Anyone can draw. Yes. You heard me. Anyone.
Okay, let me take a step back and clarify because I don’t want to offend anyone out there: anyone with reasonable hand-eye coordination and sight can draw.
I have quite a few friends that tell me regularly when I share my art with them that they wish they could draw. Or jokingly, that their stick figure game is on point, but they can’t go beyond that. It saddens me because I know they can draw.
Anyone can draw. And I’m going to tell you why and get you on the path to drawing. Perhaps, after reading this article, you’ll cease telling everyone you wish you could draw, and go do it instead.
Art as a Kid
When you were young, you probably did finger painting. Or maybe you had a class in school where you had to draw. You eagerly rushed those drawings home to share with your parents who exclaimed with joy and promised it would go on the fridge because it was your best work yet.
It may have looked something like this:
As children, we lack the inherent fear we have as adults. Of societal pressures and judgment, not to mention self-judgment and doubt. When we make that stick figure cat with the rectangle for a body and a squiggly tail as a kid, we’re just happy that we got to have fun drawing something. We don’t care that only our parents and our teacher liked it. It was fun!
But as we get older, as our brains start to develop, so do those fears and doubts. We begin to view the world in different ways. Things that came to us once as joys are now riddled with pits of despair looming on every horizon. We put them aside, and we focus on things like getting good grades or finding a job, raising a family.
Those joyful moments where we were carefree enough to smudge some color on a piece of paper and call it a cat are gone.
We jokingly tell our friends that we can draw stick figures really well or wish that we could draw. We go about our daily lives.
It’s time to recapture those moments of joy.
Talent vs. Skill
I am going to break one of your illusions right now if you’re one of those people that think you can’t draw. The ability to draw is not some mythical thing someone is born with. Anyone can draw because drawing is a learned skill, not a talent.
I hate that word, talent. It does have its uses. Some people simply see the world differently, learn things faster, or have even had an accident happen and became mysteriously talented at something they weren’t before. But for the everyday average Joe? Talent is the word that stops you from doing art because everyone seems to think you need talent at drawing to do art.
When I was in school, I took art classes all the way up through to my graduation. I took every art elective they would give me. Graphic design, intro to studio art, photography. Anything. I knew I loved art. But somewhere around the middle school to the high school era, I began to notice something.
Some of my classmates were better than me. People would walk over to their desks and laud over how talented they were. How great their art was. I would look down at my work and frown. The thought began to develop: “If art is a talent and talents can’t be learned, I’ll never be good at art.”
This thought began to persist and stick. I stopped doing art in my free time because what was the point? I could never get better at it. It began to lose its joy. I became one of those people that said: “I wish I could draw.”
This is why I hate the word talent. If I had known that drawing was a learned skill, and not had the idea of talent creep in on me, I would’ve kept going at a younger age.
Why is drawing a learned skill rather than a talent? Let me give you an example. Can you draw a circle? Okay, I know, bad example. It’s a joke in the art world that you’ve reached your pinnacle of knowledge when you can draw a circle freehand. Let’s try again. Can you draw a line?
Yep. Okay. You drew a line. Maybe it’s not the best line. Perhaps you need to draw it again.
And again until finally, its a line.
You just learned how to draw a line.
You took a fraction of what an artist does, maybe watched a video or two on how to draw a line, maybe looked at a reference image, and duplicated the process. You learned how to draw a line by practice.
Talent comes naturally and can affect how we learn or see the world. Skills are learned and practiced.
So let’s go about getting you off that “I can’t draw” line of thinking.
Setting Yourself Up For Success
So you’ve decided to learn to draw instead of saying, “I wish I could draw.” That’s awesome. But you have no idea how to go about it. You poke around at YouTube, stumble upon some speedpaints, and instantly say, “I can’t do this!”
Stop right there.
Don’t return to the mindset that “I can’t draw.” Remember, anyone can draw.
But you need to have a gameplan, a strategy. And first, you need to learn how to draw.
Oh boy. That’s a big topic, isn’t it? Your mind just went blank, trying to think of where to even begin.
Let’s start with some thought processes you should go through before even beginning to learn that skill.
Learn your Learning Style
What? What the heck is your learning style? Well, some people learn better by watching and then doing. Some people learn better by just listening or looking at static images (such as books). Others yet cannot learn on their own and must be in a structured environment such as a traditional school. Do some trial and error. Remember how you best learned other skills in the past. This will help you going forward.
Okay, figured out your learning style? That was quick – are you sure?
Fine, I’ll take your word for it. Let’s move on.
Evaluate your Goals
I tell people this all the time. It’s something you don’t have to have set in stone, but it really helps to have some idea so that as you move forward, you know what you should be learning. Start with the broader goals and reduce them to more specific ones.
"I want to be an artist" - Broad Goal "I want to be an artist in the game industry" - More specific "I want to design characters for a video game" - Even more specific
Mind you, your goals may not be like that. It’s completely okay to have goals more like this:
"I want to learn to draw" - Broad goal "I want to learn to draw cats" - Specific goal
Write your goals down. Remember them. Why? Because not only do they keep you focused, they give you a reason to keep moving forward because the next thing is…
Dig Deep For Determination
Sometimes, learning is boring. Yes, even learning to draw can become dull and tedious. But you’re going to have to push past those boring parts to get to the fun parts sometimes. If you want to turn yourself from “I want to draw” to “I can draw,” you’re going to need to dig deep to keep yourself going. You’re going to have to be determined, or you will stall out on some of the more boring topics.
Debunk Some Myths
This is a special section aimed at the older crowd that might be reading this (hello, I’m with you older crowd!). There is a thought out there that kids learn things more swiftly than adults which turns into “I can’t learn how to draw, I’m too old.”
I’m gonna stop you right there, again.
Remember what this post is about? Anyone can draw, which means anyone can also learn to draw.
Kid learning vs. adult learning is different. As adults, we have different pathways in our brains. This doesn’t mean we learn things more slowly, it means we have a different method of learning. Don’t believe me? Go look it up. There are whole studies on adult learning methods. You are just as equipped as an adult to learn a new skill (such as drawing) as you were when you were 5 years old – better, in fact, because adults can handle much more complex topics. Yes, art is a complex topic.
But you can do it. You just have to turn off that voice in your head saying you can’t.
If you take these thoughts before you start attempting to learn how to draw, you will be in a better place to begin making the best stick figures you’ve ever created.
I’m kidding. You’ll do better than that. Because anyone can draw.
Turning Desire into Doing
Now that I’ve bored you with asking you to do things before you start diving in; let’s go over some methods that will help you while learning to draw. I will reiterate something I will likely say each time I put this out there: Everyone learns differently, so take this with a grain of salt.
Also, I will not be telling you what to learn first here. That’s going to differ from person to person as well. I’m going to go through some things you should do while learning to help you acquire this skill in a more efficient manner.
Reset Your Brain
Maybe you’re a beginner. Perhaps you’ve drawn a few things in the past, and the skill has atrophied. Maybe you watched one YouTube video, and you can draw amazing still lifes.
Put it all away. Bottle up your fears, your expectations, your ego with your previous knowledge and put it on a shelf somewhere in your brain. Why? Because you want to be in the mindset of a kid.
As adults, we have all these thoughts floating around in our heads. You’re here likely because you thought, “I can’t draw.” If you go into attempting to learn with that mindset, you’re dooming yourself before you begin. Let it all go. Believe in yourself and your abilities and approach what you’re trying to learn with an open mind.
Another portion of resetting your brain is changing the way you think.
Changing Your Thinking (Process Oriented vs. Results Oriented)
I’ll admit, this is a hard one for me to learn, and I’m still working towards teaching myself it. When you start drawing, you look at all these other great artists, you watch tutorials, and you go: “I can draw that.” Then you draw it once.
It looks nothing like the tutorial/video I watched.
This is results-oriented thinking. You went into something with an expectation that you were going to achieve the same result as the tutorial.
Now, rewind your brain. Go do that tutorial again and this time set the expectation that you’re going to learn something rather than create something. That is your goal. You’re going to learn to draw an eye or a line. Maybe it’s not the best one, but put this thought in your head: hey, the next one I draw will be better. The one after that will be even better than the first. Because you are developing a skill set which is a process. You are learning how to connect the lines to make an eye. This is process-oriented thinking, and it is the best way to go about learning to draw because its the best way to judge your progress.
If you judge your progress with results-oriented thinking, you’ll end up constantly beating yourself up.
Find A Good Teacher
Remember how we figured out what our learning style was? You want to find a teacher that teaches in that style, if possible. There’s nothing worse than fighting against the teacher when trying to learn something. I failed a math class with one teacher, went back to summer school, and aced it with another – because they had different teaching methods.
Now when I say find a teacher, I don’t necessarily mean a structured school. Pay attention to which YouTube tutorials you actually listen to rather than lose focus during. Maybe someone’s voice is grating. Perhaps they don’t have enough emotion. This works for studying paintings as well – you’re not going to pay attention to a painting you don’t like.
And don’t be afraid to use multiple sources and teachers for the same subject.
A lot of art is breaking things down into simple forms and shapes first, then enhancing them into one piece. You want to start small. Remember breaking things down into specific goals? Do that with your learning too. “Today, I’m going to learn how to draw a circle.” Keep building the smaller bits up into, the larger ones.
Practice, Practice, Practice
There are a small number of people out there that can watch something or see something once and replicate it immediately. Creating art can be just as easy as playing a video game. Remember the first time you picked up that controller? You had no idea what the buttons did. But the more you used it, the more you remembered it.
Do not just watch a tutorial and let it sit. Go and practice what that tutorial was trying to impart. You will build pathways in your brain (and in your hands) which most of us refer to as muscle memory.
No, really. Have fun. If you are in a more positive state when you’re trying to learn something, you’re more apt to retain that information. So as much as I just said practice up above, take breaks to do personal work as well. Or maybe take a break to play a video game. If you sit there and strain yourself with nothing but work, aka learning how to do something, you’ll only associate learning with boring and dull things.
Of course, try to use some of those things you learned in your personal projects.
Honestly, these statements can be applied to learning any new skill, but as this is a blog about digital art, you can definitely use them to turning your stick figures into art you can appreciate.
Anyone can draw, and I stand by that statement. Drawing is not some mystical talent that just manifests in specific people (odd acts of nature notwithstanding), but it is a learned skill. By applying the thoughts I’ve imparted to you in this article, you’ll have an excellent foundation to begin your path to creating incredible works of art.
Happy drawing, folks!
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