Use it or lose it.

In the National GalleryThere are two myths about drawing.

Firstly, drawing is a magical ability that only a few people can do.

Secondly, all artists can draw. (Or sometimes, all artists can draw except the ones we don’t like.) These are both myths!

Drawing is a skill that pretty much anyone can learn, IF they practice. It’s just like playing a musical instrument (even Mozart had to put in many hours, it’s just that he started learning when he was three). Practice enough, and you may not turn into Rembrandt but I promise you WILL be able to produce a satisfyingly accurate drawing.

Historically, all young ladies were taught to draw; some became more accomplished than others, but I’m sure they enjoyed it. Before technology took over scientists drew, architects drew, garden designers drew.  So I really encourage you to just have a go. I’d recommend practising by drawing from life – a still life, a scene from your window, in a cafe, in a queue. (Photo references are great if you are composing a complicated image for a specific artwork, but less good for learning.) Look really closely at the subject, don’t guess. Try out pen, pencil, charcoal, drawing with a brush; try drawing quickly or slowly.

A great thing to do is find a local Urban Sketchers group (try Facebook) – there will be people of all abilities meeting on location to have fun, feel braver out on location by being part of a group, and learning by doing. Similarly there are also Drink and Draw groups, and Pencils in the Pub – you can guess what venues these tend to use! If you are brave enough find a friendly life drawing class – you will learn SO much, the naked human figure is the most difficult thing to draw!

And keep practising. Just like that musical instrument. Which brings me back to the ‘all artists can draw myth’. I’m an artist, but I’m not great at drawing, as you can see above. However if I draw regularly, I get so much better at it! Recently I’ve been too busy to do any sketching except for my monthly Pencils in the Pub meet up – so when I went to the National Gallery on Friday I was absolutely determined to do some. It was fun, it gave me a chance to sit down, there was a balance between moving subjects (the other gallery visitors) and stationary subjects (the artworks) – and it made me really look hard and appreciate the pictures that I included in my sketches.

2 thoughts on “Use it or lose it.

  1. Thanks for sharing! I’m definitely going to check out an urban sketching group. I’ve just started out and finding it enjoyable but pretty brutal at times – it’s tough.


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