Drawing for Adults

When a new adult student comes along to my classes I encourage them to start with my back to basics drawing course. The aim of the course is to introduce everything you need to know to learn to draw in bite sized pieces. I have found that even if a student has had lessons elsewhere there is often something that has been missed and starting from scratch is great for revision. Looking at things from another tutor's perspective is really beneficial.

I feel drawing is an essential skill for making good visual art. Drawing is perceived in the black and white of you can, or you can’t, and the majorityof adults will say I can’t. Many students view drawing as akin to a trip to the dentist, they kind of must but it’s going to be unpleasant. When new adult students start classes, they will all say, “I can’t draw”. My reply is “You can, nobody has shown you how”. I’m quite sure they don’t believe me, but points to them for continuing with classes, and I’m usually right, they indeed can draw.

Drawing is the foundation of visual art. Check out this article from the V&A with great quotes form famous artist on how they see drawing http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/w/what-is-drawing/ 

Drawing is about finding out, it’s about discovery. It is a wonderful tool for recording, exploring and understanding the world around us. A good drawing asks question. One of the best pieces of advice I was given at art college by the lovely Mr. Hicks was that a good drawing is never finished. It is open ended.  A good drawing doesn’t have to be representational and it certainly doesn’t have to be photorealistic. Those type of drawings are not necessarily the best; they leave me cold. Photorealism is a technical skill; I admire those who can, but it doesn’t necessarily make the result the best or only way.  Yet students continue to think their drawings aren’t up to much unless they are photorealistic. This misconception misses the point of drawing. Drawing is an adventure; the journey is so much more important that the destination. Drawing which is about the activity and not the result is usually the most challenging for students. We live in a result driven world. Exercises such as blind contour is about the process, learning to look, learning to see and not the result. I love blind contour drawings, they are quirky, loose and without the tight self-consciousness so evident in “finished" drawings.

When students start my drawing course, I ask them to think about learning music. Music is taught in small stages, with concurrent information. A student starts at the beginning. They learn how to hold the instrument how to use their mouths to blow, how to stand, how to breathe correctly. How to hold a bow and use their fingers. You learn how to read music, the lines and dots become staves and notes, the notations, rhythm, tempo, key. Music is complex and it is taught so that a student can learn the basics, the building blocks,then understand, practice, improve, developing skill and understanding over time.

 Art, and drawing particularly should be taught in the same way. Yet there is this pervading myth that if a student cannot pick up a pencil and draw realistically immediately then they are unable to do so. This just isn’t the case; drawing is like any skill you need to start at the beginning and learn gradually. The complexity increases with time and practice. You won’t get any better playing the piano if you don’t practice and you won’t improve your visual art skill if you don’t practice.

 I have constructed my drawing course for adults to teach students all the basics in bite size pieces. Drawing is a complex task. I could give students a boat load of information all in one go but that would be incredibly overwhelming and counterproductive. Each lesson builds on the one before so that a student gradually gains confidence as they practice new skills. We start with how to break down the world into simple elements of shape, then look at the elements of art, value, line, texture, form, shape and finally colour. Along the way I introduce the concepts of composition, overlapping, negative space, cropping, perspective and scale, the principals of rhythm, repetition, balance, pattern, emphasis, contrast, unity and movement. There is so much to learn, but taken in small steps it is achievable.  I introduce a range of  dry and wet media along the way You cannot teach any one of the elements or principles of art in isolation from one another, but I try to make sure a lesson emphasises a few of the ideas so that a student can gain a good understanding gradually. Students might favour one media over another and downright loathe one but they are able to try out most tradtional media before moving into paint and whole new realm of complexity.

             drawings by some of my adult students

Here are some links to articles on the benefits of drawing.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-great-health-benefits-painting-drawing-hessam-moussavi https://www.bustle.com/p/drawing-can-change-your-brain-in-these-7-ways-according-to-science-15522774