When I was younger, I discovered that with a little effort, I could draw fairly legible interpretations of the things that I saw. It took a little effort, but also just natural ability. People would look at my work, and say things like, “Can you teach me to do that.” In my mind, anybody could do what I was doing because it only took a little observation. I also never really practiced, or really studied my craft as much as I could have. Sure I wanted to get better with each piece that I drew, but it wasn’t a forced thing, or something that I made myself do everyday. I would only draw when I wanted to draw. Sometimes, I would work on a piece for days consecutively, and then go weeks, even months, until I was intrigued enough to begin again. So what I’m saying is, I was good at drawing, but I could’ve been a lot better, had I practiced and studied my craft more. So the question “can you teach me how to draw,”always dumbfounded me because, in a way, I can, but in another way, I also can’t.
Some things can be taught, but some things can only be learned. I can teach you how to observe an object in attempts to duplicate it in three-dimensional form on a two-dimensional surface. I can even show you exactly how I do it, and you can repeat the steps as I go. Yet, there is no guarantee that your drawing will be identical to mine. Why? Because there is a key difference between my hand and your hand (assuming you are not a creative professional as I am). One hand is trained, and the other is not. I have put in time, and have experience to the effect that although you may be able to repeat my actions, you still may not be able to repeat my results. I can only think in terms of analogies when it comes to explaining this. Let’s take Michael Jordan for example, the greatest basketball player ever in the NBA (just my opinion). Michael Jordan can teach you how to play the game of basketball. He can teach you as in, teach you the fundamental rules of the sport, inform you of methods to use, but chances are you will not be able to duplicate Jordan’s game. For one, he has…put in time and has experience. Secondly, what works for Jordan, may not work for you. Jordan’s game is Jordan’s game. Even if you perfectly duplicate the way Michael Jordan played, it’s still Jordan’s game, his moves, etc. They’ll never be yours because he did it first.
This brings me to a very important concept–originality. When I was a teen, my friends thought it was really cool that I could draw their favorite celebrities, and could produce a really good likeness to the person I was drawing. It was also fascinating to me to see how realistic I could make my drawing. This was fun, and I ended up with a nice collection of portraits of famous people, but none of this work was original. They were drawn reproductions of photos. Also, none of this work said anything about me, the artist. I was also only one of a sea of other people who had drawn famous celebrities. I was lacking in originality. After my high school years, I found myself wanting to do different things and take more risks with my art, which is mostly digital now. I found myself playing with digital painting, getting into caricature drawing, and also going back to some of my earliest drawings before things started to get so “realistic.” Something occurred to me while looking at some of these earlier drawings. All of my portraits had really big eyes and heads and off proportions, but still had a likeness. They were very cartoon-like. They had a similar look to the effect that someone might be able to recognize one of my pieces if they had seen others. I realized that I had unintentionally created a “style” of my own, and abandoned that in favor of more realistic art, definitely influenced by outside forces.
The truth is everybody can draw. I recently heard someone say that “most people don’t know how to draw simply because they do not draw.” I agree with this. People want to run before they can walk, and when they can’t do something on the first attempt, they stop trying. When you want to learn how to do something, the first thing you have to do…is begin. The second things is to not stop doing whatever it is. Keep at it, and the time will pay off. The journey of your learning process will also hone and develop your style.
Even those of use who have a quite a bit of practice under our belt can still stand some improvement. I have this habit of rushing through to finish work sometimes. Being timely is important, but taking your time to do things right is even more so. I would rush and do a crappy sketch and then start working it to finished form in hopes of quickly creating something “cool.” Now, I realize the importance of sketching to my overall process. For me, it’s important to not just jump straight into working something to finished form. It helps to loosen me up physically and mentally, and my resulting creations tend to be sharper. For instance, sometimes, I will just doodle whatever comes to mind, or I will do a base sketch for a drawing/painting. Then I will draw that same base sketch again, not using the first one as a reference, but just starting completely from scratch again. There’s never been a time when the second sketch wasn’t better. It’s kind of like stretching before you exercise. Sure, you don’t have to do it, but results tend to be better if you do. Drawing things multiple times helps too. This is something that I hate doing, but putting that extra time in is well worth the effort.
Great things take time. I’ve learned and am still learning to have patience with my art and myself; still learning to not to let the commoditization of what I do interfere with the reason why I do it in the first place. I do it because I can, and because I love it. I don’t make art for free, but I do make it for freedom.
See the finished product of the Second sketch Coming Soon!