Friday, August 19, 2016

This is What Frustrates Me the Most...

"I can't draw."

I hear that a lot. Like, a lot. It comes out in conversation whenever I tell people I teach drawing. It comes up on my Facebook feed when I post about my classes. There are so many people convinced they cannot draw. This frustrates me to no end because It. Is. Not. True.

You write, right? Drawing is just an extension of writing. You take a mark-making instrument in your hand and you make specific marks to convey specific ideas. That's all that drawing is. The difference is that society (schools, peers, family) have no problem telling us directly or indirectly that we have no natural talent. Kids are shuffled pretty quickly into one of two categories: Can Draws, and Can'ts. Humans categorize to make life easier to process and that's cool, I get that. But when you want to draw, when you enjoy it, and you start to believe you aren't good at it, you stop and become too shy to show off your artwork. You box up your pencils and crayons and you move onto something else like clarinet or violin. But have you ever heard a kid beginning on a clarinet or a violin? They ALL sound awful! Squawk! Honk! Screech! They can't help it because it's hard to get a good sound when you first start. Same thing with learning to write. Toddlers scribble like crazy with crayons - on paper, on walls, on furniture, on themselves. They have no idea what they're doing and they don't care because there's this innate fascination and joy in watching the instrument you're holding do your bidding. Toddler scribbles are a precursor to learning to write AND draw. Control, discernment, style come with time. And practice. And dedication.

Dinner knife study in pencil, August 2015


These days, not as many people teach drawing as they do painting. Painting - at least beginning painting - is easier, so understandably it's more popular. Good results come sooner and most people finish a painting a lot faster than they can finish a drawing. That's why places offer showing you how to complete a painting in just two hours. But there's no instant gratification in drawing. After two hours some people barely have any marks on the page. It is a long hard slog but I love the challenge.

I love the meditative slowness of it (yet I do have students who work much more quickly than I). I love the level of attention to detail. I love that when I think my ability to observe has improved, there's suddenly a whole new level of detail that I didn't notice before. I love that one subject matter (like drawing glass or portraits) that didn't interest me before (or intimidated me) will later become an all-consuming passion. I see this in my students and it gives me immense satisfaction watching them grow as artists.

So the point of my writing is this: Don't ever tell me you can't draw, because you used to - all kids used to - and you can, you just don't. If you don't care to learn, that's one thing. You can say "I don't know how" rather than "I can't," because when you say you can't, what you're really saying is, "I don't want to learn." That's fine, too. I don't ever want to learn saxophone because I don't like saxophone. I choose to avoid it like the plague; it's not that I couldn't learn. I used to play piano. I miss it, but not enough to actually sit down at the one in my house and relearn a song or two.

I'm not on a mission to make people take my drawing class, but I am on a mission to suss out the ones who want to learn but are afraid they never will. I have total respect for anyone who just doesn't want to learn to draw, but if there's a tiny part of you that'd be interested in developing those long dormant skills, I'm here for you.