I can’t draw

12 Dec

Having read over the years some books on learning how to draw (Betty Edwards, Bert Dodson), more or less promising an overnight success, I’m a bit fed up with those kinds of books. They seem to be written for a self-selected audience of people who are discovering their artistic talents.

In my opinion it would be very presumptuous to claim that because you can draw and have taught many others to do so as well, anyone can learn how to draw if they’re just told how to, or encouraged enough by an experienced art teacher. Never forget that those who ask to be taught a certain skill selected themselves. Most want to get better at a skill, after having dabbled in it for a while and hit a plateau beyond they weren’t able to progress any further.

However, conversing with people who don’t fall in the category of wannabe artists, I have come to understand that when people say in a non-casual way they can’t draw, they generally mean what they say. They either lack the fine motor skills to accurately depict what they see or imagine, or they are not able to judge proportions accurately (especially vertical to horizontal), or both. In short, they lack the prerequisites to become a successful artist. Even shorter, they have no artistic talent.

That is not a value judgment, just an observation.

This might be a relief for some of you, accused of all kinds of nasty things why you can’t draw as well as someone who obviously can.

However, it isn’t as black and white as I just described. There is some hope for you who are not able to express themselves through visual art well enough to be able to supply (partial) income.

You don’t have to be good at drawing to enjoy drawing. Although perhaps not as talented as some, there probably is some crude, undeveloped minimal amount of artistic talent present. And there are tricks to help you. It is more tedious to create drawings than if you were more talented, but it is possible.

If you’re having problems drawing straight lines, consider drawing aids, like rulers, French curves, etc. There is no shame in using those. Even pros use them now and then. It takes more time than doing it freehand, but if you’re not paid by the minute, who cares?

Proportions. Many people are having problems judging proportions, especially things like: “how tall is that face, measured in widths of an eye?” Well, you can put the width of an eye on a separate piece of scrap paper, turn your drawing (or photo) and measure. Of course, you can’t do this with a life person, but you can take a snapshot, measure the width of an eye on a piece of scrap paper, and turn the digital camera LCD (or printed photo) on its side. Also, try to ask yourself questions that don’t need qualification (how many), but just a yes or no answer (“are the eyes below or above the top of the ears,” “is the left side of the mouth narrower than the right side?” etc.). This requires more questions, but less measuring. A portrait becomes more of a logical puzzle.

This may seem mechanical, and it is, but once you have your basic proportions on paper, finding where to put the other stuff is less of a problem, especially after a lot of practice and having found a procedure that seems to work for you.

So, it seems, if you have even an inkling of artistic talent, and some DIY ingenuity, you will find ways to draw a person, or whatever strikes your fancy.

“I can’t draw!” Yeah and what of it?

That is all.

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One Response to “I can’t draw”

  1. Chance December 12, 2009 at 6:06 pm #

    I tend to agree, there are many tricks and methods an artist can use, and probably one of the main difference between the “I can’t draw” crowd and those who can, is they simply know more tricks and have put in the practice.

    I think the most important thing , as you have said however is to have fun

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