Those who cant draw well are those who have not learned to see well

During my art classes, one common fact (false) expressed by the students is their inability to draw well, and their fear that they will have to struggle to draw well, and that it is going to take a very long time to master a few strokes or specific techniques.  “I can never get to draw like you”, they say.

Learning to draw is less about mastering any specific tools or techniques, and more about learning to see. It is more about seeing and drawing without being distracted by the preconceived ideas we all have about what things ought to look like (e.g. an eye is an almond shape, a face is an egg shape etc.) Beginning artists often struggle to draw what they see, instead they draw what they think they see, which is in fact drawing what they already know.

I teach in class that the reason they are not able to draw well is because they have not learned to see well. Period.

How do children take new interest in sports and become good at their chosen sport. They begin by watching first. TV and Video Games for example, help kids to not only instill interest, but also show them how the experts do it. I watch my kids play PS3 and am amazed that one can either freeze a shot, play slow motion, or even view the shot from different angles. The game designers know that kids love to learn by watching well. Later they go to the football field and watch how others play. Then they emulate. Soon enough they learn to play well.

If this is the case how we learn by observing well first, why should we not do the same when it comes to drawing or painting?

Put you pencil, pens and brushes down and go out to the world and observe.

Look again at the things you have seen before and now try to see it in detail, if not differently. You will be amazed. Seeing well, and seeing again and again is also practicing.

Some of the things you ought to observe are:

  • Curves, lines and angles
  • Darkness (watching darkness can be such a beautiful thing)
  • Light  & shadows
  • Body & mass
  • Color or colorlessness
  • Opacity (opaqueness and transparency)
  • Shape
  • Location (Can your subject be understood well if you don’t show the background, or how would your subject be perceived in a different surrounding)
  • Distance & Closeness
  • Motion & Rest
  • Vantage point – different views

Question what should be shown in your drawing or painting, what should be emphasized, what to extend, what should be concealed, and what should be avoided.

If none of the above is making much sense to you, all you have to do is to consciously keep looking at a thing (subject) for a few minutes (your coffee cup in front of you, for example). You will be amazed at the details you will see, and realize how you never saw those details before. The more you see, the more you learn. The more you learn, the better you will draw and paint.

After you practice seeing well for a week or so, you will soon develop a tendency to notice and see things that other people don’t, such as shadows, textures, juxtapositions. Later as you begin to draw constantly, you’ll continue to increase and enhance that ability to see and notice things. People who draw all the time are more likely to find more interesting forms and patterns just from actively practicing this “visual awareness.”

Patric Rozario

15 May 2012

This is a series of three articles under the subject ‘ Where do I begin’
1. Those who cant draw well are those who have not learned to see well.
2. The power of practice – good practice.
3. Don’t worry about imperfections.


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