the things we tell ourselves
I’ve always said I don’t know how to draw.
I’ve always said I have no spatial intelligence.
I’ve always said I have terrible handwriting.
Whether or not these things were true from the beginning, they certainly became true over time.
But I’ve come to believe that certain things I’ve always said I was bad at maybe actually represent gaps in my learning rather than gaps in my ability. When I look back at my childhood and my education, I can see those gaps so much more clearly than I did as a kid.
A lot of those gaps have to do with how often I, as an Army brat, moved when I was a kid. In changing schools and school systems so frequently, I missed some foundational pieces of learning along the way. Whether or not any of that had to do with drawing, I have no idea – when you’re missing foundational knowledge, you don’t necessarily know what you’re missing! But the fact that I know for sure I missed key pieces of basic learning in, for example, science, leads me to wonder what else I might’ve missed in other areas.
Skills are developed by learning the foundations and then putting them into practice, yet it still surprises me when I can develop a new skill simply by being taught the building blocks of that skill and then practicing them over and over. But here I am, learning to draw!
In his book, You Can Draw in 30 Days: The Fun, Easy Way to Learn to Draw in One Month or Less, Mark Kistler argues that there are three principles to keep in mind. He calls them the “ABCs of Successful Drawing.”
- Attitude: Nourishing your “I can do this” positive attitude is a crucial part of learning any new skill.
- Bonus details: Add your own unique ideas and observations to your drawing to make it truly your own expression.
- Constant practice: Repeated daily application of any new learned skill is absolutely necessary for successful mastery of the skill.
Kistler breaks things down to the foundational principles of drawing, and then he walks you, step-by-step, through the four basic building blocks of three-dimensional drawing: the sphere, the cube, the cylinder, and the cone. And then he shows you how these are the building blocks for other, more complex drawing, by having you draw more complex things. And then he has you practice and practice and practice.
On Saturday, I worked on cubes. On Sunday, I learned how to turn those cubes into stacking tables. Kistler creates a foreshortened, 3D compass that he calls his “Drawing Direction Reference Cube,” and then shows the reader how to see northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast in a foreshortened, 3D way. Seeing this (either on the page or mentally) helps you position your lines properly. And then you use lines you’ve already drawn as a reference for additional lines you will draw.
I’m not explaining that very well, but it was an a-ha moment for me. For some reason, using reference lines has helped me realize how I can guide my own drawing rather than thinking I have to somehow pull perfect lines and angles out of space (which I’ve always been incapable of doing). In addition to reference lines, he also has you draw guide dots which are very important and super helpful, too.
At the end of the stacking tables lesson, he has you do a timed exercise, where you try to draw the stacked tables in 2 minutes or less. You keep practicing until you can do it that fast. This is to get it into your hand.
He writes, "The purpose of having you draw this image in a specific amount of time is to train your hand to confidently draw these foreshortened shapes and overlapping corners and, most importantly, to embed the drawing compass angles into your hand memory.... The more you practice this single table with a pedestal, the more comfortable and confident your lines will begin all of the upcoming lessons and all of the drawing you will ever create in the future."
I didn’t necessarily get better as I got faster. But I did get the feel of things more imprinted into my eyes, my brain, and my hand. and then, this morning, when I turned to Lesson 7: Advanced-Level Cubes, I could already tell a difference in how how things felt. Drawing this little picture felt “natural.” But it was only “natural” because I had spent focused time learning and practicing.
And then I learned to draw a koala!
Which felt pretty good for my 6th day of drawing.
I am learning to draw! I’m enjoying it! And I’m getting a little bit better at it each day.
I know how to draw, y’all! (I’ll still have to work on the handwriting.)
the things we tell ourselves
what things are you telling yourself
and how do you know it's true?