Tales from the Art Side Art Blog
I really love teaching kids art, especially drawing. Part of the reason for my enthusiasm, as I've been rambling on about in my last three blogs, is the fact that there is almost as much aesthetic philosophy to the course as there are hands-on skills to learn. As a result of my eagerness to teach the course, I do a fair amount of recruiting to build interest in the class since it is often overlooked. What's interesting is that the class is almost unanimously neglected by students for the same reason. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the reasoning behind the rationale to not enroll in a drawing class is fundamentally inaccurate. So one of the professional responsibilities I've taken upon myself is to do what I can to try and dispel The Drawing Myth.
As I see it, the average person's understanding of drawing is that it is a technical skill you are either born with or not. Thereby, if you are one of the unfortunate majority who lacks this creative gift, there is no sense in bothering to take a class on the subject. I encounter this belief countless times every semester when encouraging a student to take a drawing class. "I can't take drawing," they inform me, "because I don't draw very well." This logic is so tragically flawed that it borders on being laughable, especially when compared to the thinking behind why one would take any other course of study. I usually reply with a comparison to learning a new language. Before taking a class in Japanese, for example, there is no expectation of prior knowledge or ability in speaking Japanese. (other than perhaps, "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!) Obviously, that is why a course of study is pursued, to learn a specific skill or knowledge set. Why then do people unnecessarily place the burden of prior talent upon themselves in advance of a drawing class? I believe it is because their perception has been tainted by The Drawing Myth.
What then is the source of this myth, and how has it continued to propagate? I think the principal culprit is the inconsistency or absence of art instruction in the later grades of primary school education. If you've ever had the privilege of being around very young children making art, you know that they pour themselves into the activity with an unmatched level of excitement that is positively contagious. Art education at this early stage is unquestionably important, but is also more about supplying materials and then staying out of their way, creatively speaking. We have far more to learn from them, than they from us. (but that's another blog.)
Gradually, as a child's formal thinking skills develop, they begin to realize that their drawings do not portray the world around them as accurately as they would like. This is when quality art education is perhaps most crucial, and unfortunately, it is always where it is most deficient. So as our young drawers are becoming aware of their own inabilities, as well as becoming increasing self-conscious about the opinion of their peers, many opt to completely disengage from the activity entirely. This is why we have Nobel Prize winners who still draw stick figures. In fact, a surprisingly large majority of adults draw at around a 6th grade level simply because no one ever taught them otherwise.
It's easy to see then how this myth continues to plague generation after generation. When most people have great difficulty drawing, those that do have a natural affinity for it seem like a chosen few, a rare group of select individuals with an inherent gift. And while it is true that some people do seem to pick up drawing easier than others, the fact remains, drawing is a skill that absolutely anyone can acquire. It is merely a rehearsed series of movements between the eye and the hand. The old adage that if you can write you can draw is infallibly correct. Anyone can learn to draw. And what's more, you don't need to know how to draw well, even a little bit, in order to learn. In fact, all you need is a desire to learn.
So what do we, as artists and lovers or art, do about this myth? Whatever we can! Encourage friends and family who have shown an interest to take a class or read a book. Share the benefits of drawing as an invaluable therapeutic outlet for expression and personal growth. Teach, whether it be a formal class or sharing some tips one on one with close friend. In the end, the most important thing we can do is try and not continue to perpetuate this myth by our own actions and attitudes. There are certainly those in the art community that enjoy basking in the inaccuracy that what we do is somehow privy to only an elite group of elevated individuals. In my mind, that mentality is detestable. Art is something you need not make a living at to benefit from personally. And to not encourage others to experience the joy that can be derived from this self-explorative activity we call art, is nothing short of selfish. And so as part of my effort, I challenge anyone reading this to make your own attempt at doing something to help discredit The Drawing Myth.
You can read a follow up to this blog, "The Drawing Myth: Exposed" by clicking here