The drawing lesson, I guess, is complete when I finish a sheet of paper with each version of the cat, each new “REEEEEKA” and each new addition to the cat’s arsenal of weapons and compartments for lasers to shoot out of. I think I get better at drawing him, at drawing figures in general, once a piece of computer paper is completed, once I have the cat ready for battle and properly colored in. I feel proud of myself whenever I see my drawings done, when I caption each adventure of Robo-Cat. I know it’s not cartoons and I know it’s not even comics, really, but these are the first real series of pictures I’ve been committed to, something like those cave-owls I painted in the second grade. This isn’t paint, just markers and mainly just pencil that I press down real hard on the paper, but I taught myself to craft these adventures. My classmates all hate it when I talk too much about RoboCat, when I screech out “REEEKA, REEEKA, REEEKA”, and I can feel their scowls and complaints, so I’m very proud of having an outlet somewhere else. The pieces of computer paper never stay with me, since I’m so disorganized, but what matters is that I’m constructing my own creature, my own RoboCat, tracking each movement and pattern. I’m actually drawing these, not following someone else’s pattern, not just another straw and plaster mummy, but my thick-penciled, free-moving, stiff formed, maybe a bit rusted RoboCat. When I draw him I feel so happy, so accomplished and so delighted to see his iron toothy smile, his steely eyes looking intently back.

Michael challenged me to a drawing contest, to see who could draw a better RoboCat, with Duncan, his friend, my enemy, really, as the judge. Michael’s a great artist and drawer and all, but RoboCat is my thing, my cat and my hero. He’s who I draw, he’s how I taught myself to really draw, so I don’t think he could or should take that from me. Michael ended up drawing a great Robot, very realistic and carefully shaded. I drew my traditional figure, my thick, scribbled, angry-lined creation, my own creation, which visually did not stand up to the re-draw Michael had done. To no one’s surprise, immediately Duncan declared Michael the winner of the RoboCat draw-off. There was no prize, but I felt pretty crummy, and I even told them that he could not draw MY cat better than what I taught myself to do, what I know as my creature, my creation, but Michael and Duncan just laughed at me. I don’t even know what Michael ended up doing with his picture.

I realized, though, at the end of it all, that it didn’t matter what Ms. Mullen ignored, what she preferred to teach, what my classmates carefully outlined in their notebooks, or even what Michael could beautifully create. I did teach myself how to make figures, use colors, more importantly, get new shades from my pencil. I have been able to make drawing something important, something that matters and that not even the reading room can replace. I really realized I learned something new in drawing, in art as a whole, when I told Michael and Duncan that this was MY work, MY character, and they could not re-create it, they could not teach themselves what I had learned, what I willed myself to put to paper. Wasteful as I’m being, all the paper I give to each drawing gives me joy, something to work at and even to look forward to. Ms. Mullen can throw as many of my other drawings into the trash as she wants, she can leave them in the wastebasket for me to regretfully collect after class, she can even crumple them up before she does that. I taught myself to draw, and to get better at it, to stick with it, and that is the one thing I don’t envy of anyone else. Even Michael.



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