“Could you draw us something?”
Millions of adults around the world would break into a cold sweat if asked to draw a picture in front of a group of people. They’d deny any artistic talent, make excuses, and do whatever it took to avoid being on the spot with a pencil in their hand.
But ask a couple of five-year-olds to do the same thing, and within seconds they‘ll be drawing, explaining, and creating artistic masterpieces for all to see.
So what happens between the age of 5 and 15 that makes us terrified to draw? What makes YOU afraid?
For many people it’s when they first realize that their drawings look nothing like reality. They can SEE the obvious mistakes, but have no idea how to fix them; feeling that if they can’t draw something perfectly, then they shouldn’t draw it at all.
Perhaps for you it came as a surprise, when one of your classmates at school laughed at your art homework and said your “family portrait” looked like two giraffes and an alien.
That’s a tough critique for anybody to take, let alone a kid, but it doesn’t mean you’re not an artist. (And that other kid’s opinion didn’t make him an art expert, either.)
Most people think artists have some kind of gift, and I suppose that a some artists are born with a talent for art. But, if you looked at the childhood drawings of 100 professional artists, I’d bet you’d find that 99 of them made the same type of scribbles and stick figures that you did as a kid.
The difference is that they never quit making scribbles, and at some point they LEARNED to draw, whether from books, videos, teachers, or just on their own with lots of practice.
Wish you could draw? Here’s the good news: anyone can learn. The bad news is, drawing’s hard.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve been asked to draw something, in public, at a party, or wherever. Once people know I’m an artist, they’ll ask me to draw the craziest things.
“Draw a caricature of George Bush,” they’ll say. Or, “My kid likes sailboats, do you draw sailboats?”
What people don’t understand is that it would probably take an hour to get a decent sketch done, and another three hours to make a fully rendered drawing. For me at least, drawing sure isn’t like snapping my fingers.
As to the requests for sailboats, presidents, or whatever else, I’ll often say, “Sure, just put it on the table in front of me and I’ll draw it.” More than time or effort, it takes a real object or image for me to be able to draw well, and any talented artist who draws or paints realistically will probably tell you the same thing. You should ALWAYS use a reference.
That’s where most people who want to be artists get discouraged. They try to draw from memory, or from their imagination, and what ends up on paper looks horrible. But a lot of artists have that exact problem too, and its just because of the way our brains naturally work. (I’ll explain that a bit more later on this week.)
The thing is, there’s no need to keep thinking that you have to be born with amazing talent to be an artist. All it really takes is somebody to teach you, plus some time and effort on your part.
Don’t believe me? Well come back on Friday for this week’s how-to article on drawing, and read about some great drawing tips and techniques. After that tutorial I promise you’ll see the world differently, and be able to draw it better too.