I have been reading parts of Mona Brookes’s admirable book “Drawing with Children,” which as its subtitle “A creative method for adult beginners, too” suggests, holds lots of good advice for drawing new-comers of whatever age. She treats the matter of confidence early since she has seen how significant a role confidence — or its lack — plays in deciding whether someone will draw or not.
She has a series of statements she offers her readers to contemplate, and the degree to which you agree or disagree with the statement provides an interesting measure of how confident you are. I get her point and second the motion, but I also see another side to these statements that deserves scruntity, for all the confidence questions are pretty complicated and they never entirely go away, and indeed it is essential that they not go away.
So let’s contemplate her statement number one: “The ability to draw is inherited.”
If you think the statement is true, you are not likely to feel very confident unless you believe that you inherited the skill. The question can be rephrased differently: what evidence suggests that you did or did not inherit a drawing ability? Does the person who has inherited drawing aptitude just instantly begin drawing things? Or is aptitude more subtle?
I could not draw reliably well in those days when I first attempted it. I might have answered the inheritance question “yes” on one day and “no” another. Or even hourly, I could have said resolutely “yes” when my first drawing came out remarkably well and then “no” when the second drawing was a total flop.
There is almost certainly a hereditary element in any skill. It’s obvious that some persons are naturally better at a thing than their neighbors even from their earliest days. But talents can unfold in such complex ways, that personally I’m inclined to say that strong desire is probably always a sign of talent. You may not know how to do a thing, but if your heart longs for it reliably, day after day, the odds are good that you have an innate ability. The question then becomes are you willing to do the work? Are you willing to work hard enough to make that ability-in-potential something tangible and real?
I learned to draw in a manner radically different from what Mona Brookes outlines for her beginners. And while I don’t dispute the efficacy of her method, I see it having some problems if one adheres to its philosophy much beyond the beginner stage. Part of not-knowing how to do something is the impetus to learning. And all methods that attempt to smooth over the discomfort of not-knowing have the affect of smoothing over invention.
If you cannot do something in art, count yourself very lucky because in the discomfort of trying to figure it out you will learn something that no step-by-step method ever glimpses.
[Top of the post: Drawing by my daughter when she was elementary school age.]