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The Importance of Drawing

January 8, 2016

It’s become a cliche by now, but is as true as it ever was:

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain
an artist once he grows up.”

― Pablo Picasso

I have accepted the challenge of giving drawing lessons once a week to an adorable 8-year-old girl. She has an above-average ability to make art that is charming and whimsical. Her family had recognized this, and wanted to see if she might sharpen her skills with a few lessons.

I showed her some photographs and asked her what she’d like to draw. She chose to draw a kitten. I took her through a slow and detailed lesson on how to “see” the kitten in the photograph rather than just drawing what she thought it should look like. She ended up with a nice drawing of a kitten in the middle of a very big piece of drawing paper.

So immediately she wanted to paint it. I gave her some paints and brushes and she painted the kitten and added her own environment to it — grass, flowers, the sun. It was a happy painting.

Another day, I showed her how to make prints on my gelli plate. She fell in love with that and made a big stack of prints to take home. We also went through some exercises drawing basic geometric shapes and how to make them three-dimensional. During those first sessions, I was just getting a feel for where she is, and how to proceed.

We took a break over the holidays, and now she will be back tomorrow. I’ve decided that it’s time to buckle our seat belts and focus on drawing, because that’s what her family wants her to do.  I happen to think she’s a little young to be pushed into difficult drawing lessons, for fear of turning her off completely, so I’ll try my best to keep it fun and interesting. I’m going back to my old resources for that. We might do some blind contour drawing, some upside-down drawing, and of course we will do still life.

In the meantime, I feel it’s important to sharpen my own drawing skills. After all, I might be called on to give her a demo at some point. In the process, I’ve become rather addicted to doodling and drawing in the early mornings. It’s become almost an obsession, and I mean that in a good way.

This week I sat in the studio with my little dog Angie sleeping on her bed beside me. I looked around for something to draw, and there she was. I meant for it to be only a sketch, but I was trying out my new gray-toned paper with some colored pencils, and one thing led to another. She noticed I was staring at her, so she woke up and lifted her one ear a little. I was able to get that pose fairly quickly, but then she closed her eyes again after a while. This is the final result:

Angie Sm

The important thing that I want to convey about drawing is that if you think you’re bad at drawing, it only means you need to draw. We didn’t learn to write without a lot of practice in elementary school. I believe that if drawing were taught as a regular school subject, we’d all be pretty good at drawing too.

This is a great video that will introduce you to a world of good drawing resources. If you find it intriguing, you might want to explore the links and videos from this channel.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Patricia permalink
    January 8, 2016 10:28 am

    What a beautiful drawing of your little dog. Drawing is an important skill that shouldn’t be lost or neglected. I had forgotten myself until coming across old sketch books a few days ago. Thanks, Martha, I’m going to pick up pencil to paper again.

    • January 8, 2016 10:43 am

      Thank you, Patricia. I think it’s good to revisit basic things like drawing. It’s part of a universal language.

  2. January 8, 2016 10:43 am

    Martha – I was delighted to find your new Blog; and the subject of drawing. How exciting for the path your art is taking you now….in a new year. I am so looking forward to seeing more of it. Also, really enjoyed the video.

    • January 8, 2016 7:52 pm

      Glad to get your positive response, Shirley! You know that means a lot. I’m excited too at the wide open possibilities.

  3. January 8, 2016 6:09 pm

    You have stoked the flames of my own creativity just a little with this. And, yea, nice drawing of the dog. A chi-poo? Fox terrier? I am not the sharpest with identifying breeds, FYI. Just curious.

    I’ve been slowly, intermittently instructing my 2-4 yr-old nephews. The eldest can amaze me sometimes even if his skills are still just budding. His thought process is ahead of my time. The youngest is moved by music.

    • January 8, 2016 7:56 pm

      So happy to know it struck a chord with you, Writingbolt. That doggie is a mix of something that definitely includes beagle, and possibly Jack Russell. I can tell you she has terrier nails that look like claws, and is a digger for grubs and little rodents. So glad you’re involved with kids and their art. It’s so much fun to watch them grow and develop their talents. Please stop by again!

      • January 8, 2016 8:12 pm

        I’d like to go foraging in the woods with your dog, then. That might be fun, finding surprises underground…some maybe we don’t want to unearth.

        Yes, at the rate kids are advancing–as every generation seems to grow beyond the previous one–their talents could dwarf mine. But, my family is a sad mix of talents cast aside in favor of lucrative jobs that lack creativity. I am feeling my own creativity flickering and fading (along with my sanity). I am still looking for my “niche” to blossom and produce. And, I know I need more practice (as well as space to store and display my work). I’m often keeping an eye out for “conspirators.”

      • January 9, 2016 8:12 am

        Writingbolt, don’t ever give up. You can nurture your talent and creative spark in the smallest of spaces. If all you have for storage is a big zipper bag (those big bags with zippers that bedding is sold in are wonderful!) and slide it under the bed, then that’s one way to keep your practice going. Conspirators are good to have. I belonged to a group of 6 or 7 artists for 10 years. We would get together once a month for “show and tell” and to keep each other up to date about art happenings in our area. It was a serious critique group, but it was amazing how it kept us creating and coming up with new challenges.

      • January 11, 2016 9:26 am

        Store all of my work in a comforter bag?? That would pretty much ruin everything unless I had hard binders to hold the papers…and some big ones for poster-size pieces…or lots of tubes of some kind. I’d also feel like a hobo or some runaway living in a mouse hole…

        I just read about a homeless woman who managed to create art with photo booth self-portraits. Sad, unsettling story.

        I’d like an art group…I am just not the best at joining. I get defensive and appear snooty when trying to mingle.

        It’s hard to imagine a group of serious critics comfortable with pointing out the places each can improve without hurting feelings/stirring tempers. Combining ideas, inspiring each other…it sounds Utopian.

        Baah! Challenges. I am so sick of all the online challenges I see. Some feel like going to the bathroom. I challenge you to draw while peeing. I challenge you to eat the same breakfast. I challenge you to carry a camera everywhere you go and post a new photo every hour of the day. Post 10,000 images a month. Enough. [And, breathe.]

  4. January 8, 2016 6:13 pm

    I love your drawing! I am also trying to get back to the discipline of regular drawing. I like to keep those skills honed, even when they aren’t necessary in my day-to-day work. Thanks!

    • January 8, 2016 7:58 pm

      Thanks, Cindy. I do think that drawing practice influences everything we do, even if we don’t automatically see the connection. Have fun! (Oh, I think I said that already. 😉 )

  5. January 9, 2016 8:25 am

    Thank you for posting this. I really need to brush up on my drawing skills. Love your dog drawing!

    • January 9, 2016 1:34 pm

      Thank you, Willena! Animals haven’t been a usual subject of mine, but it was great fun! So nice to meet you. I really like your work.

  6. January 14, 2016 11:40 am

    I was just thinking about the importance of drawing and remembering teaching youngsters to draw years ago… yes to all your ideas..

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