Why is it that so many people think they can't draw? Not a word of a lie that in every one of my beginners classes, someone feels the need to announce that they can't draw. Or paint.
The other day someone in my class asked me, “Do you learn how to draw, or does it come naturally?” I had to pause because the truth is I didn’t quite know. It’s true that I’ve always loved to draw and was drawing cartoon versions myself wearing my dream outfits when I was 8 and was doing fairly likeable celebrity portraits and selling them in the playground by the age 12… So I feel like there is some natural talent. But I did end up going through art programmes all through school and university which really did teach me a lot. Eventually I went on teach other people and children how to draw and paint and tap into their own creative talents.
So I told the guy “For me, it’s a bit of both.”
I, like many of you artists recognise a natural ability to be able to really ‘see’ your subjects. Mostly when we are learning we draw what we think we see. I often catch my younger students not looking at the subjects at all and just freely drawing whatever they think a stack of books looks like or a person wearing a dress. While not actually paying attention to the ways the books cast shadows on top of each other or how the dress fabrics hit the light as they ripple and fall.
This type of ‘seeing’ is what I believe non-artists or people who believe themselves to be 'not artistically matured', can learn to do.
The fun part is playing around with lines and shapes to somehow come together to form a fairly decent picture. Watching people discover they can do that is something I think most art teachers/instructors love the most.
I personally believe anyone can draw anything. Maybe not everyone can draw anything well, but everyone’s gotta start somewhere right?
Watch how Graham Shaw teaches a room full of seemingly ‘non-artists’ how to start drawing simple cartoon caricatures. Now he may not be teaching them how to truly ‘see’ things with depth and shadow, but he is allowing them to see how to form the essence of what they want to capture. That is another hugely valuable thing to be able to know how to do as an artist.
Do you notice the amount of ‘oohs and ahh’ and general laughter that have come from the audience through this TedTalk? He specialises in the art communication and has found that drawing can actually help us remember more information.
For all you art instructors out there working with newbies, something like this activity may be a great way to start the class session. Building up confidence right away is probably the best thing you can do for the students and the duration of the course.
Grab a cuppa and watch this TedTalk, and let me know in the comments what you think. What other ice-breaker/ first day activities might work for building artistic confidence and teaching people how to draw?
Who knows maybe something you or your students have created has what it takes to win our Drawing Prize 2019. We’ve actually linked up with the amazing people over at London Drawing Group this year to run a contest! The winners get £200 worth of drawing classes and materials, and a space in our OverDrawn exhibition in Deptford. It’s definitely one to check out.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren was born in London, but grew up in Canada where she received her degrees with distinction in Fine Arts and Education. Now she's back, she continues her work in creative arts by making art and teaching it, while developing opportunities for early career artists by creating and running the online platform Dark Yellow Dot.