Today I stumbled on an image of a drawing created by a mother and daughter.
Okay, so mum is talented illustrator Mica Angela Hendricks (see her page here). But the concept is surprising and gorgeous. And guess who learnt most from the collaboration?
Back to classes here. The first drawing class is always exciting. Kids are delightfully unaware of what their drawing ‘lacks’. But what about the simple lines? Lack of tonal variation? Crazy proportions? Nah, the kids are just drawing, and loving it. The adults, however, often hesitate. Pencils hover above sketchbooks. They are almost apologetic as they lament “I draw just like a child!” How do we get unstuck? How do we let go of the thoughts that turn our pencil into a hovering, hesitating tool? And why are we so hard on ourselves and our drawings?
Perhaps our initial frustrations stem from a hopeful (but unrealistic) expectation of a positive correlation between drawing skill and age. Surely we ‘should’ be better at drawing, now that we’ve clocked a few years under our belt? But drawing is a skill like any other. It’s like not exercising for years, then expecting to run a marathon. Skills develop through training and practice, it's that simple. Or is it?
Back to the classes here. The weekly practice begins. The beginning of the journey is filled with hope. Each class is an opportunity to experiment with a range of drawing activities and materials. Direct observational drawing in particular, strengthens the ability to see what is there, not what is imagined to be there. At times we aim to draw realistically. This means moving away from drawings that look like ‘a child drew them’. We are trying not to rely on drawing symbolic representations of objects.
Then, after a few weeks of classes, something interesting happens. The confidence playing field begins to shift.
Students start to SEE like an artist. Sketches now take a little longer to complete, because new details are noticed. Students want to add the texture on the object they are drawing, or the shadow cast underneath. I quietly celebrate whenever my students then find discrepancies between what they’re observing and what they’ve drawn. No one likes finding 'mistakes' but here, they are not mistakes. They are just areas of the drawing that could be rendered more accurately! As students learn and grow, they are not worried about 'wrecking' their drawing. They know they can make changes until they create something they are proud of.
For me, it’s important to give each child the tools and confidence so they’re more likely to continue to enjoy drawing, and anything creative, and persist with it, even when their inner critic emerges (this often happens around 8 or 9 years). Otherwise, these children who start off being so enthusiastic about art can end up giving up.
However, as adults, our inner critic is already there. Right between us and the sketchbook we're drawing in. So I think we need much more than just drawing instruction. To really make progress, we all need take a step back. We need to let go of the idea of perfection. As Salvador Dali said,
'Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it'.
We can remind ourselves to return to that playful space that kids effortlessly slip into when given art materials. We need to give ourselves permission to play with art. We need opportunities to create with such abandon that our inner critic can’t keep up with us! We need to keep drawing…And drawing! And celebrate that we have given ourselves the space and time to draw, learn, experiment and create. Enjoy the process! And hand your sketchbook over to a child one day, and see what happens. x