Posts Tagged ‘Learning to Draw’

I think that what first drew me in to the desire to find the magic was watching my daughter at the beach. Oh, she took her drawing materials with her to many places, but it was at the beach where I really began to take notice of the magic. She would sit for hours silently drawing…and looking…and drawing some more. There was something about her peace and total enjoyment which reflected back to me…invited me…made me want to feel that same joy.

I have never considered myself an artist. I remember teaching my first graders. Every year, one of them would comment that they could draw better than I could. Yes. I knew that. My drawing was developmentally below the level of most first graders. I wonder what arrested that development for me…oh well, it doesn’t matter now.

Most of my children draw very well. I didn’t teach them. Like I said, I couldn’t draw. I did provide them with lots of art supplies, encouragement, and …this is important… blank paper. Somewhere along the line, I had determined that coloring books were bad. Oh, my children still had coloring books sometimes, it’s not like they were forbidden, but I didn’t encourage them. I didn’t want my children growing up coloring in someone else’s lines. So I gave them blank paper and encouraged them to draw. And I oohed and ahhed over their finished products. That part wasn’t hard, I was always impressed with their drawings and paintings… after all, it was much better than I could do.

I have always believed that one can learn anything if he or she is willing to put in the time and effort. I’ve taught myself many things. But somehow, I had never really applied that belief to art and to drawing. I never believed that I could draw. You either could or you couldn’t, I thought, and I couldn’t. Oh, I’d had a couple of glimpses; like the “Teaching Art” class that I took in college to prepare for my teaching degree. I remember a moment during the lesson on basic shapes in drawing when I drew a bird (okay, it was really just the outline of a bird) which somehow looked much better than I expected.

And then there was the evening that Yvonne Marshall taught us to paint a sunset in oils at our monthly church women’s meeting. Carefully following her instructions…and on a canvas which she had outlined for me…I was able to create (love that word)…I was able to create something which I was happy with. If you don’t count the muddy smudge in the sky, it’s almost perfect. And I can imagine that the muddy part is a rain cloud…well, sort of…so it’s all okay. The thing that I remember most about that experience was the ridiculous way that I could not stop smiling for the entire time that I was painting! I remember how Yvonne had insisted that I take the leftover paint brushes, tubes of paint and the one extra canvas home with me afterward. Looking back I wonder, did she know something then which I had yet to discover about myself?

Even so, even with these glimpses, I persisted in my belief that I could never learn to draw…until that day on the beach watching my daughter.

I had purchased a book for my children called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. When we got back from our trip to the beach, I picked it up and began to look through it in earnest. I was amazed at the before and after drawings in this book, and it gave me a glimmer of hope…just a glimmer. Maybe I could do that too.

On our next camping trip, I began to do the exercises in this book; drawing the lines on my hand and upside down drawings. The author explains that these exercises are to aid you in getting out of the left brain mode of thinking and into the right brain. Since you are drawing something that the left brain does not recognize or make sense of, the right brain takes over and you end up drawing just what you see…not what you think you see…or something like that. I had a little success, but it just…wasn’t fun. Where was the magic? What I felt as I was drawing was not at all what I had seen in my daughter that day at the beach. I gave up…or at least I put it on the shelf for a few more months. I picked it up again just before Christmas to try in earnest again…only to feel frustrated again. Maybe you did have to already have some sort of “talent” in order to succeed in learning to draw. I was almost ready to give it up for good this time.

It was at this point that my daughter came to the rescue. As I was expressing my frustration with the exercises in the book, she said the simplest thing. “Mom”, she said,” just pick something that you really like and draw that.” I thought about it. I didn’t really like the things which I was drawing. I wasn’t relating to those things. They gave me no joy. And furthermore, I found it very tedious working through the exercises one at a time, chapter by chapter in the order given in the book. As a good friend later pointed out to me, I was approaching a right brain activity in a very left brain sort of way.

So I thought about it…what did I like. Birds, I decided. I really like birds. I would draw birds. (Did my subconscious remember that bird outline drawn back in my college days?) So for Christmas, when I bought my children each a really nice set of drawing pencils, I gave

myself a set too, and a brand new sketchpad. Then I went looking for pictures of birds. I ended up buying a couple of field guides with some very nice pictures in them, and I started drawing. I drew a new bird each day. I inspired myself with a favorite quote: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our power to do is increased.” These words have been attributed to one of my heroes, Heber J. Grant. I’m not sure if they were his words, or if he was quoting someone else when he said them, but I do know that he lived by those words. He is an example to me of someone who never stops learning and will persist at doing hard things until he has mastered the thing he has set out to learn.

So, each day, I drew a bird. I went through the field guides and picked out my favorite ones to draw. In a very, very short time, the magic began to happen and my drawings were…not bad at all. In fact, I was more and more thrilled with each new drawing. I began to share them with my family and friends with almost childish joy…”Look what I can do!” (I’m so blessed to have such patient and encouraging family and friends! I wish that Yvonne Marshall were still here so that I could share my new found joy with her as well.) I know that compared to great artists, my humble drawings are not much. I’m still beginning. I still have so much to learn. But compared to what I originally thought I could do; compared to my expectations of myself, I was amazing! I was amazed, delighted, joyful, just plain tickled pink! Each latest drawing was my new favorite. I would set them up on my desk and just stare at them…totally amazed that I had drawn that!

Encouraged by my new found success, I tried portraits…with the same amazing results! Now I was truly ecstatic! I found that I loved drawing faces even more than I loved drawing birds! I watched some online art lessons. I checked out books on drawing from the library. Christy, my artist friend, encouraged me and gave me tips and pointers. I continued to improve…and continued to be delighted with myself and with the process…and the products…of drawing.

With all of my joy over my new found ability to draw, however, the most delightful thing of all was finally finding the magic…finally discovering and feeling for myself what I saw in my daughter that day at the beach! That timeless feeling of being totally absorbed in the moment and in the act of creating. That feeling when time stands still…hours pass and you don’t even realize it. So this is what it feels like to be in the “right brain”! And the more I felt the magic, I found, the better my drawings became.

I’ve learned so many things from this experience…aside from learning to draw. I’ve learned that you truly can learn anything. I knew that before, but now I know it all over again, and on a deeper level. I learned that anyone can learn to draw. Truly…if I can learn to draw at the age of 46 when I could hardly draw a stick figure correctly before, they anyone can learn if they truly want to and truly try. I learned…again…that home education is not just about what the children are learning. I learned that sometimes the best teachers are much younger than you are…sometimes the best teachers are even your own children. I learned that often the best methods are the most simple and straightforward. We so often make things much more complicated than they really are.

I continue to love to draw. It is still so new to me that I haven’t stopped being surprised and filled with inner delight with each finished drawing. There is always a moment or two as I begin to draw…especially if I haven’t had my drawing pencils out in a while…there is always this uncomfortable moment or two when I think that maybe I won’t be able to do it this time, and I fear that the magic will be all gone, but I simply tell that part of my brain to shut up, I start to draw, and I find the magic all over again.


The following slide show includes some of my drawings. Dates are usually visible on the pages. They are mostly in order by the date that they were drawn, but are not in perfect order. They show my progression from about January to July (or so) of 2010. The last two are more recent. The last one is not finished yet and was drawn last week. Thanks for sharing my joy.

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