Someone saw me using my sketchbook the other day. They said this to me: “I wish I could draw.”
So, I yet again gritted my teeth and tried not to simply shake the guy by the shoulders and shout “You can draw!…. YOU CAN DRAW!”
Ok, so that may be melodramatic but it’s how I feel all the same. It’s hard for me to relay to people, but I have a firm and unshakeable belief that most of us can draw, and can learn to draw well. But most people don’t draw simply because they think they can’t and think they won’t ever be able to.
I know that if you can write your own name and someone else can read it, you can learn to draw, anyone can draw! It’s that simple.
Can you draw like a pro though? Well, given enough time, education and practice, you can eventually draw like a pro. Though it depends on what you consider pro, what that benchmark is. We’ll cover that a bit later on.
The following article I have written in the hope that I can somehow relay my beliefs in you as an artist. Even though I might never meet you, if you are one of those people who are saying right now “Why can’t I draw? I wish I could draw….”, then I hope from reading this, you will find it in yourself to try and become what you dream of being.
Why can’t I draw?
Is the question “Why can’t I draw?” or is it more “Why is drawing something only a few people can do?”
Here’s the thing: Everyone is entitled to draw, no exceptions!
This drawing thing is not an exclusive club only available to a few lucky people. Everyone has the right to draw. God gave us all this gift to use, not just a few people.
No one, I mean NO ONE, comes out of the womb with a pencil. No one is born and is able to pick up said pencil and start drawing right away. No one is “born” an artist.
Everyone has to start learning the same way. We first learn how to hold the pencil and apply it to paper. We then move on from there.
Granted, there are those that seem to be more natural at drawing than others. However, most successful artists out there are just as capable as you or me. Most master artists have become the skilled talented people they are through consistent learning and persistent practice, NOT excess ability or skill.
There are those that people see as “gifted”, and I will freely admit that such people exist and will tower over the rest of us in their skill levels. But they are rarer than you think, a quirk of nature. As lucky or as gifted as you see these people, they are not the norm. Even those gifted people started life as babies without knowing how to draw or even how to pick up a pencil.
One of my favourite artists Ryan Church (lead artist at ILM) said “I draw for eight or nine hours a day. If you did the same you could be as good as me, no problem.” How about that! The lead artist at ILM said you could do what he does. Ok, so I know most of us don’t have eight hours a day spare, but that just means it will take us longer to produce the work, that’s all.
“So if I can draw, why does it look so bad?”
Here is the main reason most us don’t think we can’t draw: We try once or twice, it looks bad or nothing like as we hoped. So that’s it. You think you “can’t” draw, ever.
The only thing that separates those that “can” and those that “can’t” is that those that can KEEP GOING until they achieve the drawing they want.
That being said though, there is a difference between trying to draw a simple cartoon character, and drawing an ultra-realistic rendering of a person. Some people never achieve their goal because they try and run before they can walk. That may sound patronising, but it’s true all the same. You can’t expect to create a masterpiece if you have never learned, practiced and mastered the basics. And that brings me neatly to my next point.
“Why can’t I draw this cool drawing right now?”
You can’t draw this cool drawing…. yet! That’s all.
Therein lies the biggest problem: People want to draw, but they don’t want to spend the time learning how.
A lot of us who are put off drawing because we don’t want to do the “boring” stuff, we just want to do the “cool” stuff. If you are inspired by an artist, the chances are that artist has spent months or even years learning the basics (or boring stuff) and learning them well, before moving on to the cool stuff.
Simply put, you have to be patient, swallow your pride, and start from the beginning.
I love the Andrew Loomis books. Andrew is a master at teaching the very basics in a way that you can quickly master and make something cool. Fun with a Pencil is the first of his books and a great read, even if a bit dated. However I recommend all his books.
The point I am trying to make though, is that you need to master the simple and seemingly boring stuff, before you can really move on. However that does not mean you can’t have fun whilst learning. If you’re practicing basic head shapes, then feel free every so often to deviate and make a more interesting head. If you’re working on learning perspective drawing, feel free deviate and make some funny people in perspective. Just remember what you should be learning and keep your fun and practice within those constraints.
“So I want to learn properly, but I can’t afford a teacher”
These days there really is no need to pay for expensive tuition when it comes to art. It’s still a good idea to get professional help when learning anything, however we are spoilt for choice when it comes to getting help and support. And that’s all thanks to the Internet.
There are literally thousands of forums, user groups, and websites for artists out there. And many of these are totally free to use.
I have been lucky enough to talk to some of the most experienced masters of art out there, simply by joining a forum they use, and asking them questions.
Uploading images of your drawings or paintings can be so rewarding when you get constructive advice from people. A lot of the advice I have received has come from not just masters, but people like me who are seeking to improve themselves by sharing. Don’t underestimate the power of shared learning.
Just be prepared to swallow your pride and upload even the early stuff you make. Surprisingly the majority of people out there in Internet land are just like you or me and are happy to help. Yes there may be one or two nasty troll people out there, but you can ignore them, I do.
“I don’t know where to start, where I am going?”
The thing that puts most people off learning to draw properly is the large amount of effort people have to undergo to learn to draw properly.
Instead of looking at it like that, I recommend you look at what you want to learn and break it down into smaller tasks and goals.
I’m not saying that you should set yourself out a detailed curriculum from scratch. But I am saying that you need to look at where you want to go, find out how to get there, and set out the main milestones you have to reach before you arrive.
These milestones are your goals, what you’re aiming to achieve. They are the steps you have to achieve before reaching your final destination.
From that moment on, focus only on getting to the first goal.
If that’s still too daunting, then break that goal down into smaller milestones again. Then only focus on getting to that first milestone.
If you struggle to break the main goal into smaller milestones, then the best way to find out these milestones is talk to people who have already done it. Visit the art forums such as deviantart or conceptart.org, or go to a comic convention and find the artists working there, and ask someone what they recommend, based on what you want to learn.
As I said before, the Andrew Loomis books are fantastic if you want to learn in steps how to draw.
Another fantastic book for this is: Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain by Betty Edwards
Or there is a wonderful website that has lots of lessons laid out in a very effective order is http://www.drawspace.com/
I’m not in business of bullying my children into doing something they don’t want to do. All of them have at some point told me they want to draw like I do. I always say the same thing:
That’s it. It’s that simple. You can. It’s just a matter of doing it!