Drawing is Fundamental

Years ago literacy campaigns often used the slogan “Reading is fundamental” with emphasis on the FUN part. As a strong supporter of literacy, I agreed whole-heartedly that reading should be fun. It should be an enjoyable activity, especially for young readers. Reading is, indeed, fundamental to success in life.

In the same way, drawing skills are fundamental in art. At the same time, though, I hesitate to say that. I know many highly creative artists who don’t do much — if any — drawing at all. Yet they are successful as artists, so how can my claim be true?

In all honesty, yes, it is possible to be an artist and not be able to draw. Now that I’m doing more mixed media work and am chatting with mixed media artists, I hear many of them comment on their lack of drawing skills. It doesn’t stop them from creating beautiful art journal pages. They are strong in other areas of art — design, color theory, composition. For many of them, working in mixed media and creating illustrations through stencils, stamping, ink transfers, and other methods is fine. For others, though, there is a keen sense that something is missing in their art. Most of them bemoan — as I once did — the fact that they can’t draw. Most of them believe — as I once did — that drawing is a talent you either have or  you don’t, and if you don’t, too bad. You’ll never get it.

Nonsense! I took a chance a few years ago and decided to learn to draw. I’d heard people say that learning to draw was possible. I had my doubts, but it was something I wanted to do.

And, I did.

New Palm Trees

Earlier this morning I sat down with a sketchbook and my well-worn copy of Landscapes by William F. Powell.

I’m practicing drawing trees and bushes because I know that improving my drawing ability will help me become a better landscape painter.

And you know what…? Drawing these palm trees was so much fun I just sat here smiling and feeling happy. Yeah. Drawing does that for me.

I’ve been at this now for a little over five years, but I’m still amazed at what I’ve done. Even with simple little drawings like this, I feel immense personal satisfaction. I drew thisIt was actually easy. 

It amazes me. Yes, it’s becoming a little easier now for me to copy simple illustrations like these palm trees. And it’s also become a lot of FUN.

In recent months, I’ve been feeling that FUN more and more. When I sit down with a pencil and my drawing pad, it feels good. It makes me happy. I like drawing. I really do.

My drawing time this morning made me realize again how helpful it is to develop drawing skills. Drawing is fundamental in art. Sure, we can be artists without drawing, but I’m going to venture out on a limb here and suggest that developing basic drawing skills will make anyone a better artist.

My drawings are still wonky as often as not, but they’re getting better and better each day. I’m now able to draw almost anything — even buildings, even animals, even the human figure. There’s plenty of room for improvement, and that’s why I continue to practice day after day.

So, once again, to all my friends who say, “I wish I could draw, but I can’t,” I want to say — loud and clear — that yes, you really can learn to draw if you want to. If you ever feel that your drawing skills (or lack thereof) are holding you back in your art, then give drawing a try! It is a skill that can be learned. And once learned, you’ll soon discover that not only is drawing FUNDAMENTAL, it’s also more FUN than you can possibly imagine.

That’s my message for today. Now, I’m going to go draw a few more trees.

23 Comments

  1. Great Post. I am a great believer in the saying that “If I knew everything that you knew, I could do everything that you do.” It is not a perfect statement in that if you are “tone deaf”, your music making ability to please others will be challenged. It does however stress the importance of learning from others.

    An inherent problem with getting into art, is often an intuitive ability to create what you think you see, as distinct from what is there. This is so evident in children’s art however, if a budding artist is prepared to learn from a more experienced artist, then one is only limited by one’s enthusiasm. i.e. Keep learning and you will keep getting better.

    As for the highly creative artists who don’t do much, if any,drawing? They probably did many years ago when they were learning some basics. Of course it could be that they can simply spread some paint around and come up with a meaningful end result but, for most of us, we have to understand form before we can create it on canvas effectively. Again, using children as a prime example … the average child will draw a head; a body; two stick arms and two stick legs. To them, that is a person. Later, if they are interested enough to pursue art, they will learn that legs have shape and joints etc. etc. The concept applies to everything one is likely to use as a creative basis.

    Finally, always keep your earlier works (or at least a sampling of them). There will be times when you feel that you are not making much progress. That would be the time to pull out those sketches of earlier times, and then acknowledge that progress has most certainly been made.

    Take care. Stay healthy. Stay safe. Keep up the adventure in art! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree about keeping — and dating — old sketchbooks. They are precious. It is fun to go through them and see my earliest drawing exercises. I can not only see the progress I’ve made, I can also re-live a lot of memories. 🙂

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  2. Great stuff. I think the ideological idea that you should be born in with a talent of drwaing, singing, skating, swimming it’s just based on lies and misleading. Personally, in the willingness to do something. If you have passion to be an artist, whether in artwork or musician ll it takes is the inner drive inside to push your limits and reach your goal.

    A suggestion; Do you also paint your drawings or just sketch them in pencils

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mostly I do landscapes in oil, sketching them out with a bit of paint first (or occasionally with charcoal.) Next to oil painting, graphite drawing is what I most love.

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  3. Often, I like to speak to myself these word, ” Boy you’re beautiful or handsome, you’re intelligent, you’re smart. Don’t let anybody put you down. Just do your thing.”

    Basically, that’s what keeps me going. If I may offer a simple advice, “Do more of what makes your soul happy.”🙂

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  4. Everybody can learn how to draw.
    My blog is dedicated to show the advances of a middle aged guy learning from scratch. You can go to the first posts and see.

    I think that the speed of progress depends on three factors:

    -Hard work. Nobody masters any craft without investing thousand of hours.
    -Your real interest in drawing. There will be setbacks, failures, aparent stagnation…Why are you going to fight against that?
    -How smart you are. Smarter people learn faster.

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  5. Absolutely! You’re so right. What a lovely read. I went back to drawing last year after years of feeling my pictures weren’t good enough. I suddenly realised the point was to enjoy the process and ever since then I draw all the time! And the more I draw the more I improve. Drawing makes me happy and I love encouraging others to try. I wish more people would enjoy the process and worry less about art being ‘good’!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, indeed, drawing does make me happy now, and I love that feeling. After five years, it’s starting to feel easier now, and that makes it so much more enjoyable than ever. It’s taken a lot of practice to get to this point, but if I can do it, anyone can do it! It’s difficult to put all my feelings into words, actually, but drawing feels so relaxing now. In the past I used to worry so much about “can I draw this?” and as often as not, the answer was, “not really”. Now, I’ve gained enough basic skill that I can draw, so I can just enjoy the process in ways I never could do before. Even if my drawings aren’t great, they’re not bad either. They’re recognizable. They’re definitely “good enough” and that in itself makes me very, very happy.

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      1. Well you can definitely draw well! And I love the cherry trees you did. It’s so great to be able to enjoy art (or writing) for the process. I love drawing, it makes me very happy, but for years I found it always ended in frustration because I was judging it, which of course held it back! I started really loving it when I realised I needed to draw, and then I felt freer because it mattered less whether it was good or bad. I’ve noticed, too, that the more I share my sketchbook art, the more friends and family have got braver about trying drawing too. I think sharing art gives others inspiration to give it a go! And I feel that every time I draw I learn something new and I see things in different ways. Now when I walk about I find myself looking at things wondering how I would draw them – noticing the way light falls. The more you draw, the more you see things! Well, your wise blog post cheered me greatly, as have your drawings!

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      2. Thank you so much! It sounds like our experiences have been very similar. I know how awkward it felt to share my art at first. When I started learning to draw, I didn’t tell ANYONE, because the idea was so crazy. After about 2 weeks, I drew a cluster of leaves, and I was so proud I had to show it to my husband. He was totally supportive and encouraged me in so many ways. Next I shared a few drawings with other family members, then friends, and then in a moment of madness I started the blog. LOL. In fact, I was thinking about writing a post tomorrow about “The True Joy of Art” — which is sharing it. The idea comes from a calendar page on the Bob Ross desk calendar a daughter gave me.

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  6. Wow! I love this post! I began drawing when I was about five and got really good at it! And it WAS fun! When I grew up and had children of my own, I stopped drawing because I just didn’t have the time with being a wife and mother, working, etc. Now that my children have all grown up, I’m thinking I might start again. I drew a picture for the first time in years just the other day and I was surprised that I hadn’t lost my touch, but I was pretty rusty at it, however! Thank you so much for this post! And I admire you for learning a new thing and making it into a talent! Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Oh, I do hope you make time again for drawing. I’ve really come to enjoy it, and maybe that’s the most surprising thing of all for me. It was such a struggle for so long LOL. Now, it feels good to sit down and draw. Becoming an artist was probably the last thing I ever expected to do — especially at my age. But here I am, drawing and painting in my own art studio. Amazing, isn’t it, what we can do when we put our mind to it. 🙂

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  7. Judith, I’ve been teaching and telling children and adults for years that anyone can learn to draw! There are techniques that have been taught for hundreds of years, and with practice, they can help everyone to draw. Not everyone will be a Michelangelo, just as not everyone who learns soccer skills will be a world-class soccer player, but they can enjoy becoming a better player and enjoy the game. I’m so glad you’ve recognized this and are working on your drawing skills and posting about it! Best wishes!!

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    1. Yes, I’m definitely proof that anyone can learn to draw if they truly want to. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve gone from someone who really couldn’t draw even the simplest thing to an “artist” whose drawings are sometimes good and which at least usually bear a resemblance to what I’m trying to draw LOL. The greatest part is that it’s finally beginning to feel more natural. I don’t have to struggle with it or worry so much about the results any more. That’s a great feeling.

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  8. I’ve just started learning to draw and this post was inspiring to me. I’m primarily a writer, but have decided to maybe add another creative skill to my quiver. I’ve also noticed that I find peace through drawing, but mainly during doodles though, because trying to draw human figures just stresses me out. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks. I’m so glad you found the post inspiring, and so very glad you’re learning to draw. I’m a writer, too, first and foremost. That, along with music, was a natural talent. When it came to visual art, I had absolutely no talent for it whatsoever. I’m living proof now, though, that anyone can learn to draw. Yes, doodling can be fun. It is a great way to get into a peaceful, “zen-like” state, and if you browse through the blog, you’ll find lots of posts that talk about art as a form of meditation. I feel it mostly with doodling and with graphite drawing. Figure drawing is probably the most difficult aspect of drawing there is, so I can understand how it might make you feel stressed. Have you done any gesture drawings? Quick 30-second drawings? Gesture drawing helped me a lot. There are some great online sites for figure drawing. Are you learning with the help of any particular books or online sites? If you’re ever looking for resources for a particular area of art, let me know. I’m always glad to help fellow artists in whatever way I can.

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      1. Yes, I’ve heard of it… I recall checking it out. It looks like a very good program. I have so many different art projects and art-related activities going on that I didn’t add it to my schedule — yet. I’ll follow along with your progress and maybe I’ll give it a try later on. Thanks!

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