Can Anyone Learn to Draw?

Anyone can learn to draw. The dog was drawn by one of my students who took great pleasure in creating this portrait of her cherished companion. Children under ten are usually contented with their beautiful, colourful symbol drawings and paintings (as we all are!) and are probably best left to pursue those in their own way. At this stage in their development, they are more aware of the shapes and colours and how they fit together, than whether their creations look real or not. They are more likely to benefit from art experiences – opportunities to explore different materials and activities that stimulate their inherent creativity.

This beautiful drawing was done by a child under ten years old. She has more interest in the shapes and colours and how they fit together in the format than whether it looks real.

Children over ten are beginning to develop the cognitive aspect of their brain and are generally no longer satisfied with their efforts. When you’re ten and older you want your drawings to look real. If your horse doesn’t look like a real horse, you may feel very frustrated and after several disappointing attempts may give up. At this stage it’s not uncommon for an adult to make an unwittingly negative comment, ‘you haven’t got that quite right,’ and the child may shut the door on drawing.

This experience can put you off. If someone showed you when you were ten how to draw a real horse, how to make it look ‘right’, you would have been able to! It would have taken time, like learning to play the piano but with encouragement and tuition, you would have got it. Anyone can learn how to draw with encouragement and someone showing you how to see and record what is really there. If you are able to see the real visual information (the contours and shapes and the relationships between them) then you can draw a real horse, a film character, a flower, a car, a bird or whatever you want. Here are some drawings done by a private student who came to me for three, hour long sessions. Her husband bought her the sessions as a mother’s day gift, ‘to get her away from me and the kids for a bit, give her something for herself.’ She hadn’t drawn since school days;

This is her pre instruction drawing of her left hand.
Leaf drawn front on in the second hour of instruction. She is beginning to see more of what is really present.
A leaf drawn in perspective i.e. turning away from the eye.
A Leuchadendron drawn in the third session after two hours of instruction. She has handled the visual complexity beautifully, moment by moment with her right hemisphere. I said to her, “I think your husband is going to be pretty chuffed;” and she said, “actually I’m pretty chuffed too.” So am I!

It’s all about learning how to see with the artist’s eyes of your right hemisphere. Your right hemisphere is primarily visual; its job is to process incoming visual data. It knows what a real horse looks like and can record its contours moment by moment. Sure there are strategies and techniques involved but anyone is able to learn them just as anyone is able to learn how to drive a car. Really it’s not some ‘god given’ ability that only talented people have.  There are people who seem to activate their right hemisphere naturally when they draw and these people have what we know as ‘talent’, but anyone can learn.

I’m passionate about teaching adult beginners how to draw and paint and with application, everyone of them is capable of achieving a high degree of competency. It’s very inspiring to watch people transform over time, from believing it will never happen when they first walk in the door or open an online course, to developing a high level of skill.