>It’s almost summer and the weather is getting warmer every day. After months without the sun, a mere 70 degrees is enough to turn me red. Still, one has to remain strong in the face of temperate adversity.

Over the years I’ve noticed there’s a correlation between the temperature and the amount of paper I go through. Partly it’s because there’s not a whole lot to draw in the winter unless you like dead trees; partly it’s because it’s difficult to draw with mittens on.

All the same, the sketchbook is out again. Yet, it doesn’t feel right. My lines all have that meandering, drunken sway to them. I have lost a noticeable amount of skill over hibernation time.

It was in this state of mind that I found myself searching for something to rectify this problem, and luckily for those of us who plan to stick it out for the summer, there are options. Ah, the joys of summer art courses.

I’ve always been a big proponent of picking up some kind of art form. Whether it’s drawing or guitar or bookmaking or whatever — it’s likely that everybody has something artistic that they’re able to do.

The difficult part about finding an outlet if you’re the average college student with someplace between “no time” and “less than no time” is finding someplace to pick up the skills without driving yourself insane. Granted, we have an art department, and a good one at that, but not everybody can afford that six hours of lab time a week to make sure their doodles come out consistently.

A lot of people seem to take art at the “If you can’t do it well, don’t do it at all” level many like to apply to summer swimwear, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you enjoy something, you might as well continue to do it, and then maybe someday you can show other people. I’ve picked up (in some faculty) six instruments, painting and drawing in my spare time, and if that has taught me anything it’s that the best way to start in any art form is to pick up a basic conception of what that art form is and how to do a couple of elementary techniques that can be built on over time at your leisure.

When I was in elementary school we had a thing called College For Kids. For two weeks you’d get to hobnob with other third graders at the local community college learning something. I had a class once where we did nothing but draw geometric shapes. I hated that class. Still, it’s become helpful over the years, and I can still draw a mean sphere. The fact is that some skills stay with you, but only if you keep with them long enough.

Luckily the UW offers a relatively nice selection of affordably priced arts classes available to people willing to make a minimum commitment over the summer months. The best courses I can find to recommend come under art — they’re general, easily applicable to a variety of areas and relatively low-impact.

For example, if you want to draw but don’t have a basic grasp of form and volume, there’s really not a better place to start than with comics. The UW is offering a workshop this semester with Jim Horwitz. For starters, it’s easy to draw a little blob from frame to frame, and in more advanced stages it’s easy to build on that blob so that you can, say, draw it consistently.

For those who have already acquired some degree of proficiency, there are a variety of art courses allowing experimentation with different media, like a Chinese Brush Painting course and a one-day charcoal seminar. Weekend warriors may want to tackle the outdoors Landscape Drawing class offered on Saturdays. Also available is a variety of more demanding courses, including an eight-week drawing class.

Either way, if you have the free time once a week, chances are those interested can learn something simple that they won’t forget and that those interested in seeing what other wannabe artists are thinking can get a look at their competition.

A summer course list can be found at www.dcs.wisc.edu, along with prices and course descriptions.