Learning to draw (finally)

Drawing is one of those things I always wished that I could do well, but thought I just didn’t have the talent. So I never really worked on it. I just drew things for fun when the mood would strike. Because I didn’t think I had the talent to get really good, it never felt like it was worth putting in real effort to get better.

But recently I got to wondering…how much could my drawing improve if I really worked on it? How good could I get if I systematically practiced, even the boring stuff? As a kid I never did any so-called deliberate practice. My drawing “practice” consisted of drawing whatever I felt like every now and then. This meant mostly copying photos or other people’s art. I drew a lot of horses, a lot of cats, a lot of eyes floating in space. But systematically and consistently working on fundamentals and “boring” exercises designed to actually teach me useful skills? Never.

Now at age 55 I find myself regretting that I didn’t put more time and effort into learning to draw when I was a kid.

But is it too late? Am I too old to develop any kind of drawing skill? Can consistent hard work trump my demonstrable lack of innate talent?

This is a great basis for an informal experiment.

My plan is to draw consistently — ideally every day — for a year. When the year is up we’ll see how much I’ve actually improved. I’ll be doing my best to apply the principles of deliberate practice. So rather than just doing ad-hoc drawing with no plan or purpose, I’ll be following a systematic program learn fundamental drawing skills. Deliberate practice is by definition extremely difficult. So the trick will be to resist the temptation to stop or to switch to another program if things feel difficult.

During this year-long experiment, I will do my best to practice for at least 30 minutes every single day. The program I am starting with is from drawabox.com. This is an amazingly comprehensive website with a step-by-step drawing program that you can study on your own. The goal is to give you solid fundamental skills in the mechanics of drawing and visualizing objects in 3D space. These skills help you translate what you see in the 3D world of real life (or your imagination) to the 2D world of pen and paper. And did I mention that the course is free? (I am really awful at visualizing things in 3D space, so this will be very good for me.) 

As the year progresses, I will be evaluating my progress each week, and reflecting on what I’m learning. With this first post, I am merely stating my intention publicly (for the two people who might actually read this) for some kind of accountability. 

Hey ho, let’s go!