An all-too-long overlooked skill in mainstream Art education, traditional drawing skills has been superseded by more modern and expressive strategies which, although important in their own right, should not replace this vital skill.
Too often have I heard the claim “I can’t draw” from students or have overheard people watching me draw say “It’s a gift, you’re either born with it or not”. Possibly as a consequence of this exclusion of traditional drawing skills, society seems to have forgotten that drawing is a skill that must be learnt! Just like any other skill, people learn at different rates but anyone can learn to draw!
Our fast paced and busy lives make it so hard for us to stop, slow down, look around and enjoy our surroundings in the “now”. This makes it hard for us to learn to draw for two reasons.
Firstly, drawing takes time, perseverance and patience. Our instant, fast paced lives make us impatient and addicted to instant reward for little effort. Txt spk and digital camera phones being prime examples. Having this as the norm makes it hard for kids to concentrate for extended periods as they are simply not used to it! This can impact on their drawing skills as they give up before they develop the skills or fully complete the artwork. Perhaps this is also a contributing factor to the huge rise in ADHD diagnoses?
These problems are exaggerated by the time constraints that Art & Design suffers within the classroom. Not only does it take time and practice to learn to draw well but a high quality drawing may take 5 or 6 hours to complete for even the most accomplished artist. This time is often not available to Arts subjects in the classroom as more importance and time is needing to be given to literacy and numeracy and with the huge amounts of homework kids already get time at home is also sparse!
Secondly, we have forgotten how to “see”. When we look at an object most of what we “see” is made up by our brains. Try this yourself – give a child a banana, lay it with one end towards them and ask them to draw it. Almost every child will draw the banana side on with a curve as this is what their brain tells them a banana should look like! They don’t see the actual banana in front of them!
In order to draw well we must first try to break down what we are looking at into abstract elements that we can visually scour for shape, line, tone, texture without any preconceived ideas of what the object should look like. Only once we have truly seen the object and looked carefully at its details and quirks can we draw it accurately.
So, next time you are about to say “I can’t draw”, perhaps you should change the way you think and instead say “I haven’t learned to draw………….. yet!”.