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'I Can't Draw'

Journal Entry: Mon Jan 23, 2012, 6:36 PM

"....I'm afraid other kids are gonna make fun of my drawing because I'm not good at it."

....said a fourth grade student to me last week at an Elementary school during my character design lesson. The little boy's comment to me about how worried he was about not being able to accurately represent what he wanted to on paper made me stop and think about something our society sort of imposes on our artists.

Since when did skill in drawing = how good of an artist you are?

I'd like to know.

Of course, we all know drawing is a fundamental skill in which every "artist" is expected to understand the Elements and Principles of Art and Design with because these elements and principles translate to ALL forms of visual art.


Think of Art Mediums like Musical Instruments.
Think of Drawing as the Piano.
It's the instrument that most people develop an understanding of Music Theory to begin with.

But what if you picked up a guitar first instead of a piano-- and you learned Music Theory with the Guitar instead? Would someone say you aren't as good of a musician because you can't play the piano that well?
.....I don't think so, Bob Dylan- You're a rock star.

So what if you're an artist who understands elements and principles in Ceramics....instead of drawing? What if you're an artist who uses emotion to power vivid color undertanding rather than using the colors infront of you? What if your process of art making becomes your elements and principles on paper?.....What if your art doesn't exist on paper and it goes somewhere else?

Is it really fair to disregard an artist because they cannot or are unwilling to draw the most accurate, highly detailed, realistic things?

Why do we hold "realism" on a pedestal over every form of visual art? Why do we favor that realistic painting over the simplified minimalistic design?

I told the little boy about artists like Jackson Pollock, who used "action" to drive his final pieces. Certainly, being good at drawing is one way to get something out of art making-- but it's not the only way.

So as an Art Educator, I leave you all with this:
The art you make comes from you-- and that is the single most important thing about art making.

Add a Comment:
Leothewarriorcat Featured By Owner Edited Jul 8, 2015
Well people say my art is just scribbles, even though this is true ;-;
Xenongod Featured By Owner Edited Aug 20, 2014
You taught me something importent. That It dosen't matter if it sucks or not. But that the art i make comes from me! I want to thank you for giveing me the will to Draw Athros, and not just any Athros but Wolves! Thank you! I feel like i could slay a god! As soon as i get home, i'm going to start drawing Wolf Athros! THANKS AND THANKS AGIAN!! I KNOW I'LL GO SKY HIGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
supershadow64ds Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Rather than having a specific skill be greater than my rest, all of my skills are slightly less average! :D
ZombieHun Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
see, i've always appreciated one's technique for hyper realism because thats a skill they worked really worked at. Its no different than my abstract form of art that I worked really hard at as well.

However.....realism just doesn't impress me because to me it doesn't feel very expressive, especially when I see portrait art of celebrities.

If I offended a realist, sorry, its just how realism makes me feel inside.
Dementedkookie Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2012
wow thank you i cant draw to save my life buut i can spin a tale quite effeviently
Sabathamk Featured By Owner Jan 30, 2012
I agree! Think about it... what art sells more... that's the art that speaks to people the most, right? Realistic paintings don't seem to sell nearly as much as the abstract, or the sculpture... people want what speaks to them!
Kazali Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
So many of my art classes have taught drawing as a fundamental rather than an option; "so you like abstraction/painting/sculpture better? Too bad, you'll never be good at those if you don't know how to draw a hyperrealistic peach." It's been so engrained into my brain that I've never even questioned it... but it does sound strange, when you think about it. Though the idea that you can't break the rules until you learn them does make some bit of sense, although it's very frustrating to hear over and over when I've been breaking rules for years already without knowing what they were.

My fashion design friends always complain about having to take drawing classes. They can sew their asses off, but somehow drawing peaches will make them the next Vera Wang? ...huh? :shrug:
saminal625 Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2012  Hobbyist Artist
true that
EratoTiaTuatha Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2012  Professional General Artist
I don't feel good enough to comment on such a topic myself, but let me quote something I completely agree with:

"If you refuse to study anatomy, the art of drawing and perspective, the mathematics of aesthetics, and the science of colors, let me tell you it is more a sign of laziness than of genius!"
~Salvador Dali

Thank you.
kaylen-lenore Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
i get it now!
Stygma Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
First thing that makes me feel good today, after a sh*tty day at work!
Fred7162 Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is completely true.
Blind-Wanderer Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2012  Professional Interface Designer
The whole idea and the general population holding realism as the highest form of art is very Western. It is a Western ideal.
I think if we just look back into the past at the classics, which are praised and are held high today still, and the formations of guilds that regulated for so long what type of art was produced in Europe, you can see that there is/was a lot of support for realistic artwork. Artwork such as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper are very well known through out society. They are TOLD that is high art. And accept it as so.
I also think there is another part, non artsy folks "don't understand art", or brush abstract art away as non-art waste, so they only see, understand realism as good art. They think it takes more skill to basically recreate a still life or photo, than to create art that is abstract, or not realism.
Bee-chan Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
You have a point there!
I know some fantastic artists who can't draw, but they sculpt, paint, sew, bake, write, and create music. Just because they can't draw doesn't make them any less an artist.
Sogaroth Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you. That definitely helps. I struggle with that same question everytime I come to an "artist's block". And I'm 28.
Athems Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012
I undrestand how that little boy feels, but your wise words left me with a bigger desire to draw than the fear of other pople's comments about my biggest passion.
TouchedVenus Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional Digital Artist

You go girl! They need more art teachers like you in the world. Keep up the great work. :salute:
CheeZeeWerewolf Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012
Yes I agree! I don't understand why people value "realism." You can take a photograph of "real" things anytime. I get asked a lot to draw people protrates. I tell them I'm not a portrait artist and they don't understand. They tell me, "but you draw so well it should be easy for you." Well, Bob Ross sucked at portraits and his instructor told him he should stick with happy mountains. LOL! Not that you shouldn't TRY things out of your norm but I find "realism" boring since I can see it with my own eyes. That being said, I love when "realism" is applied to fantasy.

Some times though, less is more. =3

Great topic!
Skyfirefox Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012
Two books would come in handy here: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (to improve skills) and Art & Fear (to address personal concerns about drawing).
Jinolu Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Student Digital Artist
but what if i want to draw a picture of a human sitting on a beach, petting a dog. but even to me that human doesnīt look like i want and just looks weird. and the dog resembles more of a weird alien than a dog

if i donīt think what i made is beautiful or good BECAUSE i canīt draw it the way i want it to look

isnīt it bad then? because i couldnīt make what i wanted to show with my art. then it isnīt my art but just a failure, trying to show it
Katmomma Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional General Artist
It's only "bad" if you argue it to be. You should feel proud of an artwork you made because you made it- not because you think someone else will think it is the "best".
Jinolu Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2012  Student Digital Artist
maybe your right :3
quirkandbramble Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012   Artisan Crafter
MizuTakishima Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for this, I really needed to hear it...

Lately I've been in such a slump because nothing I produce is good enough. It doesn't meet most people's standards, and it certainly doesn't meet my own. I wouldn't even fav my own work if I saw it randomly @__@

But yeah, maybe, since its art that it comes from me, perhaps that makes it at least a little bit special ; u ;
alexandrasalas Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Food for thought!

I consider many activities a form of art, including cooking. Art comes in many shapes and forms.
LaurenGibson Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Student General Artist
I just read this and you have no idea how happy it made me >< I'm terrified to put my artwork on deviant for the same reason you described in this :( people shouldn't be terrified of what others think of there work
Beauty comes in all shapes and forms :aww:
Kaziem Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional General Artist
I can certainly agree with that. I find a lot of people assume that being able to draw is some kind of magical talent instead of practice. It's true that a great deal of artwork is "unrealistic" in as much as it doesn't look like a photograph. It's frustrating to try to tell people that drawing is simply one way of expressing it-- the word "art" and "artist" shouldn't be left to drawing and painting alone. Almost anything can be an art. Music, carpentry, gardening, you name it.

At the same time, I've had a different experience in artwork, in that my own realist tendencies have sometimes been looked down on by people who thought that because it was a simple portrayal of how things looked that it was not "artsy" enough.

But that doesn't mean that my art is the only right way. Mostly, people need to know that there is no one measure of art, of painting, of woodcarving or glassblowing. It's very wishy-washy, it's very vague, and that's what makes art wonderful.

If there was one right solution, art would be dead.
sagethethird Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional
It certainly, to me at least, feels more free to create an abstract or non-objective painting than to toil for hours and hours over every single detail in a realistic painting. That and the result is just as rewarding if not more rewarding because it's what you truly wanted to paint.

that being said, I think we prize realism, especially as artists, because the real world is where we get inspiration. it's tempting both to challenge yourself to copy it exactly (after all we're only monkeys, and monkeys ARE social learners, whether or not you consider copying nature social learning i'll leave up to you but yeah haha) and think of it as the only way to art because it's so pervasive and "ever present".

As such we've documented this achievement, first met with Greek sculpture, as an artistic tradition. we thus, like old curmudgeons (omg I spelled that right the first time without consulting google :dummy:!) feel this is not only "a" but "the" artistic tradition since it is such a hard feet, and we as humans seem to place the rare and beautiful before the natural and interesting.

note the difference between beautiful and interesting.

if we as a society valued natural more than rare, and interesting especially more than beauty, I think the exception would be not to be an artist. I think THAT is what I gleaned from reading this journal ;)

rare and beautiful is alright, but it certainly is only as skin deep as paint is to canvas.
Leopreston Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional General Artist
Since society waggled a discerning finger in every direction, that's when! Sad isn't it? ;_;
Katmomma Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional General Artist
I'm going to my emo corner to cry. ;; Indeed, it is sad
Leopreston Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional General Artist
Aww :hug: It shall get better! I decree that... oh, lets just have some tea. :) :tea: :tea:
Sulka Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Student General Artist
yay fellow art educator! (well I'm only a freshman but anyway!) \o/

I just walked out from a lecture of this topic (or something really close to it): how kids draw and why they often stop it at certain age; because they feel they can't draw.

I have battled with exact same question about realism > minimalism/expressionism/abstract art/process art/whatever that even sounds fairly contemporary. I honestly don't understand why "real art" should be a traditional da Vinci-like realistically portrayed human figure or a super realistic landscape with nature high and mighty. Not that those things were boring/uncool, but really, people. And why the hell the "best" artists are the ones with the most technical skill. A very well detailed, accurate and realistic piece can be boring, unemotional and lacking soul & spirit. I just recently realized it myself that hyper-realism does not equal good art.

And then the kids at school think they're not good enough because they can't draw a realistic stuff - because they're taught that REAL art is REALISTIC art. Not by their art teachers (I HOPE 6_9) but the general public and society around them. It's such a shame to block real, pure imagination and expression by NOT letting them think outside the box when it's most needed.

dA is a good example of this, because almost all the so-called popular artists (who don't draw anime/manga styled things) tend to be the ones fixated on realism (this is only my opinion, and not meant to insult anyone). The general atmosphere here, which may not manifest itself as a concrete written/spoken "rule", seems to be that "if you can't draw that damn hair/fur/whatever with every single hair in a correct shape, size and colour, just don't bother at it - or don't expect any comments, at least".

Of course realism can give a powerful expression in a picture, it's hard, but possible. But often this doesn't happen, because the freedom of thought and expression does not come over if the artist themselves judges their work for being too "unrealistic", thus taking the expressionistic elements away or laming them down.
FionaCreates Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Professional General Artist
Well put it this way, I got a degree in illustration, and I'd say over half my class couldn't 'draw' very well in the conventional sense of likeness to a still life or model, but a lot of contemporary illustration is much more expressive and I'm jealous of those people who can 'not' draw and really DRAW because I spend too much time worrying about the technical side of things and I'm not a great conceptualiser.

So if those professionals can't 'draw' well then what hope is there for the rest of the world XD
Keaze Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012
I've been feeling really bad about my art, mostly because my colleagues in art school all do realism and few see value in art that isn't abstract or realistic. So reading this felt nice.

I think an artist needs to be true to what they want. And most artists do want to work with at least a bit of realism and lack of skills is getting in the way of their expression.
It comes down to seeing what the artist's intention was. Of course we can never be sure but we can tell pretty well based on how they handle the rest of the art. The ability to break rules without it seeming like an abomination is an admirable one and it's what it all should come down to.
lost-angle Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I once said (I can't remember where, except that it was on dA) "I am a lot more creative than my skills let me be."

I think that it's the creativity in your mind, the idea behind the or creation that speaks louder than the creation itself. If you can't draw, but you put pen to paper and try to express an image that you hold in your mind, then it is the attempt at expression that should be judged, rather than the result. Unfortunately, it's hard to judge more than the result, when the result is all we see.
ColeHastings Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Professional Artisan Crafter
According to the "art" world, I can't draw very well. While according to the engineering world I "draft" beautifully. It all depends on your perspective and drawing is used mainly by a lot of artists to just convey an idea that will later be either built, painted, etched, vectored, etc.
twapa Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012   General Artist
This is a really good post. Thank you. Even as a visual artist, it's something I need to remind myself of from time to time!
Amithist Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
It's like you can usually see how the artist is by looking at their work since artists tend to put themselves into it.
yeahgirl11 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
LOL at all this hyper-realism movement; I see this is more prevalent in the West. Being able to do hyper-realistic works doesn't even mean anything. The point of creating art isn't even supposed to be "draw/paint everything hyper-realistically"; I recall being on an oil painting website where the artist said, "The point of painting isn't to paint things realistically. If you believe that's the case, then put down the brush and pick up a camera- you're better off taking pictures"

With this kind of mindset, hyper realism is, apparently, more "superior" to Indian art (such as the sari, temple sculpture, etc.) or African art (textiles or masks, etc.). Yes, we can get into the argument that art means different things to different people, but honestly, I believe it's the expression that counts. And understanding of the fundamentals is important, but it's the means to an end.
yeahgirl11 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
*NOT the means to an end

My fault.
knightmonx Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student General Artist
this post to me was a blessing I am reminded that it's not important what others think about you your work, but you like, love it and had fun thats what matters. I was just forced to leave college the second one in fact because the teachers hated my work and didn't know how to answer my questions, and they took every opportunity to tell me give up you can't do it, you will never have a job, don't bother taking that class I can't stop the class and teach you. and in fact the last thing they said to me was, "i told you to quit you wouldn't be an artist from the start"
Now in debt can't pay i have to choose something else to do for a career, and I'm still struggling from the stress and anxiety they and my bad decision about going there caused me.
i still feel passionate about art. I want to learn it right
I feel if i got the proper support from the start, I would have been an artist and writer like no other.
So it touches my heart greatly that you help the kids. I mean it Because i would hate to see even one of them go through what I did or worse end up in a situation like myself
lyrastone Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012
heck yes! this is amazing! people ask me all the time, "why won't you go to collage for art?" and that is because what i want to do in art, the collages don't want to see. never let anyone tell you what art really is, because art isn't an "inside the box" thing. :D
Katmomma Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Professional General Artist
College, you mean? :giggle: hehe
lyrastone Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012
oh, sorry! crazy spelling errors. :D
NinjaKato Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012
Tortievan Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student General Artist
Ohmygosh. I agree with you 100%.
It is one of my largest pet peeves to hear that my classmates 'can't draw' because they can't 'compete' with me ,when in fact they have the potential to do just as much as I can, if not more. It may be in a different medium or a different thought altogether, but I believe it is possible . Yet because of where I am, everyone in my school thinks any encouragement I give is false.
Fellow students speak to me differently than the others do and shy away from me easily.There are so many of my peers who I would be more than honored to see their work and do art trades with... it's just :shrug: they don't think they're good enough.
Kids who don't know me very well just refer to me as an 'artist' more-so than a person:
"Who do you have in your group?"
"The artist."
"Oh. I'm so JEALOUS. Your presentation will look AWESOME compared to ours. Ours'll be crap."
It...just doesn't feel right.
Thankfully I have really close friends by my side that understand me and see me as more than the human colored printer. -and they are artists too! XD
Katmomma Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Professional General Artist
I had the same issue you have. Everyone in my class saw me as a prodigy and they compared themselves to me and were envious enough to not take my feedback seriously.

Years later, I'm returning as an art teacher because I believe in trying to change that attitude.
ChocolateChipPony Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012
This is really good. I've been drawing since I was like 3. Though my drawings are never shaded, or very detailed, or realistic looking. My depth perception is off, & I can't judge distance, the various layers of colors, that makes up shades, & shadows. So when I draw, & color something it's 1D, & color filled. Sometimes I try to add shading, but, it doesn't turn out great. & so I just can't see things the way others can, or want it to be.

I can't draw digitally, I've tried, & tried, & tried. For years, & it's just not my way of art. So to speak. I've tried doing commissions, & even tried working for a few virtual petsites. Though both means deadlines, & the VPs wanted so many 100s of items within a certain amount of days, all realistic, or cell shaded.

I didn't get any pay, for the things I drew, or credit, or told to redo anything. They simply took my stuff, & gave them to other artists to redo. I finally quit, after finding out what was going on.

Commissions I never could do, due to having no way to get paid, & most people always wanted digital, realistic, animated movie still looking artwork.

I'm not great at drawing humans, or anthros, I've tried, & just can not do it. I can draw animals, just not realistically. I have in the past, but, I wasn't being pushed, & it was for myself, or out of bordom. Plus it was hand drawn, on paper.

I'm good at editing other people's stuff (with their permission of course), & editing photos. I've very good at taking photos, & writing things, more than I am drawing. I used to love drawing, but, after I found out most people have no use for "kid-like" art work, or hand drawn stuff, I have really no heart, or desire to draw anymore.
Jajna Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Its almost like I wanna re blog this or something.
Its really true what you are saying but its good to get reminded from time to time =3
Katmomma Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Professional General Artist
I would hope you put it into your own words if you do :3
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