Week five of beginning drawing class at Lillstreet Art Center, Ravenswood, Chicago, Illinois

For art’s sake.

Beginning drawing class at Lillstreet Art Center

Week one of beginning drawing class at Lillstreet Art Center.


“I’ve always wanted to do that.”

It’s one of those phrases that often rings in my head. When I quit my job to travel, so many co-workers said to me before I left, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Sitting on a beach in Koh Phangan, watching poi performers twirl fire, a new friend would whisper, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”

And I say it to myself, often, watching salsa dancers in Colombia, listening to an Australian play the guitar in a hostel, even hearing someone talk about skydiving in New Zealand.

“I’ve always wanted to do that.”


Week two of beginning drawing class at Lillstreet Art Center.

Learning to draw is one of those things I’ve always wanted to learn to do. When I was a kid I used to keep a notebook full of drawings (though they were mostly plans for flying machines and doll hospitals) and I was meticulous over staying in the lines of my coloring book. In high school I took, maybe, a quarter of a semester worth of an art class. But drawing has never really been my thing. Dancing, singing, acting, yes. But translating art onto paper. No. Anytime I’d sketch or doodle something in my notebook it would just turn into a messy blob. Unrecognizable.


Week three of beginning drawing class at Lillstreet Art Center.

I’ve been working back in Chicago and living with a friend in the Ravenswood neighborhood. When I first went to her apartment we passed by Lillstreet Art Center on the walk from the el. It was just a couple of blocks away and, knowing that I’d be here for at least a month, it was the perfect opportunity to take a class, one of those things that’s hard to schedule when you live your life moving, without a schedule. I’d often looked at their catalog online: art classes, pottery classes, photography classes. And I always wanted to take something. Learning to throw pottery is on my life list but, for now, I decided to take beginning drawing because it seemed more of a practical skill for a traveler.

Something about that romanticized idea of traveling with a sketch book, sitting by a river, drawing the life that’s passing by.


Week four of beginning drawing class at Lillstreet Art Center.

At our first class my teacher set up some vases and some fruit and asked us to just draw. And my first attempt was pretty terrible. Messy lines. Unblended shadows. Uneven renderings. But as the five weeks went by, things got better. We used different types of pencils and charcoals for different effects. We learned about shadows and values and proportions. We learned and practiced different techniques.

In the second to last class my teacher looked at my sketches and said, “there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing here,” which I took to mean, “you’re doing it wrong.” But, in any case, over five weeks of drawing I felt like I was at least sort of getting it. At least when it came to vases and fruit.


Week five of beginning drawing class at Lillstreet Art Center.

And maybe I’ll add a sketch book and some charcoals and pastels into my already crowded backpack. Because now, after five weeks of classes, I can draw anything…as long as anything is a pear. I can draw pears pretty well. But I can draw a pear way better than I could five weeks ago. And that is a big something.


Learn on Skillshare

Affiliate Link

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

1 Comment
  • mom
    May 6, 2014at5:38 am

    I like those drawings, are they all yours or did you show the drawings of the entire class. Mothers day is coming, you can give me one for Mother’s Day. Mom

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.