Artist Living

How to Draw a Siamese Cat (and other impossibles)

Me Ra Koh

I started a beginning drawing class last night.

It seemed insane to do with how crazy life has been.  I head to Minneapolis tomorrow, and I haven’t had a chance to unpack my suitcase from NYC.  Pascaline has had the flu all week, Brian and Blaze came down with it yesterday.  Book Three’s copy-edit was due yesterday, I’m so far behind on emails I can’t even see the end.  I’ve got posts to write for Babble, Mini Sessions to edit, and a presentation to give this weekend.  Crying off and on from exhaustion has been my most consistent activity.  And I’m going to start a weekly drawing class in the midst of all this?  That makes total sense!

I was so stressed when I walked into class, I felt like I would burst into tears if I had one more thing I needed to do.

The teacher held up a drawing of a Siamese cat.  A REALLY GOOD drawing.  And he said “We’re going to learn how to draw a Siamese cat tonight.”  My stomach dropped.  I looked at my blank paper, having no idea how to draw at all, clueless of where to even start.  ‘How on earth am I going to draw a Siamese cat that was clearly drawn by a professional?  Isn’t this the beginner’s class?’ I thought.  The teacher must have been reading my mind because he said “It’ll be fun.  We’ll just take it one step at a time.”

Well, I had a hard time believing that it would be either fun OR possible.  But I wasn’t going to quit and walk out of the class.  Something inside me wanted to follow him, to see if I could keep up.

First, he had us lightly draw a rectangle box around the cat.  We all wanted to dive in when he gave the instructions and draw our rectangle around the cat.  How hard could that be.  But he said “Look at me.  Watch how I’m drawing this box.  I’m doing it lightly, and I’m not trying to get the perfect lines on the first try.  Look, I’m not drawing one line but seven or eight lines.  That’s okay.  Later I’ll pick the best one.  I don’t need to get it perfect the first time.  My tools make up both a pencil AND eraser.  As an artist, I begin with the expectation of making mistakes.”

I felt a little pressure come off.  I don’t have to get it right the first time?  Okay.  Exhale.

He taught us how to hold our pencils by lightly holding it from the top half versus down low with a tight grip.  “That low, tight grip is used for detail,” he said.  “But it’s way to early in the process to add the detail.  We want to stay light and just find our borders first.”  There’s more than one way to hold a pencil? 

Then he had us draw lines across the middle of the rectangle, so that the cat was now split into four boxes.  Each box was a section we would focus on first, instead of looking at the whole cat and trying to draw it free hand.  Things started to feel possible.  And wouldn’t you know it, I ran ahead!  This desire in me to “get it” and now “get it done” surged up.  But after a minute or two, I was stuck again.  Even though the smaller boxes were easier to tackle, I still had no idea how to draw the ears or eyes for that matter.

I looked up from my paper.  The teacher was still plodding along, showing the class step-by-step what to do next.  I’d follow him again, and then I’d want to run ahead, but get stuck again.  It took a solid hour before I let go of this need to hurry and do it myself, enjoying the steady pace of him showing us each step, undoing the mystery with every piece, making the drawing of this Siamese cat completely possible.

When the class was over, I sat back and just stared at my paper.  The drawing is only half-finished, but I can’t believe I see a cat on my paper.  There is a recognizable drawing of a cat–a Siamese cat!  It doesn’t look like the masterpiece we are using as a guide.  But it’s still a decent drawing of a cat.  I am blown away that my hand could draw something that seemed so impossible.  I wouldn’t know how to do it again without the teacher guiding me, but I can do it.  A bit of hope sprouted within my spirit, ‘maybe I can create something that looks impossible, especially with a Teacher that is willing to take me through the process step-by-step.”

Isn’t that what this Family Travel Show feels like?  We have met with different networks, pitched our show, and felt both excited and discouraged.  Like the drawing of the Siamese cat, we are drawing the rectangle around the body–determining our borders.  We are breaking the process down into smaller sections, and everything in me wants to just FILL IN THE DETAILS!  We get some guidance, and I want to run ahead.  I want to know the answers!  When will we be putting our stuff in storage?  Will we really leave in February?  How long will we be gone for?  Will a network air this when so many say that positive, wholesome shows is not what people want to watch on TV?  That alone feels so discouraging.  But we don’t need every network to love our idea.  We only need one.

The vision Brian and I hold for this show feels like the drawing of the Siamese cat.  We aren’t from the entertainment world.  We aren’t expert directors or producers.  There are so many other experts in the industry who are much more qualified than us.  And yet, we’ve walked into the classroom.  The Teacher has pinned this creative vision on the board and said “We are going to create a Family Travel show.  It’ll be fun.  We’ll just take it one step at a time.”

Some days, I want to run out of the class and never come back.  I get frustrated because I want to focus on the DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS.  But the Teacher says it’s to early in the process and keeps plodding along one step at a time.  We’re learning so much, we probably will be experts when this is all said and done!  But I don’t want to wait to be an expert, I want to be an expert today and just know what to do.  I don’t want to backtrack, have to adjust things, erase and redo… “An artist starts the creative process with both a pencil AND an eraser because she knows she will have to adjust things along the way.”

When I want to give up and pout, I look up and the road signs continue to say “East”.

How to Draw a siamese cat, Me Ra Koh inspiration for artists

To go by a way I don’t know.  A path that is unfamiliar.  A destination that will most likely look very different from what I envision now.  And even though I get frustrated, afraid, and tired…I consider going back, leaving the classroom…there is just no way.

Something in me wants to follow Him, to see if I can keep up.





  1. i raced to the end before reading every word and there was no picture of the cat! i then continued reading every word…

  2. My daughter tells this story about the end of Second grade when the teacher, at their last math lesson, showed them the video on addition that they watched at their first lesson. The kids roared with laugher as the video explained what the little + sign in the middle of the numbers meant. It was so silly to them that someone would have to explain that in such detail. And every time she tells me this story, I have to remind her how hard she found those early math classes.
    There was a time when you probably didn’t know how to turn the flash off on your camera, let alone how to instead harness the natural light around your subjects, and yet, here you are today, one of the most talented light artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
    Not only do I have faith that one day you’ll be teaching people how to draw cats, but you’ll be doing it while telling stories about producing an award winning TV show.
    Hang tight my friend and remember, when in doubt, when overwhelmed, a cup of tea in one hand and a pencil in the other can put everything in the perfect perspective and light.

  3. Julie Watts says:

    Just wow. I get inspired every time I read a story of how you are able to draw (ha! no pun intended) connections and meanings out of seemingly unrelated experiences…it shows us how many life lessons waiting all around us, waiting for us to notice them and take comfort in them. 🙂

  4. I fully enjoyed reading your post. Praying for you and your family! <3

  5. jen sulak says:

    thanks for the inspiration mera…………….
    because now i know that i can speak about my experience and really learn from it………………………..