View Full Version : Can people with no talent learn to draw?
05-29-2003, 10:34 PM
My school system didn't emphasize art at all. The last year it was 'required' was 5th grade, and we spent our time doing gimmicks rather than drawing. Stuff like blowing drops of India ink into 'trees' or using chunks of sponge to create 'lilac bouquets' or tearing paper into random bits and creating a 'collage' out of them.
After that, art classes were strictly for the people who had talent and inclination that way -- which left me out.
But....I really want to be able to draw. Not that I have ambitions to be an artist, or have the result be something that others would admire. Basically, if I saw a view I liked, say on a vacation trip, I want to be able to whip out some colored pencils and draw it well enough that when I see the picture five years later I can say, oh, yeah, that was that little church outside Florence where we had the picnic and have fond memories come back... You know? Draw a horse that is recognizably a horse rather than the world's ugliest dog, a face that looks like my friend rather than some mutant/alien crossbreed?
So...is there any hope for me? And, if so, how should I go about trying to learn? Are there books? Video courses? The closest thing I've found are some courses on PBS, but they were about painting, and seemed to emphasize tricks -- Here's how to paint a generic tree or rose, rather than Here's how to draw the real landscape in front of you.
I once checked out the Adult Education courses, but the only drawing class offered was for, well, the kids who were good enough to take art all through high school and who were now brushing up their technique or something. I need something labled 'Drawing for people with no talent and no previous instruction.'
05-29-2003, 10:59 PM
Sure...anything can be learned. Like many things though some people seem to have more inborn talent for it than others.
Mostly it'll just be practice, practice, practice. Some of thos 'gimmicks' actually help with some basic fundamentals...sort fo the ABCs & 123s of art.
You also need to decide on what 'kind' of art you want to do. Do you want to be able to draw a picture that is a snapshot of what you see or do you want to idealize it in some way? Taken to extremes the idealized forms are all but unrecognizable as anything identifiable in the real world (just look at some cubist paintings). If you want some realism then you might want to learn about perspective in drawing. Some paintings are almost mathematical in their precision at recreating what the painter saw.
There have been times when I too wish I could draw/paint well but even my stick figure people look lousy. Actaully I'm pretty lousy at most of the arts...singing, dancing, muscial instruments, etc. I've pretty much resigned myself to that fact and leave my love for at to appreciating the work of others.
05-29-2003, 11:03 PM
Anyone can learn to draw reasonably well, and yes there should be many books available at your local library as well as online sites with tips and instructions. Just google "learn to draw".
05-29-2003, 11:05 PM
A lot of drawing skill actually does boil down to tricks. Perspective. Foreshortening. Color relationships. Drawing involves teaching yourself how to see as much as how to move a pencil around on a piece of paper.
Most people can see a marked improvement in their drawing ability with a bit of instruction and a lot of practice. I mean A LOT of practice, too. When I took Life Drawing, half our grade involved filling up sketchbooks outside of class. Basically drawing every day for hours. The skill level and experience of others in my class varied wildly, but we all got the same medicine... hours of practice and critiques which let you know where to focus your practicing.
"Can people with no talent learn to draw? "
No, wait... definetly yes. Just practice whatever you like to draw; life drawing, cartoons, sketches. Buy a book, take classes. If you have the will to learn, you´ll do it.
There are many "tricks" into drawing; like knowing how to draw a face starting by a circle and some reference lines; some standard proprotions and so forth; is like an instructions manual. With practice you won´t need all those reference lines. For example here I have a book "Drawing the Human Head", by Burne Hogarth; you just have to follow the steps and practice (yep, practice again)
05-30-2003, 12:09 AM
The answer to your question is no: people with no talent can not learn to draw. The good news is we all have talent.
My older brother Mike was the artist in the family. It was like a niche was filled and the rest of us didn't need to even attempt drawing. Fast forward twenty years and I find a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. She points out that drawing ability is essentially a matter of visualization. Most people draw as if they were playing Pictionary: stick figure=human; circle=eye; and so forth.
Ms Edwards presents a number of exercises to demonstrate how vision works and how to see exactly what you're looking at. That may sound weird but it's because it's a description of a non-verbal process.
Anyway, I highly recommend the book. I've been drawing off and on for the last six years and am enjoying it more and more. I have taken an art class through adult education and I was not impressed. I have also taken an art class through the local JC and wnjoyed the hell out of it. Don't worry about not being able to draw; that's why you're taking the class!
Have fun! And get that book.
05-30-2003, 12:21 AM
Betty Edwards also wrote Drawing on the Artist Within. Her attitude towards learning to draw is summed up by 2 things:
she says if you can write you have the required physical skill as all drawing consists of straight lines and curved lines, just like writing.
she stresses that there is no aptitude for drawing and says imagine parents' response if they were told their child has no aptitude for reading so the school isn't going to teach them.
The drawings in the book will show you what real students achieved in just a few weeks.
05-30-2003, 12:49 AM
Off to Cafe Society.
DrMatrix - GQ Moderator
05-30-2003, 01:31 AM
Start out easy -- go to an art supply store or hobby shop and look for books. There are books that can take you from point A to point B easily, whether it's how to cartoon or how to draw animals. I say, don't be afraid to start with little steps, even if it's just to learn to grasp the most basic elements, like shapes, sizes, proportions, shading, color. Heck, even an Ed Emberley children's book will teach you how to draw the most basic things with the most basic shapes, and those books are fun! Anyone can master a horse or a dragon or a dinosaur with rectangles and triangles and circles via his method. There are many good books out there that will take you step by step through the construction of realistic forms. Above all, don't be worried if you can't create a drawing of a realistic looking horse right away. The important thing to remember, when pursuing any creative field, is practice practice practice, and some more practice after that. Your first drawing of a shoe might not look that good to you, but maybe the next one will look better, and the next one even better, until one day maybe you can draw a shoe better than anyone else because you've drawn them a million times. Get a sketchbook, take it with you everywhere you go, get used to working in it when you have free time. If all else fails, get tracing paper and fake it.
05-30-2003, 05:59 AM
A friend of mine who has been a commercial artist swears he could teach me to draw. I beg to differ. I understand the tricks such as starting with an oval when drawing a face, working out perspective, etc. There's just one slight problem. I can't draw a circle, or even a straight line! I know -- I've tried. I, too, would love to be able to draw well, and every so often I'll get out some supplies and give it a try. The results speak for themselves. Apparently, this may be genetic -- my mother and my grandfather have been known to do the same thing, and my grandfather died when I was about 3, so it can't have been direct influence on his part. I'm a reasonable draftsman, given the correct tools (I can usually draw a straight line with a ruler); I'm good with words, and I can knit pretty much anything I choose, so I don't have a problem with not being able to draw, and who knows, I might manage it some day, but right now, that's not where my money is.
05-30-2003, 07:12 AM
Feynman's book "Surely You're Joking" tells of his learning to draw as an adult. He had zero artistic talent, he said, strictly stick-figure, and he undertook to learn. He got quite good, to the point of selling several skteches.
05-30-2003, 07:18 AM
What MonkeyMensch and don't ask said.
My dad is a former psychologist. When he was going through his Master's program, he took a class that used Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain as a textbook. It's an amazing book; do the exercises and you will be a better artist within weeks. Of course, it takes practice.
The author, Betty Edwards, is a very nice woman. She offers classes based on her books and even does some team-building seminars with companies. I tried to get my company to hire her; it didn't happen, but I spoke with her on the phone. She was down-to-earth, humble, and very flattered by my compliments.
05-30-2003, 07:55 AM
This may sound crazy, but How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way is a wonderful book. It teaches some very basic techniques and concepts such as perspective.
05-30-2003, 08:40 AM
books on drawing in perspective will help a great deal.
You'll also need to train yourself to see basic shapes first, then details.
My beloved life drawing instructor's frequent chant:
"from the large to the small, from dark to light"
my interpretation: block in the shape of the butt before you draw the pimple.
I say go for it, drawing can be great fun.
05-30-2003, 10:30 AM
Another vote for Betty Edwards. At least her first book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Her second book is less valuable IMHO. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was the book my teacher's sited when I first started taking serious drawing classes years and years ago.
Avoid the gimmicky stuff. The "You can draw MIckey!" crap. Same goes for books that'll teach you how to draw just horses or what have you. Just like you wouldn't learn guitar by buying a book teaching you how to play Stairway to Heaven, you should avoid subject-specific drawing books.
I taught art as a TA for about 3 years and took lots of classes on the methods of art education. This book came up more than a few times.
Although it should be noted, some of her claims on what side of the brain controls what have been disputed. Though that matters little to you as a budding art student. The methods are still very sound and are the fundamentals of learning how to draw.
If you have access to art classes, I would recomend starting with the basics. Take classes where you draw still lifes (fruit, wagon wheels, blocks and cubes, that sort of stuff). Then, if you feel comfortable enough, take some "life drawing" classes. These are the awkward ones where you draw people in the buff. Don't worry, after the first ten minutes of weird awkwardness, it's all professional.
After that, maybe take some basic painting classes. Get familiar with color.
Also, drawing is a wonderful way of recording memories, if that's your final intent. I remember things much more clearly if I try and draw it. As you'll find out, drawing involves a much more intense method of observing.
Best of Luck. Take your time, keep a sketch book and don't get discouraged!
05-30-2003, 10:30 AM
Anyone can learn to draw. ARTISTS, on the other hand, are born. There is an inborn ability in artists to capture more than just what meets the eye. Therein lies the difference.
05-30-2003, 11:02 AM
Let me add my voice to those stressing the importance of practice. Even when you were a kid, the kids you knew who seemed to have "natural" drawing ability had years of practice already. I've been drawing since I was fourteen months old. They weren't what you'd call stunning works of art, but like some kids I loved drawing and just kept doing it. You can discover a lot of good drawing techniques through practice, experimentation, and trial-and-error.
Of course, if you're not willing to spend years puttering around with pencils it does help to read a drawing book or get some kind of instruction so you don't have to learn everything through trial-and-error. But even then, don't forget to practice. Try not to let a day go by without drawing something.
05-30-2003, 12:24 PM
Argh, y'all beat me to it, but I still need to chime in:
My high school art teacher based his entire cirriculum on the Betty Edwards book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I adore that book. I didn't "get it" for the longest time (I studied under this teacher from 6th to 12th grades, but what he was getting at didn't "click" until high school) but when I did, I felt transformed. It's awesome :)
Gumbercules is right, too, about How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way.
IMO, these two books definitely belong in the library of anyone who wants to learn how to draw.
05-30-2003, 02:51 PM
One of the main points in Edwards' book is learning how to see. People tend to look at an object and do an immediate mental translation to a generic type. For example, if you look at a pen you think "pen", but you don't pay much attention to what color it is, whether it's shiny or dull, what shape the cap is, etc. If later you try to draw a pen, you draw whatever you think a pen looks like, rather than what the specific pen you had actually looks like. Even if you have the pen in front of you, your conception of what the pen looks like tends to override what your eye actually perceives. The book is full of excercises designed to get around this problem.
05-30-2003, 03:04 PM
The only difference between a person with a talent to draw and those with no talent is that the ones with talent kept on trying.
The real question is does the "no talent" person want to draw? Even Rembrant started with ass ugly stick figure in the beginning. He just practiced until he thought he was good enuf.
People with no talent look at thier work and give up. People with talent look at the same work and finds ways to improve.
II Gyan II
05-30-2003, 03:37 PM
Check out this (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0520026136/qid=1054327301/sr=2-2/ref=sr_2_2/104-7259752-6339954) book as well.
05-30-2003, 03:55 PM
It's sounds remarkably like the answer to my question is the same as to, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" :D
Which is actually encouraging, because I'm a very persistent sort when I set my mind on something -- if all it takes to improve is spending time at it, then improve I shall.
Also thanks for the recommendations on books -- I'll pick them up and start in.
05-30-2003, 05:26 PM
Here's yet another vote for Betty Edwards and Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain. I took an adult education class some years back which used this text. I was one of those kids who drew better than most of the class when I was in grade school, but I had done little or nothing since. (I am in my forties). I found that there was a pronounced improvement in my work after taking the course, which was short and very informal, and I had a lot more confidence besides.
I had been suspicious of Edwards' book to start with as the right brain/left brain business seemed like a loose generality developed into a gimmick. Edwards herself admits that the right-left distinction is something of a generality however.
She uses the right-left distinction as a metaphor for different habits of thought which can be employed while drawing. Central to her book is the observation that people who are awkward and uncomfortable with drawing tend to identify objects, and then draw symbols for those objects, while an accomplished artist concentrates on observing and mimicking specific lines and contours. For instance a child--or an adult who still draws childishly--will draw an oval or a circle with a dot in it for an eye, while a portrait artist will try to draw the contour of the upper eye lid, the position of the iris, etc.
It is highly questionable whether one can become an accomplished artist solely by taking the right instruction; there is probably ultimately no way of proving whether there is such an innate thing as talent or not. Techniques such as the ones Edwards teaches, however, can be extremely useful in teaching a person to copy what they observe accurately however.
It is interesting in this context that Maxfield Parrish, one of the most successful oil painters of the 20th Century, and a man who could render scenes with breathtaking realism, said that he felt he could not actually draw well; he is said to have only been able to come up with a crude and clumsy scribble when asked to draw something spontaneously. He could, however, copy from life or a photo with photograph-like precision after dividing a canvas or a sheet of paper into small squares, a technique Edwards teaches.
05-30-2003, 05:54 PM
Practice, practice, practice. I can't stress practice enough. I represented my High School as their sterling scholar art student (I'm not sure how many states have the sterling scholar program but it is statewide where I live). I still have drawings that I did when I was 4 years old. Trust me when I say that they look like the drawings your typical 4 year old would make. If you look at the progression of my art over the years you can easily see a divergence in the work from the average of a person my age (i.e. at 6 I was a bit better than most other 6 year olds, at 10 I was a fair bit better than most other 10 year olds, at 12 I was quite a bit better than other 12 year olds, etc.). What's the key? Practice.
05-31-2003, 02:37 PM
In your original post, you said that you would love to sit and "sketch" etc.... The split brain theory will not allow you to do that.
People who can do that- are already doing it ( un-able to NOT do it !).
ASin driven to do it!!! usually from early years.
AND as others have said-- they do it A LOT!
I taught The Split Brain Theory (and also added tecnique to give a photo-realistic look) for several years as a private teacher with classes as big as 6 at the most.
ANYONE--- willing to put 3 hrs of drawing homework in per week- would end a 6 week (1 1/2 hr. classes) set of classes doing portraits .
I was able to teach anyone who could read (my youngest 10, oldest 70 ) to draw realisticly. THAT--- is very different than "being creative and being able to draw from memory"
PS..... My BEST students were married mothers with jobs-- do you know why ?
05-31-2003, 10:55 PM
Someone mentioned Burne Hogarth's books....I definitely recommend those by him to everybody especially Dynamic Figure Drawing...that book has made me improve my forshortening of the figure much better and more impressive. I'm an artist and currently an art student studying illustration and animation...the key is not really talent, but practice and persistence. Take criticism constructively and not personally and never, and I mean NEVER, listen to what non-artists say about your work...they don't know crap. lol. "ooo such good shading"....but my figure looks like it was in a train wreck!! lol. non-artists are impressed by the "tricks" of drawing, whereas artists are much more impressed with the fundamentals of observation. Remember that. Key to being an artist= observation of how things really look. that is one of the hardest concepts to grasp in art and it took me several years of art school to fully grasp it. So don't get too uptight if you don't see results quickly (i'm not necessarily a big fan of edwards for that reason...the initial improvement is just that..initial, your goal should be to always improve). As for people who seem born with an innate ability to draw...well, that is probably more an innate ability to observe. Lastly, have fun with it....that's what art is all about: expressing the things you want to express......
05-31-2003, 11:43 PM
You already know how to draw--you just need practice, like everyone else has already said. My suggestions: carry a sketchbook all the time and draw whenever you get a chance. Find a photo in a magazine and sketch it. Anything, as long as you're trying new things and having fun with it.
Classes are a great idea, and unless they have prerequisites, don't worry about not having enough experience to take them. You could also check with galleries or with the artists' guild (or other group) in your area; they will sometimes offer classes in a particular technique and give you a chance to work a little more creatively.
Also, don't worry too much about how close the final product is to your original vision. I've done very few paintings or drawings that have looked like my initial sketches. They tend to evolve as you work on them, which is part of the fun.
06-01-2003, 12:37 AM
Real-Life High School Theater!
Me: Mr Art Teacher, could you give me an idea of what I'm doing wrong?
Teacher: Well, Mike, some people have talent and some people don't.
Gee, I wonder how many of those "talented" people have been supporting themselves with their drawing? So, yes, people with no talent can learn to draw.
06-01-2003, 02:37 AM
Another vote for Betty Edwards. My goodness, she's wonderful.
And, I was really impressed with Keys to Drawing (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0891343377/ref%3Dnosim/portraitartis-20/). It covers similar things to the Edwards book, but in a different way. If you could only get one book, I guess you'd best stick with Edwards, but really, the Keys to Drawing is just wonderful—in a different way.
Also, as others here have emphasized, practice, practice, practice. I loved drawing as a kid, and so I practiced. I saw other kids my age, equally "talented", but they didn't practice. Guess who ended up having more drawing skill after a while?
The only difference between a person with a talent to draw and those with no talent is that the ones with talent kept on trying.This is SO true. Believe it. I've seen it, I've lived it. "Talent", while a nifty thing and not to be dismissed, is not the real determining factor here. Not giving up is the main thing.
Another vote for Burne Hogarth, but possibly for later on, after you have been drawing for a while. I love Hogarth—he was one of my teachers at art school! :) (No, really, he was! For two semesters.)
06-01-2003, 03:17 AM
Now i'm jealous. lol. punk. :D
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