I've often heard people say they can't draw. They talk as though the ability is a 'gift' you either have or you don't. I don't believe it's true.

Recently I've read and enjoyed 'Your Artist's Brain' by artist and author Carl Purcell. 

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve their drawing skills or develop better compositions for their paintings.

The author shows how to 'draw and paint what you see - not what you think you see.' Purcell's teaching is clear, easy to understand and well illustrated with his own drawings and watercolours. There is a wealth of useful tips for developing artists.

He hits the nail on the head when he says all (sighted people) already have and use everyday the four abilities needed for good drawing. 'These are not abilities possessed by only a few "gifted" people - everybody uses them all the time.'

They are:

1. The ability to see angles. For example, if you can you tell a painting is not hung level, you can see angles.

2. The ability to see relationships of size, What is bigger and what is smaller?

3. The ability to see positional relationships. If you understand when I  say something is at eye level, or when I describe an object as being to the left, to the right, above or below another, then you have this ability.

4. The ability to see relationships of tonal value. (relative darkness and lightness).

Anyone with sight who can hold a pencil and see these different relationships can draw. True, some may draw better than others, but we can all improve our drawing with practice, by focusing on drawing the shapes and not the subject and by paying careful attention to these four relationships. 

The gift is in being able to see these relationships. The ability to draw, that's in the practice.

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Comment by Dorian Aronson on August 19, 2012 at 19:56

Hello Richard

You have hit the nail on the head.  The reason I can't draw is that I have never tried!  Thank you..........dor:))

Comment by Riya on May 15, 2012 at 8:08

Hello Richard,

I just bought last week the Dutch edition from "Your Artist Brain", and you are right. I can recommend it too. You just have to learn to look different to objects, and that ability will only take as little as three weeks. I love drawing but my lack of self-confidence makes me very unsure. I'm sure this book will help me to get more confidence and make beter drawings and paintings.


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