The Secret To Mastering Drawing
I'm not unique. Like most children I drew as soon as I could grab something in my hands. I wasnt even good at it. My colours were muddy and the way I applied paint was a lumpy mess. As a young child I only remember ever getting one gold star for a drawing of a boat and it must have been a sympathy star because even I didn't think it deserved a gold star. So it is safe to say I was not "born this way". What I did have, again like most children, was curiosity and I was curious on how art was made.
As a child, I loved watching my older brother paint. It was a beautiful sensory experience where I witnessed him transform with intense focus. The smells of the powered paint mixing with water, the blob of paint on the brush to then be deliberately smoothed onto the paper. It was a visual story revealing what he saw translated before me. Years later, I read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book “Flow” where he put into words what my child self already knew. To be in flow is to be “…completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Seeing my brother “in flow” I too wanted to be that state.
Inspired by this state of being, I continued to make art, regardless of how “good” or “bad” anyone thought I was. Drawing became my habit and my mark making developed to what it is today. And it will continue to develop. The biggest obstacle to creating is being driven by the end result. When we think of the end result, we have expectations. Pre-programmed thoughts and beliefs take over and we can't look. We take our eyes away from what we would like to capture, to the page itself, what we think we see and not what we actually see. When we are driven by the process, however, we are present, curious and we can see.
An exercise I give to my students who are caught in their heads, overwhelmed by the blank page or concerned with creating good works of art, is to ask them to draw knowing they will then be asked to shred their drawing to bits. In that way the only motivator for creating is the act of drawing and interestingly that’s when students are surprised by what they create.
Don’t let how good or bad you think you are motivate you. Focus on mastering the process and be curious. You will then look to understand and not judge. Looking with no motive means you will learn from what is in front of you. And that will inspire and develop your drawing.
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