A few weeks ago, I found out about Sketchbook Skool’s online drawing lessons taught by artists I know from my collection of art journaling books. I can spend hours gazing at the pictures in these books, loving how someone has captured a moment or place or person in their lives. I find myself longing to do the same, to get out one of my sketchbooks and draw the details of my life, but that’s where I freeze. The gap between what I see in my head and what winds up on the paper is often huge, and my past disappointments can weigh me down. Knowing that I can’t draw exactly what I see keeps me from picking up my pencil at all. Why bother when I know I will be disappointed with the results?
I found the answer in an article by Danny Gregory, one of the founders of the Sketchbook Skool. Learning to Teach Beginners is about the teaching philosophy of Sketchbook Skool. When I read it, I realized I had found an art teacher who understood what had been holding me back all these years.
I’ve been interested in drawing since I was a child, but most of my schooling is in science and math. As a teen, my younger sister drew well. I envied her skill. She could draw people she saw in her head and they looked like people. My people might look human, but rarely like what I imagined or saw. I gave up, frustrated by my lack of success, embarrassed by my mistakes.
I wish I could have read then what Danny Gregory has to say about learning to draw:
The most difficult and crucial lesson for beginners is the importance of failure. You need to make a lot of mistakes. You need to feel good about those mistakes and recognize that they are opportunities to improve. You can’t allow those errors to overwhelm you and make you feel hopeless. —Danny Gregory
He also mentions that failing doesn’t make us failures. It makes us students. I thought my drawing mistakes were a sign that I didn’t have the gift for art.
I’ve since realized that my sister doesn’t have a gift either. She has a hard-won skill. When we were young, she spent a lot of time drawing. She had a sketchbook in her lap and a pen in her hand whenever the family watched TV. She practiced, she made mistakes, she paid attention, she learned. She studied art in college, but she did the real learning, her work as a beginner, as a child. Her gift was to stick with it and keep trying.
Thanks to Gregory’s article, I found the courage to sign up for the Kourse called “Beginnings”. My first session is this Friday. I’m excited and I’m terrified. Whenever I feel the fear, I remind myself it’s an online class. I don’t have to show my work to anyone if I don’t really want to. But I have also decided that this class is my chance to make mistakes, to see what I can learn. I imagine the fear will stay with me for a while. I don’t like being wrong or looking stupid, but I’m also tired of standing outside the proverbial candy store with my nose pressed to the glass. All those people recording their life in drawings in their journals! I want to do that! And that want, for this moment at least, outweighs the fear.