Banish Perfectionism

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A dded to the series of "Problem ./"V Solvers" just presented, here's one more: Problem: Being too critical, expecting perfection. Solution: Every time you worry about whether you have talent, whether you're "good enough," banish those thoughts and just keep drawing!

"I decided to just let go and surrender to what came out. I found that when I did let go and just draw, I became so absorbed in the work that I wasn't thinking about anything else. It was like a meditative state. I had found a place where I could shut out all other things and just be. It was a peaceful feeling."

-student anita st. marie

Fear that you don't have talent is often based on a belief that a piece of art needs to be perfect, that you need to be perfect. None of us can achieve perfection. In fact, when what you consider imperfect comes through in your drawing, that may be just the part that has your personal stamp and makes it unique to you. That is often where the art is.

Just concentrate when you work, learn from what you do, but don't treat any one drawing as though it's the culmination of everything you hope to do. It's just one drawing; many more empty pages are waiting to give you many more drawing experiences.

"I let go of having to get it perfect.

This was just for me, because I enjoyed doing it. I released myself from proving anything."

-student angela lowy

Beginning artists will have a moment when they finally understand that wonderful art is not perfect technique or a perfect replication of subject matter. Cameras can do that. It's the individual's take on what is seen, that personal filter through which reality is perceived, that makes drawings or any art form authentically beautiful, or potentially so. That truth has been recognized throughout the history of art. Perfectionism hobbles our energies. We are afraid of being seen for who we are, afraid of being vulnerable. But making art requires the courage to permit yourself to be yourself.

In my teaching experience, it's never been the student with the greatest initial drawing ease that develops the most. A combination of intense interest and a flexible learning attitude seems to ensure the most positive development. The ability to learn from the drawing experience, and to shrug off a disappointing result, is a definite accelerator.

"A strong perfectionist bent had prevented me from trying anything I might not be good at. I learned to risk failure, because there was such pleasure in producing small drawings."

-student ann porfilio show and tell-or don't

Beginners in my classes thrive on the "show and tell" period, a structured evaluation of homework drawing that's part of every session. However, when working on your own with this book, you may choose not to share your drawings with others. Some like to show their work to everyone immediately, while others prefer to keep it private. Do what feels best for you. And be aware that people who have not been exposed to the art world or art instruction may feel awkward in discussing your work—so you may have to do some teaching before sharing your drawings with them!

exercise: close at hand

Here's a variation on our earlier draw-your-hand exercise. It's a fun way to get to exercise your pencil, observe proportions within your hand, and learn a bit about skin tone. Use your 2B or 2H pencil, depending on which matches your skin value more closely: 2B, the softer pencil, will make darker tones; 2H, the harder pencil, lighter tones. After you've completed this exercise, try sketching your hand in a variety of positions.

1 Trace your nondrawing hand, palm down, fingers together or spread. Draw the folds in your knuckles.

2 Put in shadow shapes if they are present, squinting to see them.

3 Use contour drawing to fill in specific nail shapes.

4 Fill in an overall skin value and use your finger to smooth out the surface. Use your directional lines to map out rows of knuckles in a slight semicircle.

Lines Skin Surface Hand

"When I did my hand, I searched for light and dark lines, thin and thick lines, and went back again and again until I got it right—for me. When I got to drawing the tendons in my hand, I found that dragging the eraser gave it new dimension. I was immersed in the patterns of lines that became my knuckles, and the half moons that were created by my cuticles. I must have spent at least six hours 'fixing' my hand, but I loved every minute!"

—student kristen nimr

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Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Learn to sketch by working through these quick, simple lessons. This Learn to Sketch course will help you learn to draw what you see and develop your skills.

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