I should tell you that I began this page by trying to draw another very similar historical-architectural remnant, also being used to place a potted plant atop. I began, in fact, eight or nine times. I'd think I almost had the graphics of that pedestal, finally, after wrestling with the intricacies of the swirls or horns either side of that central spear, the complications of shadow and relief. . . And then I'd see that I'd got the proportions wrong, misjudged the ratio of the section above the design to the section below or messed up the relationship between width and height.
Or I'd almost have the pedestal the way I liked it and then realize I hadn't left enough room to fit the pot above it. Or I'd smack my forehead seeing that one of the lines that should have reflected gravity (i.e. been parallel to the side of the paper) suggested an odd physics. . . .
I got madder at myself with each erasure, began, in fact, calling myself "Stupid." Began wondering why I ever thought I could draw. Reminded myself that I'd always known I wasn't artistic and I should probably stick to what I knew I could do well. . .
I muttered my frustration to Paul, on the rooftop terrace with his cup of tea, and he asked me what it was that I was having trouble with and what I liked about what I'd done so far, and I grumbled at him and told him not to try to cajole me, and insisted that he was patronizing me even though he must see how poor a draughtsperson I am. . . But the venting began to sound a bit silly to me, I guess, although I kept it up while I erased another horrible, ridiculous (my Inner Critic's words) effort.
This time as I erased, though, I was already processing the data I'd gained from the five or six previous efforts. I began holding up my pencil the way Alison had taught me, to get a better idea of proportion, and I was careful to pay attention to the negative space, and I tried to plan the placement of the basic shapes and foundational angles before I started working on details. Three more "failures" after that and the grumbling wasn't quite silenced, but I was beginning to tap into two attributes that help balance my lack of natural talent: discipline and faith in process. That is, I'm willing to work at something, methodically, and I've learned that the process of that methodical work will yield a product that pleases, if I'm patient (and, along the way, try to be kind to myself).
For me, part of the process is often a time-out. I put great stock in the work our brains do when we leave them alone for a while. So I erased the latest effort, joined Paul for tea, and left the sketch for the next morning.
When I picked up the sketchbook again, early the next morning while he was still sleeping, I chose the subject you see in the little painting. It's a very similar base (I'd love to know how old that stone carving is, what building it was part of, whether the building was destroyed through war or earthquake or simply succumbed to the same forces that put the wrinkles on my face), but it was right outside the door, and something about the perspective seemed more manageable to me.
So I started in. I held a pencil up in the air, moved it until I had a proportion that would fit nicely on the page, went back and forth with my pencil from page to up in the air, made some marks on paper, erased them -- but this time more contentedly, as if the effort and its erasure were both instructive. As they were. As they so often are. I figured out a few things along the way (those shutters on the wall of the house, for example, I skewed at a strange angle, not recognizing the problem until I'd painted the surrounding stone -- did some nifty work with erasure, then pencil, then brush, and they're now mounted correctly (although slightly more narrower than they should be).
And I'm happy enough with the sketch I achieved. Well aware of its limitations, but happy with the page itself and also with what I learned through persevering. Plus the memory of my contentment as I first drew, then painted it, sitting right here. . . .