I had an interesting experience, giving my “Simply Draw it” urbansketching workshops for beginners this spring. I teach what I myself most need to learn, and learn much from the participants as well. I also learn a lot from the questions you ask me!
After giving these workshops, some participants who came back since my workshops in November and December, were discouraged by the fact that they didn’t make much progress. Some think “they have no talent” and wonder if it’s of any use to continue to try drawing. At the same time they admitted they hadn’t drawn since December… That’s 5 months without working on the drawing skills.
I can’t stress this enough: It’s not about talent. It’s about doing the work! Or like Ira Glass tells it better for storytelling, and it’s the same for drawing: “It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap (= that gap between what you want to make, and what you’re making), and your work will be as good as your ambitions.”
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Or like Cennino d’Andrea Cennini (Italian painter influenced by Giotto) says it so well in “Il libro dell’Arte” in the 14th century:
For the moment I have a Japanese violin player staying at my home. She’s participating in an international competition for young musicians in Brussels, the Queen Elisabeth Competition. One could say she’s very talented, because she has been selected for this famous competition and passed already the first 2 rounds and is now in the finals that will be happening in the week of the 20th May. But it’s very hard work. It’s not mainly about talent. The talent might be a “musical ear”? The rest is hard work: hard work studying not only the music on the violin, but also the life and points of view of the composers she’s playing, to make sure she’s interpreting the music correctly and reflecting the right feelings the composer wanted to show, and doing a lot of technical exercises on the violin. To master any skill a regular practice is necessary. She’s playing every day.
It’s the same for drawing.
The drawing process can be compared to music and storytelling. Practice is important. And staying focused when you practice. And don’t give up in the middle of the slog. The middle of the slog is mostly “ugly” and it takes patience. Patience and letting go of perfectionism. As an architect I used to feel desperate if my drawing didn’t immediately look great and correct (good perspective, right amount of windows and doors,…). Let it go and just continue.
To make creative work that you’re proud of takes time, a lot of time, for everybody. There’s no such thing as overnight success, even for accomplished artists. It’s muscles you have to train, drawing muscles, like the day you learned to write.
So next time you start a drawing and you want to stop midway because you don’t like it and it feels too uncomfortable: Don’t stop! CONTINUE DRAWING !
So I’m curious: how do you motivate yourself to continue drawing when it feels uncomfortable? Tell us in the comments below how you keep up the good work !
Watch the video of Ira Glass. It’s full of wisdom.
With much love,