Wednesday, June 10, 2015

“I Can’t Draw Stick People.”

Yes, You Can.
The real question is, how bad do you want to?*
Frankly, I’m not sure how well I can draw a stick person, either.  I’ve seldom been asked to. Hands, though, I’ll grant you. Hands are hard to draw. Lots harder than stick people. I know this because aspiring artists tell me all the time. Hands are just impossible.  

“I tried to draw my hand once, and it looked AWFUL,” they say.
“I know,” I tell them. “But how did it look after you drew it 100 times?”

Trust me: If you have an interest in drawing, and you take the time to draw the same thing eight or nine dozen times, the later attempts are going to look better than the first ones. It’s one of the overarching rules of art: “Practice Makes Perfect Better.”

No, I’m not saying that repetition alone will make you better. After all, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results won't just drive you crazy, it is crazy. But practicing your craft, hour after hour, day after day, cannot help but make you a better artist.

Pausing in between drawings to look – really look – at how hands are constructed, looking closely at photos of hands in magazines, finding art books or online drawing lessons that help you see how hands are constructed, then studying the anatomy to see why they are constructed that way – these are the steps you take as a seriously curious person to become the artist you want to be, and to solve the difficult problem you have set before yourself. This is what helps you to see and understand your subject, and improves your ability to draw.

If, after drawing your hand 100 times, your work hasn't gotten any better, now at least you know that drawing probably isn’t your thing.

Unless – and here’s another caveat – you actually enjoyed drawing your hand badly a hundred times over. Some people do. Some folks enjoy making lousy art, and have no problem telling you so. If you’re one of those people, draw on, my friend. Have at it!

Because frankly, that’s who we all are, to one extent or another. We all have things that we draw well, and things that we have trouble with. And few of us can ever draw anything well enough to satisfy our worst critics – the ones who live inside our own heads.

I can’t draw cats, but that doesn't stop me from drawing a lot of them, badly. (Other people might tell me they look okay, but I know the pictures suck. I know what they were supposed to look like, and how far I have to go to achieve that level of accuracy.)

Happily, all of us can get better, and we will if we practice, and pay attention, and work on improving every time we sit down to amuse ourselves at the drawing table.

Ira Glass explains it really well, here.

Remember, your standards for excellence are already unreasonably high, or you wouldn't be trying to achieve the impossible – trying to make art. After all, art, to most people, is simply another form of magic.

Like everything else, being a good magician takes practice. Fortunately the best part about practicing drawing is… you get to draw while you're doing it.

*(Yes. That was written badly. Or at least it should have been, to be grammatically correct. I chose instead to be conversationally correct. I promise to stay after school and write the sentence properly, 100 times.)

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