I was twelve when someone first ripped up a drawing of mine in front of me.
I had been taking a life drawing class at Art Students League in NYC with live nude models. I produced an ink drawing that showed a strong improvement of my skills since the class first began and I was really proud.
I waited eagerly for the teacher to circle around to my drawing horse. I motioned happily at my drawing, certain he would confirm my skill.
He hunched down and peered at the work, and gave a half smile, then looked at me seriously. He began in his broken English:
“I was taught by a line of instructors which can be traced back to the master Raphael…”
I couldn’t breathe, I knew who Raphael was and I was stunned as well as immediately frightened at where he might be taking this. The two retired ladies, my classmates on either side of me stopped drawing, turned their heads and watched.
“…all of them, my best instructors, told me what I will demonstrate for you.”
I thought I was about to learn some secret technique, some mystical ability that few knew. I even began to reach for my drawing utensil to offer him. Instead, he swept my newsprint pad up in the air over my head, and in one motion separated the sheet of paper with the drawing on it from the pad with a clean SSSSHRIPP sound.
He held the 18X24 sheet outstretched in front of him and announced to me and the class: “If you did it good once, you can do it a second time ..great!”
He ripped the drawing into pieces while looking down at me.
Oddly enough, I was very comforted in that moment. This instructor believed what he told me and more importantly, he believed in me enough to confidently destroy something that I treasured a moment ago.
A pose later our model put on her clothes for a long seated pose. I made the drawing shown above. My instructor was right. The experience of producing, the practice, the muscle memory, was more important than the actual final piece, the final deliverable.
Today, in everything I do, it’s critical to remember that nothing I try to achieve is as precious as how I go about achieving it.