by Zak :)

Natural talent, why you shouldn’t let things stop you, the thrill of the doodle, and how you can learn to draw with the right time.

I’ve been drawing since I was little. When I draw I just kick everything from my head.  I’ve never had classes and rarely draw from life or copy other works. It’s really bad, I know. How else do you learn how the light naturally falls on things, or acquire an intuition for where the lines go?

The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano
The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano

It’s because of this that I will have made little progress considering the length of time I’ve drawn. And yet, drawing from life or copying something is so banal for me. The fun of drawing comes from the surprise of not knowing what will come out your hand, the exhilaration of seeing some lines work well together, and the overwhelming satisfaction you get when something has come together nicely: woa! That came out of my hand!? – and you honestly don’t choose what you draw. Or at least for me anyway. I move my hand and the lines come out. I’ve tried to pinpoint how it works and it’s along the lines of:

You draw a line, and subconsciously relate that to something you know, you draw another and subconsciously relate it to something else you know. Drawing the lines once you’ve related it to something is a sort of muscle memory, from drawing similar things so many times you just know how it’s done. It’s really a well arranged composition of these lines that creates the imagery. This works like a trail of never knowing what’s coming next, in constant suspense. It’s good fun. 

And this is why a finished sketch or piece is a true surprise. Doodling is such a voyage.

Yet, I hear so often: “I wish I could draw” and “If only I could draw like that”, despite the shock-horror that YES you can draw like that and YES you can draw like that. “Oh but I wasn’t born with the natural talent”, I hear in response. Really this could not be further from the truth. There’s no denying that there are those with a predisposition to doing well in any subject, but if you look closely at any professional artist purported to have ‘natural talent’, you’ll find that they spent a large part of their childhood practising and honing their trade. If you dedicated your whole life to a certain hobby, there’s no doubt that you’d reach a high level. You can do anything.

“If you dedicate your whole life to something, how could you not reach a high level?”

As such I try compel these people to take up art, if only quick doodles, and I compel you to, as well. I’ve compiled a list of tips and advice for any new artists out there (and if you’re drawing you’re an artist regardless of if you’re good). It’s something I’ve been mulling over a long time.

Lesson 1: it’s not a sin to copy

There is really no shame in copying. There are many reasons to copy, and very few not. I’ve touched on this briefly above, about the intuition you develop through copying. Through sketching from life you get the world’s best anatomy class, or the most accurate example of the way that clouds drape and laze around in the upper atmosphere. Using references drawn by somebody can be inaccurate, so it’s always best to take from life if possible. In time you will have drawn something enough that you unconsciously know it. You will have developed an intuition for how something is done.

Understanding where the lines come from, rather than sketching the surface, provides something much more real
Understanding where the lines come from, rather than sketching the surface, provides something much more real. by

Lesson 2: experiment – if it looks good you’re doing it right

In traditional art, there are certain techniques considered ‘the right way’, and rightly, because they produce paintings of a high standard in a quick time. For example, chicken scratch (when you scratch copious numbers of lines to create one large single line) should be avoided. This is a general rule, since long clean strokes tend to look better. However, traditional art is very conservative. This isn’t a rule that you have to follow, there are enough people in the world that at least some of them could make it work. It’s a question of style. Traditional art is very limiting in terms of style (there’s nothing wrong with that), but likewise it’s fun to make things funky, push the boundaries and see what sticks. What I’m saying is let it flow from the heart.

Lesson 3: you’re not going to produce a masterpiece (yet)

You ought to take a deep breath, collect yourself, push any expectations out of your mindspace, and embrace the calm when you draw. Else, if you feel in a rush, it’s time to slow down. You may be in a low gear, but you’re still rolling.

Lesson 4: practise every day, even if only for 10 mins.

This is really generic advice I know. As for the reason I’m pushing it? It works. I’ve picked up so many hobbies just by sinking a little time every day. After a while it stops becoming a chore (if it even was to begin with), and you find yourself improving rapidly. No time? You can spare a couple minutes to do a quick doodle in the corner of that notebook I’m sure.

Lesson 5: seek help and (again) copy all your favourite works

Watch tutorials online, speak to your creative friends about drawing, read books when appropriate. But most of all just practise. That is the most important thing. Don’t let too many rules consume your thoughts (this is one), just do your own thing at your own pace. Nothing matters when you have your pencil on the page.

Just do it. Take up the pen, start a few odd doodles, it doesn’t matter at this point I give you permission to do badly. Now.. could you make it any better?

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