Thursday, September 11, 2008

Eating the cold porridge

Cervical Vertebra Sketch
coloured pencil
copyright Jeanette Jobson


Years ago I studied anatomy for a year in my course as a herbalist. Starting out, the subject was fairly new to me, the names of bones, organs and bodily systems all sounded peculiar and their complex function even more so. I thought I'd never get it straight in my head. But I did.

There is a perceived difficulty in trying to learn something new, whether anatomy or drawing and it can be overcome if you take it in small steps and look at it logically. Like any skill, it is learned by repetition, practice and practice and repetition. You have to eat the cold porridge.

Eating cold porridge. I've seen the expression and finally tracked it down to a book by Tony Parsons - One for My Baby.

'You must eat the cold porridge,' he told me once.

It's a Chinese expression. Cantonese, I guess, because although hecarried an old-fashioned blue British passport and was happy to call himself an Englishman, he was born in Hong Kong and sometimes you could tell that all the important things he believed were formed long ago and far away. Like the importance of eating the cold porridge.

I stopped what I was doing and stared at him. What was he going on about now?
'Eat the cold porridge.'

The way he explained it, eating the cold porridge means working at something for so long that when you get home there is nothing left to eat but cold porridge.

That's how you get good at something, he told me. That's how you get good at anything. You eat the cold porridge.

You work at it when the others are playing. You work at it when the others are watching television. You work at it when the others are sleeping.

To become the master of something, you must eat the cold porridge.

5 comments:

tracywall said...

How interesting!
I love what I do, nut I'm still trying to aquire more of a taste for cold porridge. I hope cold oatmeal will do. :)

Jeanette said...

I think we're all doing that Tracy. Takes time for sure. I think the oatmeal will work nicely. :)

Teresa Mallen said...

Hi Jeanette,

Yes, it does all come down to practicing your craft doesn't it?

Here is what I don't understand: In the world of music, people accept that in order for Izhak Perlman to play the violin like he does, or for Murray Perahia to play the piano like he does or for Cecilia Bartoli to be the world renowned mezzo-soprano that she is,they would have had to spend many years studying and practicing.

Why isn't it the same for visual art? I am puzzled by people who think that if they have reached adulthood and they don't draw or paint well, then they somehow are forever unable to be artists. What about learning and practicing? By buying into this sort of fine art myth, many people deny themselves the enjoyment that can be found in learning drawing and painting techniques. I do my best to dispel this goofy myth :-)

Jo Castillo said...

This is a lovely drawing. Very abstract in a way.

Keep on with that porridge!

Robyn said...

Bones make wonderful drawings, don't they.

Loved your story because I'm eating rather a lot of cold porridge right now trying to catch up again to where my art is an adventure I look forward to each new day. Lack of inspiration resulted in a stressful backlog so your words are very timely thanks, Jeanette.