When do we stop thinking we can draw? When do we stop singing in public? When do we stop expressing our life in art? Why do I get responses like, "Really!?" when I tell people I paint, and that I show my paintings online and sell them... (I've discovered I have to throw in the "I sell them" part to get people to take it seriously.) I have learned that I need (for me) to stand up and say I'm an artist. I'm getting better at it - more fearless, more gleeful. But why is this so hard? What do I have to stay in practice (saying it)?! Why do people shudder if I suggest they try to draw?
I think everyone can draw.
Quit shaking your head. We all learn to write. We all make marks. We have characteristic handwriting. I'll quote Professor Hill from The Music Man : "Singing is just sustained talking." Drawing is just sustained writing. And I believe we all can and want to express ourselves this way. Some of us have deeply suppressed that desire.
Some of us have no choice (I'd feel like I'd lost my arms and hands if someone told me I could never draw or paint again). But most of us are embarrassed to try. Or we're afraid of the discouraging feeling we'll get when we can't draw immediately what we see. Discouraged. Embarrassed.
Actually, so am I. Regularly embarrassed to show my art to others because it isn't as good as I wanted or pictured it to be when I started. Why would I show people all my misses, even when they're near misses? "Look! The arrow is in the next circle out from the bull's eye! Do you know how hard it was to even get it into that ring instead of missing the target altogether?!" I don't think that's newsworthy.
But I think we're getting it wrong. Drawing is not about the end result on the paper - it's about seeing. It's about using more of your mind and some of your body to see something inside or outside of yourself. And drawings are also messages in bottles, sent from down deep to the surface. Art can be a communication from our lost child self to our adult self. The adult shouldn't edit or critique those messages - the adult needs to read them. They're personal.
And that implies two further things about drawing. First, it's not supposed to be a replica of reality - it's supposed to be a free interpretation made by a complex and simple inner self. The more free we can make that, the more satisfying the results, and the more complex the messages that can be conveyed. Like learning a language. And second, it's not necessarily supposed to be shared. It might be just for you.
But sometimes it's sharing the drawing that makes it breathe and gives it a greater existence, and that expanded existence might be what's needed for the message to get through. Through to the artist. Oh, it might reach other people, too, but that isn't the point.
It's not about whether it "works" or whether it's "good enough" or whether it's "realistic" or whether some part of it is "right" or "wrong." The best drawing is not the most realistic or professional - it's the most in touch with the inner workings of the artist.
And right there I think I touched on what makes it really hard to draw or paint. And maybe that's what we're afraid to do. I know I was for many years. I still hold back.
Can you open up and let your inner child play? Can you "Just draw"?
Everyone can draw. We just don't all want to (we don't all dare to). Some of us do it "prettier" and so it's not such a "dare" for us, but the pretty drawings are not the most important ones.
Drawing is about seeing.
Drawing is your inner child's chance to talk to you as an adult. You need those messages.
Drawing expands it's voice, breathes (like a bottle of wine) when it's shared. Find a friend you can trust.
Do it for you.
Lisa at That's Why wrote a daring post, a post that's already over the slippery slope, beyond "I can't draw," and into "Why not?" (That question is contiguous with her blog title...) As Randal commented, we're all going to keep after her now until she does it! I had wondered why she's so fascinated with the art of others. The Pagan Sphinx is another on my list. Many people who take photos look to me like the camera is a step toward a more radical tool, toward a more basic way to make images, toward making expressive marks. I wonder if people keep coming by the virtual studio because they're lured there by something inside themselves. I think we're lured by art the same way we're drawn into conversations as adults or toward play as children. We know we're meant to join in. We recognize that this is part of our kingdom. We're meant to live there.
So when you picture yourself creating images, what do you see in your hand? What kind of marks do you want to make? Pencil? Ink? Pen? Brush? Chalk? Do you want to sculpt, instead? What's keeping you from doing it?