What Did the Little Acorn Say When It Grew Up?

Maybe you’ve heard that old joke before, and you’re probably thinking that this is going to be another post about trees and how to draw them. Nope. Not this time.

That little acorn said “Geometry!” And geometry has been giving me fits throughout my life. I hate geometry, and thank goodness my grandmother isn’t around to hear me say that. She taught geometry in high school before she met and married my grandfather back in the 1920s.

Now, for what it’s worth, I made excellent grades in the subject, but I hated it all the same. All that measuring. All those angles. All those theorems. I can’t tell you who postulated what, nor do I know why any of it matters.

Silly TowerWell, except when it comes to art. It seems that angles do play a very important part in drawing, and once again they’re giving me fits, just as they did back in school. Curves, spheres, and even circles are fairly easy for me to draw freehand. But show me anything with angles — triangles, squares, boxes, cubes — and you’ll hear me groan.

My boxes are always lopsided, a problem that gets worse as one box is put on top of another, as in this crazy little tower.

Now, I could point out that I drew this last summer, only a few weeks after I started learning to draw. Even my husband — always my biggest fan — honestly pointed out how crooked and misshapen my boxes and cubes were.

Today, after many hours of practice, I still can’t draw boxes and cubes any better than I did back then. It’s not that I don’t see the angles. I do. I just can’t translate those angles to paper.

It’s a frustrating problem, and one I haven’t yet figured out how to solve. I’m fine with 90-degree angles, so now I’m attempting to train myself to accurately “see” 45-degree angles. But again, seeing an angle or knowing the precise degree doesn’t translate into the correct placement on my drawing paper.

sightgridI did buy myself a Grid-Vu, but I haven’t yet developed the knack of using it correctly. Rulers, compasses, and protractors frustrate me.

What to do?

I’m struggling to find a solution that works for me. I suppose there’s no work-around about it. If I want to draw angles accurately, I’ll have to rely on various tools — or settle for skewed boxes, buildings, and other cube-shaped objects.


The frustration came out in full force recently when I attempted to draw the exterior of the Scrovegni Chapel — also known as the Arena Chapel — in Padua, Italy. I saw the building while watching a Great Courses Plus lecture on the history of European art.

Arena ChapelIt looked so simple and straight-forward. An excellent exercise, I thought, for developing my architectural drawing skills.  Very basic straight lines. A clean, uncluttered building. Surely I could draw this!

Wrong. It was a disaster, far worse even than my tower-about-to-topple from last summer.

I’ve now redoubled my efforts to learn to draw boxes and cubes, and I’m looking more closely at angles. I’m using mind tricks, like trying to visualize a circular clock…oh, that angle looks like four o’clock! My husband suggested visualizing a pie cut into eight pieces, but I think that was only because he likes pie. Neither the clock nor the pie helped.

I am going to take more time studying angles in photo references, trying to identify them accurately, and attempting to reproduce them faithfully in my drawings. I’m not a naturally patient person, and that’s why I have so much trouble with angles, measurements, and meticulous plotting on graphs or grids.

But if I want to become an artist, I can’t confine myself only to curves and spheres. There are a lot of angles in the world, and I’ve got to find a way to draw them.

Any suggestions?





    1. Perspective is interesting…a challenge for me, but definitely interesting. I can handle one-point and two-point perspective, but it’s tedious and nerve-wracking for me. When it moves to three-point perspective, count me out. I studied the principles, but translating the ideas into a drawing is way over my head. I recently finished a castle drawing — challenging myself to work with architecture — and it came out good. I’ll be sharing it in a post coming up soon. You’ll be so proud of me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yay! I struggle with it, too. I’ve enjoyed drawing my fence in my backyard. Also, I really like drawing a watering can–it’s got curves, but the vanishing point is so crucial to get those shapes in a way that indicates 3-dimensionality!


      2. I love old-fashioned watering cans. We have one hanging from the rafters of the porch. I use it for my herb garden. Can’t wait for warmer weather so I can put my herbs out. And then I can spend a little time with my watercolors and paint them. Just bought a new botanical book today and am looking forward to all I can learn from it.

        Liked by 1 person

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