ZOË SULLIVAN-BLUM- There are many things I love about taking classes at our program center. The opportunities to explore world-class museums like the Prado, the enthusiastic and engaging grammar lessons that actually make me want to learn about the past subjunctive tense (well…almost). However, the real standout (and completely unexpected delight) for me this semester has been my Sketchbook class. Let me be clear, I have never been a visual artist. I danced for the better part of 15 years, I took piano and guitar lessons, sang my way through many a musical and madrigals’ performance. But never have I fancied myself a natural with a pencil and a sketchbook. I did take some pottery classes once upon a time, and even helped to paint a mural in a staircase of my middle school building before I moved on to high school. I even once painted a truly frightening fish (with migraine-inducing swirls for a background) at summer camp, which my devoted mother propped up in her office for a really admirable amount of time. I decided to take this Sketchbook class knowing I wouldn’t be a very skilled artist, but with the desire to explore the city and try something new.
Now, imagine my surprise when I started to realize that not only could I draw pretty well, but, even more importantly, that I absolutely loved it.
Even at the beginning, when my skills were still pretty depressing, I loved the class. The opportunity to look at Madrid through an artist’s eyes is one unlike any other I have had in this city. The class meets once a week for two and a half hours (this solid time-block only slightly making up for the fact that we only get to meet once a week). We meet at a different museum/exhibit/park every week and explore new styles and types of drawing. We’ve visited a Train Museum, experienced nude figure drawing in the library of our program center, drawn taxidermy animals at a Science Museum and relics at an Archeological Museum. The hours whiz by, our instructor, Pepa, moving from student to student, looking through our homework and at whatever we are currently working on, simultaneously correcting and encouraging our burgeoning talents. I have discovered the peace that drawing brings me, the protective and tranquil orb that surrounds both me and my sketchbook. I have discovered how much I love making a mess with charcoal, letting my hand flow across the paper with a 6B pencil, producing intricate features with a 2B and delicate deletions with my various erasers.
Maybe it’s because I started from nowhere with zero expectations of excellence, which is something I don’t usually allow myself. I’m a perfectionist in many ways, always my toughest critic. But by allowing myself this serene period of time every Thursday to just create, free from expectations and judgments, I have discovered something new that brings me joy. Completely uninhibited creation of an image, whether real or a figment of the imagination, is a high I think everyone should try. Yes we have instruction, it is a class after all, but it doesn’t feel at all stifling or frustratingly challenging to me. Between Pepa’s brilliance as an artist and a teacher and my own newfound ability to let loose and just draw, I have managed to give myself an outlet I didn’t even know I was missing. I would never have taken an art class had I not done this program.
Even aside from the imposing presence of Skidmore’s extremely advanced and demanding art department, between my double major and my other extracurriculars I never considered trying to squeeze in time for this thing called art, something I had never tried and was pretty positive I was no good at. But, for whatever reason, Madrid brought me art. And now that I have discovered the bliss it gives me, it is something I am determined not to lose.
Do you want to experience what is like to be in Professor Santamaría’s class? You are invited to a street art walk! Click here!