Learning to draw is probably my biggest
secret frustration. I had a really terrible experience with art back in school. I was horrible at art, and that’s not an exaggeration. What was supposed to be a fun subject was torture for me. I only enjoyed the first few sessions when they would hand out materials—-my favorites were the Pilot sign pens and the fresh box of crayons—but the rest of the sessions were abhorrent. It came to a point when I would find myself ineligible to receive quarterly honors because I had one grade below 85: Art.
The one time I was able to churn out a passable art project was in the third grade. I was so proud of it. It was also the day my mom decided to punish me—she caught me reading Nancy Drew on a school day—by not sending me to school. So, no one saw my art project and I ended up receiving a failing grade for that project because I didn’t pass it on time. I know. Sucked monkey balls.
By the time I reached sixth grade, I knew how to hustle already. I started trading art projects for English papers. Some gifted classmate of mine would do my cross-hatch plant sketch for me and in exchange, I would do his book report or whatever essay we were required to turn in.
Still, drawing always fascinated me. I would pester my classmates who were so good at doodling to teach me. By the time I reached high school, I only knew how to doodle a pig (my classmate taught me the drawing pig song). I would obsess over my classmates’ art projects, and I’d ask them if I could keep the really nice ones. I would even ask for the scraps of paper where they would carelessly doodle a cute dog or bear, it was that unattainable for me.
We didn’t have art in high school, but we did have drafting, another motherfucker of a class. My teacher would actually spend time with me after school trying to teach me two-point perspective, to no avail (I also failed to make the honor roll that quarter because of drafting).
I finally made my peace with it. Drawing and I, we were like Leo and Scorpio—wholly incompatible.
Still, I would find myself buying the occasional graphite pencil or sketchbook, but the sketchbook would end up becoming a journal because I could not, for the life of me, draw anything recognizable.
The best part of art: the tools.
That was until I took my first watercolor workshop. If we’re not Instagram friends (I post photos of workshops I’ve taken ad nauseam there!), I took
a workshop workshops with Life After Breakfast's Alessa Lanot. I enjoyed it very much and learned so much from it (she's awesome, you have to take a workshop with her), but I knew there was still something missing in my skill set—-I still didn't know how to draw, so I couldn't paint properly. I knew how to color (I'm a makeup artist, for pete's sake) but I still couldn't draw.
I figured that if I could learn how to watercolor, then maybe there was still hope for me drawing-wise. I bought this book by Mark Kistler (You Can Draw in 30 Days) and he said something that really stuck and changed my views on drawing.
Basically, Kistler says that drawing is a learned skill, just like learning the alphabet. If we learned how to communicate by writing the alphabet and forming letters into words and words into intelligible phrases, then we can learn the language of visual communication, for what is drawing if not another language?
In retrospect, I think my art teachers weren’t really teachers. All they did was plunk down a bowl of fruit/potted plant in front of us and demanded we draw it as realistically as we could. They never explained the theories that went into it, like dimensions and light and shadow play. It was sink or swim, and my blank sketchbook was an albatross around my neck. To be fair though, it must’ve been hard to teach art to forty-five kids who are on different skill levels. I also realize now that there are two kinds of skilled people—those who can teach it to others and those who just possess the skill, but can’t explain the why’s and how’s.
I’m happy to report that it is possible to learn how to draw. I can now draw a dog without it looking like a penis with a nose (if it does, it’s probably intentional now). I’m starting to learn the language of drawing. It’s a slow process. I know some words, but not enough yet to string complex phrases. Someday soon, I hope to become fluent in it.
Drawing is just another language that anyone can learn.