Drawing is a skill that – I insist – can be taught to almost anyone, as long as they are prepared to put the practice in. They may or may not go on to become competent ‘artists’, but they will have learnt something of enormous and possibly life-changing importance. Being able to represent things around you with any degree of accuracy connects you to life in a totally different way, and it’s an experience that deepens with practice. The necessary concentration overrides your troubles and To Do lists, and time seems to become strangely elastic. In this it has some similarity to other forms of self-expression, such as music, dance, creative writing and even praying. All you need is paper, a pencil (and maybe an eraser), and you need never be bored again!
It’s a sad fact that millions of children are put off drawing by a few misguided words and are convinced ever afterwards that they are ‘not artistic’. I have lost count of the amount of people who tell me that they always wanted to draw but were told that they couldn’t. One man in his 80’s burst into tears at our first drawing session when he realised that he could draw after all; he told me that his Kindergarten teacher, Miss Simpson (he even remembered her name!) had laughed at his drawing of a lemon and he had not drawn since, but always longed to. How sad is that?
Drawing comes more easily to some children than to others, of course, but it is a skill that can be taught in a very structured yet simple way. It’s really a matter of learning how to see three-dimensional reality as a jigsaw pattern of lines and shapes. No-one would expect to write a book without learning the rules of grammar, or to play an instrument without the basics of music theory; why should we expect to be able to ‘express ourselves’ artistically with no structure or direction to help us? I don’t think it’s enough to plonk a still life in front of students and then tell them to draw it while I come round and tell them where they have gone wrong....... I like to explain how our brains are seeing one thing and our eyes another, and show people exercises and techniques to get results that really amaze them.
But more of that next time..........