You see, every part of the drawing process was important, but how you ended off was determined by how you had begun.
With a blank page in front of you, the required exercise illustrated on the blackboard, and after the teacher had explained what was expected, you were unleashed.
The three periods dedicated to technical drawings were my favourite chunks of time of the school week. For around 90 minutes I was given the opportunity to turn a blank sheet of paper into a masterpiece. To me, “technical drawings” was more than just helixes, machine parts and truncated shapes – it was art!
I just loved being creative and I would meticulously draw the border around my page, then add title blocks at the bottom, where I would neatly print what was required; then do the calculation to determine how to centre my drawing on the page, before taking a deep breath and for the next 90 minutes immerse myself in creative mode.
You see, every part of the drawing process was important, but how you ended off was determined by how you had begun. Starting a drawing was where one had to be particularly careful. You had to draw very feint construction lines, because had you gone gung-ho from the start with a heavy stroke, erasing it would mess up your masterpiece.
So I would use the lightest pressure, allowing the weight of the pencil to determine the darkness of the line (a tip that my dad gave me).
And once I’d measured and checked, and confirmed that my feint construction was accurate, I’d get up, resharpen my pencil and get to work darkening the outlines, making sure that lines were crisp and of even thickness and the corners joined perfectly. My dotted lines had to be two millimetres long with a one millimetre space between them and they had to be a shade lighter than the outlines.
Then the teacher would evaluate my masterpiece and allocate a mark. Anything less than eight out of 10 would be a crushing blow to me and I would mope and brood for the rest of the day. Often, getting less than eight marks for a drawing would be as a result of messing up at the earliest stage – when you got the feint construction lines wrong.
“You can never get your drawing perfect if your measurements and the angles of your lines are imperfect,” our teachers – from primary school to matric – would remind us.
It turns out that if you darkened a construction line that was going in the wrong direction, there was no way that your masterpiece would be correct, and here’s why: The teacher had drawn an accurate drawing on a piece of tracing paper, which he’d overlay on the pupils’ drawings and then our deviations and mistakes would be obvious!
During this past week, it dawned on me how similar technical drawings were to the world’s current situation, and the opening scene of the first Mad Max movie came to my mind – would you believe?
The scene depicts a well-worn sign “Halls of Justice” over a dilapidated gateway, and just in front of it a stop sign. Thereafter there are two camera shots of long, straight stretches of deserted highways.
The apocalyptic movie was set in a world “a few years from now” and showed what would happen if society kept rolling down the road of survival-of-the-fittest. In the film society fell apart and bandits and warlords preyed on the weak.
It made for a very unsettling viewing experience. Today if the original Mad Max movie seems tame, it could be that we have travelled so far down that predicted road, that was just a possibility in 1979, that it’s become a reality.
We may have, one could say, darkened the wrong line.
The South African Bill of Rights at one time set a high standard for our nation. Regarding human dignity, for example, it says: “The government must respect all people. People must respect each other”.
Isn’t it sad that we demand respect, and yet we are often not prepared to respect our fellow man?
Perhaps it’s time for our nation, including our leaders, to step back and look at South Africa’s original template before permanently and irrevocably darkening the wrong lines, which will leave those who come after us with a terrible legacy.