Shared Memories:’New Skills’ by Oliver Cross

I’ve been thinking since I got locked down, that this would be a good time to try and improve myself; although really this should have occurred to me earlier because it’s far easier to improve yourself at seven or 17 than it is at 70.

Despite this, I’ve started an on-line drawing course in the hope that, if I work hard enough, I might eventually reach the competence level of a 17-year-old who had paid some attention to art lessons.

Which I can’t have done because I have no memory at all of being taught to draw anything recognisable, such as, say, a carrot, which, I’ve discovered, isn’t as easy as you’d think unless you’ve got a carrot-coloured crayon or are allowed to use labels.

My dream would be draw anything as solid and  real as some examples of ancient cave art dating from 40,000 or more years ago and done without any help from the Lakeland pencil company or adult education classes.

Their trick was, in half-light and with improvised materials , they could portray a whole herd of prey animals in flight, as if caught for an instant by the BBC’s wildlife unit, or giant bisons looking so thoroughly solid that the tribe’s butchers would know immediately where to start taking slices out of them.

I know that, because of my hopelessness in turning the world into pictures, which, at the least, is what art is, I would have let the pre-historic world down badly if I had been let loose on a cave-painting wall.

My theory, which has the great advantage of being disprovable, is that the best cave art was not done by your average, run-of-the-mill  cave people but by a small class of rarely talented and practised illustrators.

It seems plausible that early people, having mastered hunting and  gathering, would have moved on fairly quickly to trying to relay their most exciting experiences, such as deer hunting, by any means available, including converting the cave walls they were forced to stare at for long periods into living canvasses or virtual movies.

That’s why humans, from toddlers to pensioners, can’t help trying to leave their mark on the world, even when education ministers tell them they would be better off getting proper jobs.

It’s also why any blank wall in any inner-city area is soon covered in inept daubings by people who have had all the advantages of a modern education combined with a desperate need to express themselves, but have failed to progress even to the caveman stage.

And to return to the question, why do I want to be able to draw? Well, because wouldn’t anybody like to be able to draw? It should be a primeval skill we’re all heir to, so that, given a bit of a steer by skilled tutors, we should all, armed with only a pencil and paper, be able record what we see in a way which has been compulsively attractive since the dawn of humanity.

Failing that, I might sign up for Conversational Croatian.

Wonderful Oliver, I do hope you continue to enjoy your art, until next time….