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Creativity for Beginners, Finale

Learning to Draw

Here is my last $.02 to contribute about creativity in general and learning to draw in particular.

After you get all of your materials together, the only thing left to do is to start drawing. Unfortunately, a lot of people are intimidated into thinking that they can't draw. I think this is pure nonsense. Everybody can draw. Sometimes, it's just a matter of picking the right style. You can draw a stick person, can't you? Stick people have their place on the creative spectrum, and drawing them is still considered drawing.

Whether you are a beginner or someone who wants to improve her/his technique, there are lots of resources available:

  1. Classes

    The most obvious way to learn to draw is to take a class. As someone who has taken a LOT of art classes in her life, I have to give this option a thumbs down. Unless you are an art major of some sort, or someone who wants to make a career out of drawing, I think that there are better ways to spend your money. Even if you take a continuing ed course at the local college, art classes tend to be expensive, and they usually require the purchase of an extensive list of supplies before the class. Some of these you will only use once in the entire run of the class. Almost all of the supplies that are currently collecting dust in my house are ones that I bought for an art class.

    The only exception that might be worth your while is a one-time, one- or two-day workshop where either you can bring supplies you already have or the supplies are provided at the workshop. These types of workshops are usually held by local guild members of a particular craft. For example, where I live, we have a Colored Pencil Society and a Calligraphy Guild that host workshops taught by famous artists in these fields. Check with your local museum or check the Yellow Pages to find out if there are any groups like this in your town. From my experience, workshops are taught in a more casual manner than classes and tend to be a lot more fun.
  2. Books

    I tend to learn best from good books with detailed instructions and lots of pictures. There are hundreds of good drawing books available. Most of them are dedicated to teaching you things about perspective, line, form, etc. A lot of them are actually meant to be textbooks. For this reason, I tend to avoid adult drawing books and go for the ones geared toward children. The instructions are easier to follow, and they actually show you how to draw specific things. This is particularly helpful to me because I sometimes have trouble when I am trying to draw things from my own imagination. Children's drawing books are also more fun because you can find books dedicated to drawing specific types of things like cars or monsters or fairies or sci fi characters.

    In addition, children's coloring books are good sources of "clip art" for me. Skip the Disney and Barbie ones (unless that is your thing) and go for the generic ones. There is usually a better variety of pictures in those.

    Two popular books geared towards helping you jump-start the creative process are The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. The Artist's Way actually has a large following, as there are virtual and real life Artist's Way groups springing up all over the place. I have thumbed through both of these books, but I have not been interested enough to actually read them. However, your experience with them might be completely different. It's worth a trip to the library to check them out and see if they speak to you.
  3. Videos

    A long time ago, I discovered a series of drawing videos at the library that I think are excellent. The series is called "Everyone Can Learn to Draw" (Parade Video, 1988). The videos feature someone called "Captain Bob" (I have no idea who he is supposed to be) and each one focuses on a particular art concept while simultaneously guiding you step by step into drawing some really great pictures. I was able to draw a full color picture of pheasant in flight - something I would have never attempted - by following along with the video the first and only time I watched it. Unfortunately, I think there are only 4 videos in the series. :o(
  4. Doing Your Own Thing

    If you have an open mind and some patience, you can bypass using other people's ideas and simply teach yourself to draw by using your own eyes. Look at the things around you and really pay attention to their shapes, colors, and textures. Whether you're drawing a leaf or a person or a Mustang, it's all a matter of starting with one shape and adding another - sketching a basic outline and then adding detail. When you're starting out, make a conscious decision not to draw details at all. Take about 10 minutes to look at your subject, and then allow yourself 5 more minutes to sketch its shapes onto paper. Keep your arm loose and don't let your hand leave the page. I have several pages of "people" who consist solely of circles and ovals that give a general idea of what they are doing. This is how you teach yourself shape, form, perspective - the whole nine yards. Put down the essence of the thing and then move on. Later, when you go back through your sketchbook, you should start to see some improvement in your ability to transfer what you see into what your hand puts on paper. When you are ready, start trying to draw things in more detail.

    I consider drawing (and writing, painting, cooking, and all other creative endeavors) to be a spiritual practice. Ultimately, all it takes to draw well is the ability to see deeply. Seeing deeply leads to living deeply, which is what life and spiritual practice are all about. Don't let yourself miss out on this because you don't know where to begin. Just start. "A thousand mile journey begins with one step".

    [Any book by Thich Naht Hahn will enhance your ability to live and see deeply (no matter what your religion) and thereby improve your drawing skills.]

    I'd love to hear any comments or other suggestions and resources.

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