What I Learned in Drawing Class

The most important thing I learned in drawing class was that most peopleeven most artistscan’t draw.  

We’ve all heard it so many times, and if you’re like me, you’ve even said it yourself: “I can’t draw.” 

I have often thought how nice it must be to see a picture in your head and have the ability to just grab a pen and transfer it onto paper. I see a picture in my head, but all that ends up on the paper are some lines that don’t look like anything.

"Why do I have a hole in my head?"
Image: ElisaRiva on Pixabay

And it gets worse. Even though I can't draw, that still doesn't stop me from being critical of people who can. Call it jealousy or whatever, but it seems like every time I see a halfway decent drawing, I can't help noticing all the things the artist did wrong. Okay, it's not wrong because it's a creative work, so the artist can do anything they want to. But still, my head won't stop saying, "It would be easier to tell what this was if this line were rounder," or "Why does this person's head have a hole it it?" Then, of course, I kick myself for being awful because here I am criticizing someone's drawing when I can't even draw at all.

But what I learned in drawing class is that this kind of "not being able to draw" is perfectly normal. It happens to pretty much everyone, even talented artists. Even the artists I keep criticizing because I'm an awful person.

Wait. If it's true that even most talented artists "can't draw"they can't just see a mental image and transfer it directly onto paperthen how does anyone ever draw anything?

Well, it turns out that I'm really not such an awful person after all. That critic's voice that I kept beating myself up for actually is my drawing talent. I can't speak for other people, but the way I draw is to go ahead and make those lines that don’t look like anything, and then improve them little by little by listening to that inner critic. I just keep making those nothing-lines a little better and a little better until, eventually, they look like something. 

That’s not all there is to it, of course. My drawing course had the usual lessons on geometric shapes and vanishing points. I learned about creating textures, about why it matters which direction my lines go in, and how things look flatter and flatter as they fade into the distance. But finding out that pretty much everyone else on the planet also "can't draw" was the big secret that got me from “I can’t draw” to actually drawing. 

Part of my final project for the
drawing class.