Drawing Made Simple: Overcoming the fear of drawing
I want to reassure you that all creatives get stuck from time to time, it’s actually all part of the process.
Another thing is there is no one right way to draw! There are multiple options when it comes to putting imagery onto paper, whether it’s with pen and ink, pencils, or collage, printmaking, stencils or mark making tools and there are also multiple styles, realistic, abstract, detailed, naïve. This is the joy of creativity but also the frustrating bit at times. If you can accept that there will be moments when you know exactly what you are doing and loving every minute and moments where you get lost and fed up and want to throw it all in the bin, then you’re already on your way to understanding how to get out of those dips where nothing seems to be working.
Why we lack confidence in drawing
There are lots of reasons we can lack confidence or lose confidence in our drawing. Often we are too busy looking at what everyone else is doing. Or get overwhelmed from scrolling through Pinterest and social media. We can sometimes do too much research (another way of putting off getting started) and compare what we are trying to achieve with others doing similar things. Perhaps it is the fear of failure and making mistakes in your drawings, not knowing where to start or what to draw.
The fear of the white page and the pressure to create perfect drawings
You need to be sure to leave the perfectionist at the door when you start drawing. Initially we are just learning, no judging at first, that can come later. I always say to my students imagine you are a 6 year old, if they don’t like a drawing they just do another one! A lot of our confidence in our ability to draw decreases as we get older, pressure to create a more sophisticated style of drawing, or thinking it’s something you can only have a talent for, rather than learn skills in. Or perhaps like me you just didn’t have a very enthusiastic art teacher at school and it put you off. I believe that developing confidence in drawing is achievable for anyone, even those who think they can’t draw or lack confidence in their abilities.
Common misconceptions about drawing – perhaps you think there is only one way to draw, or that for a drawing to be good it needs to be a realistic interpretation of what you were looking like, more like a photograph. Maybe you look at all your drawings when you begin and think they are all terrible, surely if you could draw they would be good from the start. Do any of these sound familiar? I will let you into a secret – many of my initial drawings when I first start out are not great – but I know this is part of the process. We must allow our arm, hand, eyes and brain time to warm up. We really need to work through this stage, but often people give up too soon.
Embracing imperfection and letting go of self-judgment
Let’s face it, we’ve all done it, jumped into picking up our brushes and pens and expected the first thing we do to be a great piece of work – we lose heart and give up. So one way to get over this is to do some warm up exercises first. Do some simple drawing exercises such as continuous line drawing, or wash some colours over your papers so they are not white, or perhaps some simple mark making – anything that warms up your hand. Or you might literally warm up your whole body and go for a walk first, or do 5 mins of disco dancing. When our bodies are tight and we are holding onto tension about starting something new, the results are also often tight too and the results are not what we were hoping for. So do the warm up first – my preference is the disco dancing but do whatever gets you started.
Having some simple drawing exercises to build on and get you started is a great way to get over the self judgement stage and its one of the reasons I developed my online course “Start to Draw.” – it’s a set of 4 easy accessible drawing techniques that you can use again and again and in fact they are the ones I use to help me warm up whenever I start to draw. These four easy drawing techniques serve as a reliable toolkit, always ready to guide you whenever you need inspiration or a starting point. It’s not your usual traditional drawing techniques, so don’t expect lessons on perspective or shading, this is a fun and effective way to get you over the fear of the white page and put some imagery onto paper.
Experimentation and exploration of different drawing techniques
If we take the pressure off ourselves to create something amazing, this can sometimes be all you need to unstick yourself, and a good way to do this is to approach your work in a more playful way. Experiment, try something different, get off your computer, make for the sake of making without worrying about what the end result will be. Often the process of playing allows new ideas to develop without trying, and through the act of play you are actually doing the work of being creative. Ask “what if” a lot, what if I try working in a different colour? what if I draw this without looking at the page? what if I draw much smaller or bigger?
Practice and Perseverance
When something is difficult we tend to avoid it or give up. I see this a lot when I am teaching students who say they can’t draw or don’t enjoy it. They avoid the drawing or spend less time on it – but the reality is the only way to get better and build your confidence is to do more of it. The creative process takes regular work and just thinking about what you want to create doesn’t make it happen, you have to work at it and eventually exciting things will start appearing. So block out 5, 10, 20 mins whatever time you have each day to practice. By the end of the week you will have done more than if you had done nothing – even 5 mins a day is over 30 mins of practice in a week.
How to overcome setbacks in your drawing journey
At times we can be too quick to judge our work before we have really explored a process, a medium or a theme. Try not to think about the final outcome and just get something down on paper, cloth, clay, – whatever medium you work in. You are still in the warming up phase, so its too soon to critique the work, it might take 10, 20 or 30 drawings of the same thing before you find the best one.
Often I hear people say they don’t have a space to draw, but just setting up a small area that is just for you, is a great way to make your drawing accessible, make it tempting so that you want to go and draw.
Resources and tools for further learning and inspiration
Not all creative inspiration has to come from visual imagery. Read something about the artist you have discovered, what was their inspiration? Make notes, dig deeper, read more books and make more notes – be super curious. Writing things down also frees up your head to think about other things. If something is not working, make notes about it, why is it not working? are there elements that are good? Try to focus on the positives – how can you take the successful bits forward?
Some of my favourite books that have helped me on my creative journey include:
- The Creative Habit, Learn It and Use it for Life – Twyla Tharp
- Creative Strength Training – Jane Dunnewold
- Trust the Process – An Artists Guide to Letting Go – Shaun McNiff
- Drawing Projects – An Exploration of the Language of Drawing – Mick Maslen and Jack Southern
As you can see there are many reason why we don’t draw or we get scared to start or think we can’t draw, but as I said previously I believe everyone can develop confidence in their drawing, through developing a few basic skills so that you always know how to start. And beginning really is the key, it might not be what you thought your drawing would be like and it may take time to develop your skill in a particular media, but with practice you can develop those skills.
If you’d like to explore your artistic potential and have a set of tools to help you develop your drawing skills, then why not take a look at my Start to Draw – Online Course – it offers a range of processes designed to help individuals who lack confidence in their drawing abilities or are unsure of where to begin – you can find it here.
If you want to read more on Creative Drawing Techniques then I have another blog about it here
If you’ve enjoyed this blog post and you’d like some creative company then I would love you to come and join my free Happy Creative Group on Facebook – find it here. My facebook group will help you continue on your creative journey and give you support from like minded people. I am in there all with some practical advice. It’s free to join, so I hope to see you there soon.
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