I’m a firm believer that if you want to learn something, you can. I’m going to share with you my drawing journey–from my beliefs and attempts in the beginning to the hacks and cheats I discovered, my non-cheat results and where I’m at now.
Around the year 2000, I decided I wanted to learn to draw. I attempted to sketch a dragonfly that died my backyard. This was my result. I felt my drawing capacities were summed up in this one pathetic sketch. I believed I could not draw and had no potential for the arts.
But the pull to draw would not go away. So I tried a few more free-hand drawings. I felt these were okay, but we were getting ready to sell our home and move out of state so I put drawing away for awhile.
A year or two later, after we were settling into our new home, I suddenly felt compelled to learn to draw. The two years that I lived in that house were filled with some incredibly tough challenges. I found respite in spending time with my kids, sewing, writing music, and learning to draw. I bought a book that led me through exercises in values, shapes, and drawing with a grid for accuracy. Here are some of those early exercises.
Eventually I used the grid drawing method to create portraits (you can see the faint grid marks in the upper left-hand corner of the drawing below). Here is one I drew of my kids when they were young. I never actually finished this portrait. I somehow ended up getting a gummy mark on my daughters forehead and was struggling to get her eyes and hand just right, so I eventually moved on.
Honestly, I found grid drawing tedious. At this point, I realized I actually could draw, and that if I applied myself I might be able to become decently proficient. But I was frustrated with the amount of time I had to spend on one drawing and didn’t have the patience. Things in my life were hard enough already.
So I began searching for drawing help online and stumbled upon an AMAZING artist (I wish I knew who it was now, but this was nearly 20 years ago). He demonstrated drawing hacks on his site. He showed how you can print a copy of the picture you want to create and transfer the basic lines of the image onto your drawing with transfer paper to get the proportions perfect and cut down on overall creation time. The shading, of course, would then be done from scratch. I took this “permission” to cheat and ran with it.
Here is an unfinished picture where you can see the transferred lines, along with some shading work that I started.
At this point I started creating a lot of work. Each portrait still took about 10-20 hours of shading, but I was happy with perfecting my shading abilities and creating realism from flat lines. At this point in my life, that was enough challenge for me. Here are some results of refining my ability to shade and form a realistic pencil portrait.
I drew like crazy, for friends and neighbors and myself. Then after two years, we moved again and I stopped drawing. I would only draw something occasionally. And it has remained that way for a long time. Until recently. . . I have been feeling the urge to draw again.
I recently enrolled in Will Kemp Art School and am taking his Absolute Beginners Drawing Course to reconnect with the silent part of my creative heart. I’d like to become more proficient at free-hand drawing without a grid. This may take me awhile! I will share progress on my blog from time to time.
My advice to anyone trying to learn a new skill:
Don’t judge your potential when you begin learning something. Skills take time to develop. If you’re struggling or frustrated with part of the process, look for alternative ways to achieve a result you can live with. There are as many ways to create art as there are artists. We don’t all have to be DaVinci. You don’t have to prove yourself to anybody. Create your process your way and let go of thoughts like “I’m a fake” or “a fraud” or “a cheater”. There are myriad ways to learn and acquire skills so don’t beat yourself up if you need to hack it for awhile! Just breathe and create!