Learning your ABC's
So, you want to be an artist but you say you can't draw.
To that I say... POO!
I hear that excuse more than any other.
We all want to jump in and create exactly what’s in our heads. But our hands, eyes, and brains need time to learn to dance together. You didn’t wake up on your first birthday knowing how to write your name in cursive did you? Most of us didn’t know how to write anything at all. But here’s a little secret - writing in any form is drawing!
Lines and curves and shapes. Oh my!
First someone showed you how to hold a pencil or crayon. Hopefully they were patient and let you scribble around a while. Then maybe they wrote out a few letters of the alphabet, really big, and showed you how to trace them, one line and one curve at a time. They might have even guided your tiny hand the first few times. Pretty soon you could do it by yourself. And eventually you could write all the letters without tracing or even looking at the letters for reference.
One step at a time.
It was pretty much the same process with everything you’ve learned up till now, but for some reason, when it comes to drawing, everyone seems to forget that!
First we scribble.
Then we trace or copy.
Then we take the training wheels off and go like the wind!
Now it’s possible that as you were learning to write the alphabet and making those first attempts at drawing, someone important to you pointed out that your work wasn’t quite perfect. They might have said some things that made you feel bad and you still hear their voice when you sit down to draw.
To them, I say again… POO!
Clearly, they didn’t know at the time that you were an artist. And you and I both know YOU ARE AN ARTIST! You’ve always been an artist. Otherwise you wouldn’t care about drawing and just go off and do math for fun instead.
So please, stop telling yourself and everyone else that you can’t draw. Pick up a pencil! (Or a crayon!) Now scribble around until you feel relaxed and a little playful. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look like anything.
It’s not supposed to look like anything!
You’re just letting your brain and body get used to this new-ish activity. It’s not completely new because when you were little, you believed you could do anything and so you did. And when it comes to drawing, it’s the believing part that will be your biggest challenge.
Next, find something to trace. Just an outline or silhouette. A cat, a flower, a bird, a car. Keep it simple! Print them out and trace your shapes several times. Notice where there are lines and where there are curves. Now draw the shapes without tracing. This is where we all look at our drawings and cringe. So cringe away! Then get back to work. Each attempt will be a little better. Every time you want to draw something new, this is the process you can use.
When I’m working on the illustrations for a children’s book there are always many things I’ve never drawn before. I have to use this same process every time. Believe me, there is a lot of scribbling and cringing before anything good shows up on my page!
I recommend giving yourself ten minutes every day for practice. I chose to practice drawing for a hundred days in a row for the annual 100 Day Project and it really strengthened my skills and my confidence. The first year I just drew my favorite things and the second year I focused on drawing birds. This year I managed to practice fifty days in a row of hand lettering. It was like learning to write my ABC’s all over again!
If fifty or one hundred days sounds like too much of a commitment, choose your own number. But remember, you are an artist and artists must practice their skills. Try buying some new pencils (or a fresh box of crayons) and invite your inner four year old out to play!
It’s time to start believing in yourself again.
I believe in you!