How to learn to draw (again)

People claiming that they can draw are in a minority, so there are really only a few people who grab their pencils every day. Of course this does not mean that the average person does not want to draw. Some have told me about bad art teachers, so they quit drawing during their teenage years, others have been discouraged by their lack of so-called talent. The good news is that it’s not late. You can learn to draw at any age.

When you are looking for excuses, you are, in fact, afraid. Afraid of failure, afraid of people making fun of you for drawing something rubbish, or simply for trying at all, even though you visibly have no talent for the thing. However, the truth is a lot more simple: drawing – just like studying a language – is a learnable skill, which does require hard work, but not necessarily talent.

Why you are capable of drawing even without talent

After all, drawing is simply a series of movements. Yes, you need a certain way of thinking, you need to know how the materials work and how to use them properly but there are proven methods which can teach you as much, so you don’t need to stick to what your old art teacher told you: that you are not talented.

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Different techniques on the same piece.

If you want to learn how to draw, you will have to teach your body to do certain acts. Step by step you condition your arm, your fingers to follow the model, which, of course, takes long time and effort. Therefore you shouldn’t expect to draw the perfect portrait of your sweetheart in a fortnight – the same way a ballet dancer will never start by wearing point-shoes during the first few years of her education.

So what about talent?

I think it is debatable whether the concept of ‘talent’ actually exists, but if it does, I would describe it as will and perseverance. If you compare big artists’ childhood works to their piers’ you’ll find that they are really quite similar. But they – unlike the rest – didn’t stop drawing when they realised their artworks didn’t resemble reality. They stuck to their pencils and kept practising until their pictures did depict the model.

Being ‘talented’ can also give people a false sense of security: they draw leaning on the natural cunning of their fingers until they reach a certain level. When they realise that to get further they need to put in some effort, they stop and end up as an accountant or lawyer, putting their art supplies in the deepest corner of their drawers. In the meantime those who have got used to the fact that taking the next step requires some hard work will go on undisturbed and create fantastic drawings. This way the less talented artist can become much better at drawing than the talented one.

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You still wanna draw? This is how to do it

So, you’ve let go of the strangling notion of talent and you are also willing to put in the work. Good. You can learn to draw, but you need help. Here are a few practical tips that can turn you into an artist.

Art school. Going to an art school is an obvious choice. You can put away the awkward feeling about your primary school art teacher, tutors there will be professional, they take their job seriously and instead of telling stories, they really teach you how to draw. A sight of a real studio can scare anyone off, but it shouldn’t, most private art schools provide classes for beginners. They usually have some open days as well so you can check in advance whether this is the right thing for you.

Individual art classes. You might feel that you don’t get enough attention if you work within a group. Your choice should then be to turn to an art teacher and purchase individual classes. I believe there are quite a few tutors who are willing to help, so sooner or later you’ll definitely find the right one for you.

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Books. Feedback is quite important when learning to draw but it is possible that you are not yet ready for criticism, all you want is getting comfortable with drawing, enjoying the process of creating. There are plenty of books out there, which inspire you to draw, and others will actually give you step-by-step instructions. My personal favourites are The drawing bible by Marilyn Scott, Anatomy for the artist by Jenő Barcsay and The big book of drawing by András Szunyoghy (the latter two being Hungarian authors). They have all inspired me to believe that I can actually do it. There are some newer pieces too, I’d recommend Wreck this journal by Keri Smith, Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon and Everyone can draw by Zsofi Barabas & Zsuzsa Moizer. They all help you unleash your hidden creativity.

Videos. My very first professional watercolour class went as follows: teacher came in, bringing with him some photographs, then told us to choose one and paint it. Buff. What are watercolours? How does it work? So I packed my stuff, went home and switched on good old youtube. This was the first in a long list of tutorials that taught me how to get started, how different techniques worked and some general tips and tricks. There is incredible amount of amazing tutorials out there so it’s really quite easy to get started – but don’t just watch videos and read articles! DO them!

It is really so easy to find excuses. But you don’t need to draw something. The first step is to take the pencil, brush, crayon into your hands and start to feel comfortable with your creation. It may not work at first but slowly you can get used to the idea: yes, I’m drawing! More serious art education is just one step from there. So get going and create!

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7 thoughts on “How to learn to draw (again)

  1. It does *sound* very easy.. My hubba (aka boyfriend) is a painter and I find so frustrating to draw when in few strokes he can make a masterpiece (at least for me haha)! I might take something from this post and give it a go tonight. Practice makes it perfect, right? :) x

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can certainly understand the strangling feeling it takes to have a professional in the family – let alone so close as your boyfriend. But you shouldn’t compare! Everyone takes his/her own steps. Give it a go! :)

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  2. Thanks for an interesting website Imelda. As someone who was also branded untalented as a kid, I have rediscovered art and drawing. The important thing in my opinion is not going to art school or lessons. It is the method that the teacher uses. When you follow the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, you will be able to draw if you do the exercises. It is a real pleasure. It breaks down all the skills you need which are easy to born artists but most people find mystifying. I can really recommend it.

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