Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Boy, I Wish I Could Draw Like You!"

          Sometimes, when I'm drawing in public, people come watch me and say, "I wish I could draw like you." Even though I know it is a compliment, it irritates me a little. You don't become good at art by wishing. You become good at art by making art, day in, day out for years. It is a skill that takes dedication and practice to hone, not some bit of magic or the benevolence of a djinn. I  personally don't even think its talent.

          "But, Carl! You have so much talent!" you readers may be saying out loud to your computer screens.I don't believe talent has anything to do with it, or at least I believe that talent isn't something you are born with- its something you cultivate. When you spend 12 hours straight doing nothing but drawing, you are cultivating that talent. When you draw, erase, draw, erase, draw, erase a line until its perfect or your burn a hole in the paper- you're cultivating that talent. When you dissect a drawing or painting that you love to understand how the artists who made it works and how he or she made that piece what it is, to the point of trying to copy it line for line or stroke for stroke- you're cultivating that talent. It takes hard work, dedication, deep thought and sacrifice to cultivate a talent.

         People believe, for some reason, that talent is something you are born with and you either have it or you don't. Calling an artist talented, while well meaning, is a bit like saying they are lucky. Its a bit like disregarding the thousands of hours they have dedicated to doing what they do. Before we go any further, I'd like you to ask yourself: "What things have I spent 3000 hours (or more) doing in my life?" Anything that you can think of that you can answer that question with is something you are probably pretty reasonably skilled at and you probably win a smidge of admiration from people who haven't spent the kind of time you have on it. That, my friend, is skill.  If nothing popped to mind, you are probably very good at watching television and sleeping.

     I guess all I'm really trying to say is that you should keep in mind that when you see an artist's work, you aren't just seeing a few hours of marks being made on a page or a canvas or a wall, augmented by some nebulous concept of talent or by a freak who won the genetic lottery for art skills. You are looking at the culmination of thousands upon thousands of hours of practice, self-education, dedication and sacrifice. So instead of wishing, get off of your ass and get drawing. How many sketchbooks have you filled up this year?

1 comment:

  1. I am good at math. Very good. And yes, I have put time and effort into learning more by furthering my education. However, there is no question that I have a natural advanced ability to understand complex mathmatical theory. I cannot draw, paint, craft, or anything else artistic. I have tried. So while I do agree that art or anything else worth doing takes practice and time, I also truly believe all humans are born with certain natural talents. Take music... i tried to play guitar for years. Took lessons, bought books and dvds. I still cannot play guitar. Oh yes, I understand chord progression and can mathmatically show you any chord... I cannot however play you a song. Take the compliment... embrace what you are amazing at!!! And you are amazing.