What I wish I had learned about drawing in school

When I was in elementary school, I learned I was bad at drawing. That turns out not to be true. Today, my drawing skill is not very high, but that's almost entirely about having so little practice at it over a very long time. Because I thought I was just bad at it.

Here's what I wish I had learned about drawing in school:

  1. Whether or not you can draw a great-looking horse at age 5 or 6 has nothing to do with whether or not you will be able to draw well.
  2. Drawing isn't about being the best in an art class. It's a valuable way of communicating, of helping to think things through, helping you see things, and (of course) artistic expression.
  3. It doesn't matter what you draw to start with.
  4. A lot of drawing is about learning to see, not about learning to move the pencil (or whatever you are drawing).
  5. Skill comes from practice. The kids who drew "better" than I did in school? Probably they had been drawing a lot more before. Good for them!
  6. Creativity comes with skill. Don't worry about being "creative" when you start to draw. Copying is fine. You can learn a lot from tracing.
  7. There are plenty of techniques and tricks to learn. Artists have learned (or reinvented) these. Drawing a sketch of a person becomes a heck of a lot easier if you know a few simple guidelines about proportions and relationships of the human body.
  8. You can draw from your imagination, but you don't have to start that way. Look at things in the world and learn to draw them. Use photographs. Getting started doesn't mean you have to start with what's in your head.
  9. Draw to communicate any time you can. A sketch is often tremendously effective, even when it seems like a scrawl with missing details. This is another form of practice.
  10. Try drawing to understand something you are learning, in any area. What things and relationships are involved? Diagram it!
  11. It's OK to erase and adjust.
  12. Don't worry about color to start.
  13. Slow down.
  14. Enjoy it.
  15. Treat drawings as drafts, and try redoing them to make them better.
  16. A "bad" first drawing can help you figure out how you want to do it. Without the bad one, you won't get to a good one.
  17. Keep your drawings to see how you are improving.

I finally figured out that I might not be bad at drawing, and I'm drawing more. Not enough, not with the practice I'd like, but more.