Who Says I Can’t Draw?

I’ve never been good at drawing. My mom is, and my little sister is, but me–no. My people look like deranged cartoon characters, and I have no sense of scale or depth perception. It’s pretty ridiculous. Ever since I’ve gotten back into embroidery, I’ve really wanted to design my own patterns, and I have tons of great ideas, but my hands refuse to draw any of them in a way that even comes close to what I picture in my head.

I had always assumed that drawing is something a person just either can or can’t do–that it isn’t a skill you can learn if you aren’t good at it, that people are just naturally able to draw or not able to draw. This is actually a pretty stupid assumption, when you think about it. Is there really any skill that a neurotypical, fully abled human being just CAN’T learn to do? Like, I would never say, “Oh, I just can’t ride a bike. I’ve tried, and I just can’t do it.” Or, “I can’t learn to swim. I was just born with an inability to swim.” So what makes me think I can’t learn to draw? When I really interrogated myself (okay, truth: when Pritts interrogated me) on the subject, I decided, “Hunh. Who says I can’t draw? I’VE GOT THIS.” For whatever reason (Gemini), my self esteem swings wildly back and forth between completely worthless asshat and queen of the known world; there is no in-between setting.

So in my quest to learn to draw, I’ve borrowed this book:

drawing book

It’s very, very cool so far. The premise of the book is that one can learn to draw by learning to see as an artist sees, by shifting responsibility for the task of drawing from left brain to right brain. It’s pretty common knowledge that the left and right hemispheres of the brain function differently, and that the right hemisphere generally controls the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right. As it turns out, the science of the brain is not nearly that simple (who’d have thought? lol), but there IS scientific evidence to suggest that the left hemisphere of the brain works in a way that is more analytic, verbal, linear, and logical, while the right hemisphere works in a more relational, spatial, intuitive manner.

Edwards takes the science of brain function and uses it to teach readers to consciously make a shift from left brain thinking to right brain thinking while drawing. So in simple terms, rather than thinking to oneself while trying to draw a face, “This is the eyebrow. This is the nose. Now I’m drawing a mouth,” one should be thinking in terms of lines, shapes, dark and light, etc. The left brain wants to label and name things while the right brain is more likely to focus on the relationship of lines and shapes to one another.

None of this probably comes as much of a surprise to anyone trained in art. To me, it was a revelation.

Some of the book’s first exercises involve drawing preliminary drawings, so one can refer to them later in order to see progress. Here’s one of my “before” drawings:

drawing pritts

Don’t laugh.

No, I’m kidding, laugh it up. How could you not?

That’s my rendering of Pritts. He looks like a sexy Jesus.

Here’s another exercise I completed where I had to copy Picasso’s Portrait of Igor Stravinsky, but draw it upside down (while looking at the original upside down). The upside down-ness is supposed to help you make the shift from left to right brain cognizance.

first drawing exercise

I’m not saying I’m expecting to be the world’s greatest portrait artist by the time I finish the book, but…I’m expecting to be the world’s greatest portrait artist by the time I finish the book. 😉

You can find several version of the book via Amazon, if you’re interested:

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

They’ve got a newer edition than what I was able to borrow from my local library, and they’ve also got the text packaged with a workbook. Also, that’s an affiliate link, so if you click and buy, I get pennies. (Just so ya know.)

Patterns to Color

I rediscovered coloring a couple of years ago. I mean, it hadn’t gone anywhere, but I had sort of left it behind with childhood, foolishly believing it to be an activity for pre-schoolers and other littles. Oh, how I was wrong!

I was book browsing one day, as I am wont to do, when I found this revelatory nugget:

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(Amazon.com affiliate link)

My love of coloring was instantly revived. I bought the book and a brand spanking new pack of colored pencils, and I rekindled an old flame. (Figuratively speaking. I didn’t actually light anything on fire.)

Now when I get frustrated and restless, I like to color. I turn to this book particularly when I’m pissed off at whatever embroidery piece or other crafting piece I’m working on. Whenever I screw something up, realize I need to rip out stitches and start over, or accidentally measure once and cut…argh! #$*&^!–those are the times I get out my colored pencils and go into coloring zen mode. It’s quite peaceful and restorative.

The authors of the book preface it with this handy dandy “How to use this book” page, but really, let’s face it–there’s no wrong way to color (despite what I tried to tell my table-mate Robert in kindergarten. He pressed WAY too hard with the red. Seriously, lighten up, kid, or you’re going to break the crayon long before that apple is finished. Amiright?!).

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And the patterns are so cool that I really don’t see how anyone could make them look bad. Here’s my favorite page:

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Seriously, looks awesome no matter what you do to it!

There are also spreads where one pattern is repeated several times, so that you have a chance to play with color and see how different combinations change the look of the whole.

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It’s really a very cool book to have, and I recommend it for any age group. Admittedly, I try to keep Eliot away from my copy, because I’m stingy like that. I let him color in it with me sometimes, but not on my favorite pages. After all, this is my sanity we’re talking about, people! Although, if you look carefully at the picture of the book’s cover, you’ll see that he has scrawled on it a bit.

Like I said, I use Patterns to Color when I need to clear my head, when I feel the creative urge, but am too frustrated or aimless to tackle stitching; however, it would also make a great playground for quilters, stitchers, or other creative types to experiment with color and design.

(Also, full disclosure–the Amazon link in this post is an affiliate link, so if you click on it and end up ordering anything, I get pennies. Ready, set, GO!) 😉

I also discovered zentangle last year as well, and there are myriad books about that, also worth checking out. I bought one at the quilt show in Paducah, KY this year, but so far have not been able to find it post-move. You’d think that might be motivation to get me doing more unpacking. *sigh*

Does anyone else have go-to activities when your larger projects go awry or just get boring? Do YOU color? Do you take a walk and shake it off? Do you curse the universe and then eat dangerously excessive amounts of chocolate? Oh wait, that last one is me…Seriously, though, what’s your calm creative retreat?