I really believe that accurate drawing is a skill that can be learnt relatively easily, and also that it has many benefits beyond its superficial pleasure. With practice and discipline it leads not only to the satisfaction of capturing the world around us, but also to a whole new way of relating to it. Spending time creatively is always an investment in ourselves, and a gift to those we interact with. Studying something intently by trying to draw it completely changes our point of view, not only of the object but, subtly, of ourselves as well. Looking deeply at one petal of a flower head we realise that it is uniquely different to every other petal. Not only on that flower, but on every flower in the known universe. Think of that. A miniscule variation in shape, colour, light or reflection renders each petal matchless and irreplaceable. We could say the same about everything we see, including each other. Even mass produced objects will be somehow distinctive from one another.
Knowing that, how can we see the world in the same way ever again?
How can we look the other way and ignore wanton destruction?
The practice of simply drawing things around us can lead to revelations such as this. It’s not even necessary to make ‘good’ drawings. They will improve over time, and that in itself is satisfying, but the effort and concentration accurate drawing takes can transport us to deeper realms if we let it.
On a purely artistic level, if your drawing is ‘good enough’ (no one is perfect, we are all practicing) you have a stronger platform to base your work on. You can venture into mixed media, abstract, colour experiments, any medium you choose. You can distort reality or make it almost photographic. Underlying your adventures will be the lessons you have learnt through sheer observation and study. Lessons about how things really work, how they move, how they grow and how they are affected by atmosphere, mood, and a hundred other influences. You will also have a second sense for tone, perspective, composition and all the other components of strong design, because you will have worked on them in your drawings.
I feel sorry for art students who have not been taught to draw. The vogue for years in European and American art schools was to completely discard academic disciplines in favour of ‘self expression’ and experimentation with photography, Photoshop and installations. Those paths could be so much richer and more expressive if their creators had been first taught to see more deeply.
I know that when I was faced with a blank canvas and oils on the ‘Fine Arts’ semester of my foundation course I just floundered. The only advice from my tutors was ‘just express how you’re feeling’. It was terrifying. I wanted to draw something first, but I didn’t know how to do it well enough. Besides, I was told, that wasn’t the way to creative freedom. I changed my mind then about which path I wanted to follow, and instead of applying for a full time fine arts course I opted for 3 years of Illustration. I drew solidly for three years under the guidance of excellent tutors.
I have to admit that it took me a while to ‘loosen up’ until I felt that I was able to express myself beyond the bounds of the discipline, but I am so glad that I took the route I did.
Simply drawing can be a gateway to so many creative paths. Gift yourself with a small blank book that will fit in your pocket or handbag, and draw something – anything – in it for five minutes every day. Be inspired by the world around you and you will begin to see it as you never have before.