Exercising The Funny Bone

Elwood Smith will be holding his first full-blown “How To Draw With Your Funny Bone” workshop at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, on May 2. The workshop runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. His talk on caring for funny bones, followed by a book signing, will begin at 5:30 p.m. Smith hopes to get attendees to create a small town in Elwood’s World, which he calls Funnyville. He will help them make simple drawings of everything from sea creatures for The Sea of Mirth to a circus filled with Funny Bone animals, clowns and high-wire acts. He’s also planning to bring his guitar and write a song with participants—The Funny Bone Blues. Each attendee will honor a favorite (fictional) blues hero by creating a mask, which they’ll wear as they sing the blues song just before (or after) Smith does his talk. Since I can’t attend, I asked Elwood to tell us more.

 

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What are you going to teach at this workshop?
My new book, How To Draw With Your Funny Bone, was the inspiration for the workshop, so I’ll be giving a short drawing lesson to kick things off. I want participants to draw with childlike basic shapes, circles, squares and triangles to create their images. I don’t want them to attempt to make representational or “realistic” drawings. I will be encouraging them to make loose and wobbly imagery, much like they did when they were 5 or 6 years old.

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Is it for kids of all ages?
Yes, absolutely. I want small kids to embrace what they already do naturally and urge older kids and adults of all ages to feel comfortable making similar imaginative, childlike drawings. Older adults often attend watercolor classes or take life-drawing classes, but they tend to drop away, feeling frustrated by the skill it takes to achieve even modest success. If I can get them to appreciate the beauty of creating simple imagery, I think they’ll be motivated to continue. Every kid draws pictures when they are little, but most stop drawing by age 10. I believe they become intimidated by those kids who receive praise from adults for displaying a more advanced level of drawing—that is, kids with the ability to create more complex, “realistic” drawings. I want to invite the kids and adults who gave up drawing back into the world of picture-making.

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How, actually, do you draw from the funny bone? Doesn’t that hurt?
Oh, you’re thinking of the numbing funny bone, which can be painful. I employ the Elwoodian Funny Bone, which induces a feeling of tranquility and happiness.

Do you think funny can be taught?
I don’t think being funny can be taught, but it’s my contention that anyone who picks up a #2 pencil and is willing to draw silly creatures using simple shapes—circles, squares and triangles—will automatically produce something funny. As long as they don’t try to manage their drawing hand too much. Allowing ample wobble is essential.

Can you guarantee that your method works?
I’ve been testing my method at the dining room table for a couple of months now, using a few friends as guinea pigs.

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