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What are the Advantages (or Disadvantages) of Drawing?

Every now and again I like to check the list of search engine terms and phrases that brought readers to my blog.

Given that my focus is teaching colored pencil, you’d expect the usual things such as “blending colored pencils,” “drawing with colored pencil,” and so on. And generally, those ARE the kind of searches I see.

However, one slightly more unusual search term has appeared quite frequently for years now. It’s some variation of this:

“Avantages and disadvantages of drawing”

Say what?

I’ve never considered the advantages—or the disadvantages—of drawing because, well, I’ve always drawn! Drawing has been as natural as breathing from the first time I picked up a crayon.

So when I began considering the question seriously, my initial reaction was that there are no disadvantages to drawing. If you’re an artist, you draw. . . just like if you’re a swimmer, you swim; and if you’re a runner, you run!

But then I realized there are other ways to understand the question.

What if the person using that search term wants to know what’s special about drawing freehand instead of tracing? Or what if they want to know the advantages and disadvantages of doing a detailed drawing before starting the finished work?

Maybe they just want to know why they should draw instead of paint or sculpt.

Of course, once I got on that train of thought, I just had to explore the possibilities of what people meant! And then I did my best to answer the question: what ARE the advantages and disadvantages?

So here are some of the possible meanings behind that question, and my answers:

Advantages of drawing vs not drawing

This includes sketching, drawing as a way to compose finished work, or drawing from life with the goal of improving skill. In other words, drawing for the sake of drawing.

Advantages

1. It enhances your ability to actually see what you’re looking at, rather than letting your memory or imagination fill in the blanks.

2. It improves eye-hand coordination and that improves your ability to draw accurately what you see.

3. It trains your muscles to respond in a certain way. The more often you draw circles, for example, the more natural the movements become.

4. It’s a good way to resolve composition problems or to simply relax.

5. For those who process life visually, it’s a great way to deal with the circumstances of life—good and bad. We’ve all heard of art therapy, after all.

Disadvantages

If you’re an artist, I can’t think of a single thing that’s a disadvantage in this category. At least none that are truly disadvantages to your art. You may not want to take the time to draw, but if you do, it develops discipline. You may not like the results, but that’s a matter of practicing enough to improve.

And you may think drawing for the sake of drawing is a waste of time, but that’s personal.

No time that you spend drawing is ever truly wasted.

The only possible disadvantage of drawing regularly is that if you’re not careful about drawing accurately, you may fall into the habit of drawing poorly—that is making the same drawing mistake over and over and thinking it’s your style or the way your subject is.

Even this can be corrected—or avoided altogether—by careful observation of your subject and careful attention to detail.

Advantages of drawing lots of details vs few details

Advantages

1. Making a preliminary drawing full of detail provides a visual record of what you observed in life. It gives you the experience of drawing that subject from life and thereby provides additional, intangible material for creating the finished artwork.

2. Sometimes, detailed line drawings are necessary. If you work with colored pencil it’s very difficult to correct mistakes, so accuracy is important. Including every detail in a line drawing is one way I avoid costly mistakes. For me, it’s a necessity.

(For a painter, it may not be.)

Disadvantages

1. It takes time to develop a detailed line drawing, especially if the composition is very complex.

2. It takes time to transfer a detailed line drawing to the drawing or painting support. I’ve spent an entire week working through these two steps for large, complex paintings or drawings.

Advantages of drawing vs some other medium

This is such a personal decision that I can only share what I see as advantages and disadvantages of drawing as opposed to some other form of art. I have painted most of my life and dabbled in sculpture (entirely for fun), so I speak from personal experience.

Advantages

1. The advantages of drawing are primarily that it’s easy to get started and you don’t need a lot of supplies to begin. A pencil or two, a sheet of paper, a sharpener, and maybe an eraser. You’ll want more than that as you gain skill, but that’s really all you need to start.
It’s a dry medium, which means you don’t have to wait for paint to dry.

2. You don’t need solvents.

3. Pencils don’t smell (unless you use scented colored pencils—yes, they are out there!).

4. You can easily take drawing supplies everywhere and you can draw almost anywhere. Be honest. How many times have you doodled on a place mat or napkin while waiting for your meal or in the margin of a report during a long meeting? That’s drawing!

Disadvantages

1. Drawing is generally slower than most other mediums. You can’t easily do a wash of value or color, like you can with oils or watercolors.

2. You can’t layer colors with pencils like you can with oils or acrylics.

3. It’s difficult to correct mistakes. You can’t simply paint over them or sand them off and get a re-do.

In conclusion. . .

I admit that I don’t draw as much as I used to. I made that decision for many of the reasons cited above—it’s just easier to compose artwork through the lens of my camera or with Photoshop. And I can always hit “undo” if I make a mistake.

But to me—a colored pencil artist through and through—no other medium quite matches the enjoyment that comes with drawing. It doesn’t matter whether I’m using graphite or colored pencils. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

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