I Still Can’t Draw a Wolf

Some things never change.

I tried drawing a wolf last summer — I wrote about it in Hard Things — and the results weren’t good. Recently, while doing a Sketchbook Nation challenge, I drew another wolf. It wasn’t much better.

Sketchbook Wolf

I can see a little improvement, but still, this challenge was exactly that — a real challenge for me. What is it about a wolf that makes it so difficult for me to draw?

That question started me down a discouraging pathway. I found myself thinking, “Well, I just can’t draw animals.” Only a few days earlier, I’d been thinking, “Oh, I’ll never be able to draw buildings.” And wasn’t it just last week I was bemoaning the fact that nature was overwhelming? “I can’t draw flowers,” I said.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve somehow become very critical of my drawing. I look at portraits I’ve worked on and think, “Will I ever learn to draw more realistic eyes?” I glance at gesture drawings and ask, “Will I ever get the proportions of the body right?”

The real problem, I’ve come to see, isn’t my drawing. It’s my attitude.

When I first began learning to draw, I felt good about every piece of art I created. If a sketch turned out good, I was pleasantly surprised. “Look at what I did!” It was exciting. But when a drawing wasn’t quite right, it was easy to shrug it off. “I’ve only been drawing for a short time. I’m just learning.” That’s what I told myself then. It was all right for me to make lots of bad drawings. I’d set them aside, turn the page in my sketchbook, and try again.

It’s different now. I’ve been drawing for almost a year. I’ve learned a lot, and some of my work is good. But when something goes horribly wrong, I can no longer fall back on that “Oh, I’m just a beginner,” disclaimer. I’m no longer an absolute beginner. I know the principles of drawing. I can rattle off the elements of art.

I should be able to draw a wolf, I tell myself. For that matter, I should be able to draw flowers, and buildings, and all those other things I’ve groaned about. In my most critical moments, I look at drawings I’m struggling with and wonder if I’ve learned anything at all in the last ten months.

Ten months. Yeah, that’s how long I’ve been drawing. Overall, I’ve made a tremendous amount of progress, and it’s important for me to recognize that. At the same time, I need to remind myself that learning never ends. Whether we’ve been drawing for ten months or ten years — or longer — we can always continue learning new techniques and improving our skills.

It’s all right if I can’t draw a wolf today. I’m not a beginning artist anymore, but I am still learning.







    1. There’s always something new to learn, and even if we master one area, we can have the joy of beginning anew in another area. There’s really nothing quite like the excitement that comes from learning.

      Liked by 1 person

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