Drawing Inside the Gorilla’s Mouth

A Big Life: Encouragement for People in the Arts –


“A Zebra Who Just Ate Fruit Off a Tree” by Katie Bennett, age 5

When I was six years old, my mother was horrified when my first grade teacher began to teach us the “right way” to draw trees.

Her abstract method (which did not include looking at real trees) was starting at the bottom to sketch the trunk and sweeping upward with the pencil, creating branches.    Prior to her instruction, my trees had darkly crayoned trunks with fingered claws at the top. Big, colorful clouds of leaves nestled in them.   Strangely colored animals lurked, and once I did a drawing of the inside of a gorilla’s mouth.  But in time as I tried to draw “correctly”, my landscapes and creatures diminished into simplified stick figures.  Eventually I stopped altogether.  When you’re an adult, people don’t expect you to draw stick figures or tree clouds.  They expect you to take a class and learn technique.

Gorilla Cropped

“The Inside of a Gorilla’s Mouth” by Katie Bennett, age 5

So far I still haven’t.

Lydia cropped

“Lydia” – photo and watercolor by Katie Bennett, 2011

But lately I’ve picked up some watercolors and a few charcoal pieces.  I’ve started to draw again and I no longer worry about whether or not I’m any good. The practice of drawing is experiential anyway, like a meditation.   I see things I wouldn’t notice if I weren’t drawing. And of course, as with any practice, I’m improving. I’m discovering what medium and style I like.  Unexpectedly I find like to draw people from the pictures I take. This means I am also becoming a better photographer.


“Dragon Flower” – colored pencils and India ink wash on woodblock by Bonnie Bonnett, 2011

I am grateful to have the mentorship of some truly fine artists in my life. My talented aunt, Bonnie Bennett, is a member of Portland’s Local 14, an organization of 14 women who present an art show in Portland at the Forestry Center in Washington Park every October.   This affordable, original art is of the highest quality. I love the whimsy, colors and prices at this show. Recently my aunt showed me her workroom and explained her pencil and ink wash technique for creating a series of fantasy flowers.  She was kind about my paintings, but rightly told me I would benefit by taking a drawing class.

Maybe one day I will.




Note: This year the Local 14 Art Show will be on October 2-5, 2014 at the Forestry Center in Washington Park, Portland Oregon.

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