Maybe art is easy for the talented. It’s not easy for me. Of course, easy and difficult are relative terms. Simply put, some things in art are easier than others, even for someone like me. But while the easy things can inspire us and give us a sense of satisfaction, it’s the hard things in art that teach us the most, I think.
When I began drawing, I quickly caught on to a few things. Spheres, for instance. I can draw and shade spheres all day and all night. I can do spheres in graphite, charcoal, ink, and colored pencil. I understand all those delightful “artsy” terms like core shadow, cast shadow, local color, and reflected light.
Also on my fairly easy list are leaves. My first attempts weren’t great, but with practice, I got better. The same with apples and pears. These were among the first things I learned to draw when I began studying art on my own last June. It probably goes without saying that I enjoy drawing apples and pears. Leaves, too. Why? Because they’re easy.
My apples and pears aren’t going to win any awards, but drawing them has given me a lot of pleasure. I’ve had fun creating pictures with different media.
The problem with easy, is that it’s…well, easy. It’s easy to get comfortable and complacent. It’s easy to stay right where we are instead of moving forward to try new things. It’s easy to become reliant on simple techniques that have become second-nature to us.
The first hard thing I faced in art was a wolf. No, I didn’t jump right in and attempt some difficult drawing of a gray wolf howling at the moon. Nothing so challenging as that. It was, in fact, a very simple little drawing that nearly derailed my artistic progress. It’s from Kate Berry’s second “how-to-draw” book:
I struggled. I tried my best, but I couldn’t “get the hang” of outlining a subject the way the book suggested. For some reason, it was too hard for me. After several attempts I shook my head and concluded that I had — after two weeks of good progress — gone as far as I could go with learning to draw.
At that point, I closed my sketchbook, slipped into an emotional slump, and wondered why I’d ever thought I could actually learn to draw. What a ridiculous idea!
Call it stubbornness, I suppose, but something inside of me refused to give up. I’d been so proud of my accomplishments, so excited by the progress I’d made, and so determined to learn all I could, the thought of quitting was more than I could take.
I ploughed on, and while I still didn’t come up with a good-looking wolf, I’d conquered an even fiercer creature — discouragement — and had survived to draw again another day.
I soon learned that animals in any form were hard for me. I tried drawing dogs. I tried drawing birds. Some were better than others but none was very good. The experience taught me patience and persistence, and today my animal drawings are reasonably good. You can tell what they’re supposed to be. I even did a colored pencil drawing of a shark as a gift to one shark-loving grandson.
Getting past the easy things and attempting things that were hard helped me develop a stronger “art work ethic” and a “don’t ever quit” attitude.
My next bout with hard things came from a Dover Art Instruction book, Drawing Trees by Victor Perard. I cringed when I turned a page and came across “Fundamental Outline”. Here’s what Perard wrote:
The first and all-important concern of the artist is to see the forms before him in simple outline at first, avoiding interest in detail.
Those are good qualities for artists…and good qualities for success in life.