Drawing animals badly

I spent some time this weekend drawing animals, thanks to some nice step-by-step guides in the newspaper and the encouragement of my friend Charlie. I drew an elephant, a giraffe, a rhino, and a lion. I was joined in this activity by my girlfriend, a couple of friends and my mum and dad (who did an excellent frog and eagle respectively). I'd heartily recommend it, especially if you sign them with your left hand and put them on the fridge when you're done.

I was amazed by the fear that ran through me when I started drawing the first one. The challenge of a blank piece of paper conjured up images not of possibility but of fear of failure, of getting it wrong and looking silly. Every one of us introduced our first drawing with some comment like "this is so hard" or "I was never any good at art". I was never much good at art in school, although I've always enjoyed it. I'll happily look at someone else's drawings, but it's been years since I actually did anything artistic. Art for me had become one of those "look, don't touch" activities, like lion-taming or accounting - best left to the experts.

Sitting around this weekend with friends and family, comparing horses and rabbits, I realised what I've been missing. Drawing things is wonderfully sociable. Playful, in fact. I wonder how I managed to forget that? And I also wonder what else I've stopped doing because I don't think I can do it well enough?

I'm much better at drawing animals now than I was last week. Perhaps learning is a process of doing things badly.