The Observational Skills of Drawing

drawingDrawing is a skill many people will want to be good at, but few will ever really achieve. This is at least in part due to natural inclination. Most artists start out early and develop the parts of the brain related to drawing very early on and just keep pushing their skills forward. However, all children draw at some point, implying that the ability to observe the world and then depict what they see is something that every human being can in theory accomplish.

It is near impossible to become a professional artist if one is neglecting one’s skills since childhood, but for the truly dedicated, their drawing skills can absolutely be developed to a level they feel good about. There is even more hope for those who developed drawing skills early but stopped practicing in adulthood. These skills can absolutely be picked up from where you left off later in life.

Of course, the real key to drawing has nothing to do with the hands. While many artists, even professionals, may initially feel their hands shake and twitch too much, little short of full-blown medical problems can truly cause a permanent impact on drawing skills. Perceptive skills are far more important and take far longer to develop than the ability to manipulate the pencil. However, while most human beings can easily see the world in front of them, it takes skill to take what the eye sees and use it as directions for the hands. Fortunately this is a skill that can be developed to at least a small degree in everyone.

A Simple Demonstration

Try this simple exercise to demonstrate. This demonstration works best if one is in a calm, quiet place with minimal distractions, and if you can not find a quiet place to try this exercise in, it is best to find one, as it requires an intense focus, particularly for those who’s skills are rusty. To begin, draw an oddly shaped line. It can curve, it can zig zag all around, but as long as it is a line more complicated than the typical straight line, it will do. Observe that line for a short while and really focus on it. Try your best to memorize it well enough to see it even when you close your eyes.

Now, looking at the line, try to draw it again as exactly as possible. There is no shame at all in taking this ponderously slow. It is also perfectly acceptable to look between the first line and the new line you’re making just to make sure you’ve got it. For many beginners, this simple sounding task can take a while to do. In fact, rushing is ill advised for would be artists who have not practiced in a long time. Drawing at even a mediocre level has been known to take over a decade of near constant practice. You simply can’t expect the first step to be quick. Focus on the line as intently as possible and then draw the line again as accurately as you can manage. You may want to try this exercise multiple times until you can duplicate your original line too an accurate degree.

Did you notice what your brain was doing while you tried to copy that line? That is the most basic skill of drawing. Most observational drawing is little more than focusing on what your brain was doing when you copied that line. If you can copy a thoroughly twisted line, you can learn to draw at a level that will eventually surprise you. However, copying a distorted line only means you can learn to draw eventually. Actually drawing is, quite naturally, an even more complicated affair, even if what it boils down to is the same firing of synapses that occurred during that exercise. Learn how to harness what you brain was doing when copying that line and you can eventually get started.

The Next Step

Once you can pin down what your brain was doing when you were copying the line, you can take the next step. If you can’t pin down and replicated the process of copying the line, try it again until you can. When you’ve finally trained your brain to see a randomly drawn line and then copy it intentionally, you’re ready to go. It is impossible to explain in words; you simply have to practice the mental skill until you’ve got it down pat. If you do not feel confidant into your skills, try duplicating five different lines a day until you do.

As mentioned above, even drawing at a mediocre level can take a decade or more of daily practice. But, with frequent practice, intense determination and a great deal of patience, that simple skill of copying the line can and will blossom into a level of drawing skill you never expected of yourself.