The Three problems with how we learn art: pt.1
|6 min read
Recommended Journals
The Mark of the Beast - Clients from Hell
From the "Clientsfromhell" website... The best way to avoid a lot of complaints that come with freelancing is to screen clients. However, not every client from hell has a pair of horns sticking out of their forehead. Here are some signs that you may be making a deal with the devil: Ambiguous expectations: A client is employing you because they lack the skillset or resources to complete a project themselves. However, the client should have a clear idea of what they're after. Failing that, they should be eager to help you help them figure it out. Clients who fail this test have project scopes balloon overnight, or they react with anger and co
The Secret Drawing Ingredient
If you're an artist of any kind it's extremely important to hone your craft and technical abilities.  After all, the better you draw and the better you are at mastering the drawing tools you use - the easier it is to convey your unique message for public consumption. But how important is technical ability, really?  Obviously, it's very important.  Understanding anatomy, light and shadow and perspective are key to solid drawing.  It's important to always be improving in those departments.  It's also very important to master the tools you use to draw with. Learning to render or color professionally can only increase your appeal to both fans an
ART: A Guide To Going Public With Your ART
When an artist decides to take the next step and share their work with the world, how do they begin? Today artists have more options than ever before. In this article, we will take a look at several of these options. Before we discuss the various opportunities available to artists who are ready to venture into the public eye, let us talk about some basic fundamentals. First and foremost, you must have an accurate and professional portfolio of your work. Most artists I know have photographs made of their works – these photographs should have excellent lighting (to portray your works true colors) and a nice, clean composition. I have a gre
tombancroft's avatar
By tombancroft   |   Watch
125 59 8K (1 Today)
Published: November 29, 2013

 I've been thinking about how and why we learn to draw for a few years now.  I started self-analazing my own drawing and character design thought process when I began writing my first art instruction book, "Creating Characters with Personality".  It was harder than I thought to verbalize how I've learned and how I process drawing.  This has led me to start looking back at my artistic life and how I learned art.  What made me learn the most?  What drove me to draw and stick with it?  What led to others I knew as a child to stop drawing?  I think I'm ready to present some of those thoughts here on DA and hear what you think.  So, this is part 1 of three in a series.  I'm not sure where this is leading, but step one is my establishing an online art instruction school called Taught ByA PRO (www.taughbyapro.com) that will (in phase one) concentrate on drawing instruction for all forms of media.  Here we go:


I believe there are THREE major problems in the way we learn art instruction in the United States. 

 

PROBLEM #1: Well-meaning adults kill a children's joy for drawing 

Most of us have fond memories of drawing as a child.  When you are a child, you draw for the joy associated with creating something out of nothing.   Even at the most basic level, children learn they can communicate funny stories with their drawings.   How many kids have waged wars with airplanes, tanks and legions of troops all on a piece of paper as they describe the action to their parents or friends?  Drawing is a shared experience when we are very young.  Just like talking or walking, we can all do it.  Then, at a certain point- usually around ages 5 to 10, some of us start becoming VERY GOOD at drawing.  Better than most.  The great equalizer that drawing used to be is no more.  Now, its competitive.  This is the point where drawing becomes work for most kids.  They loose their confidence and therefore loose their interest. 

Simultaneously, around the age of 4 or 5, children begin getting more and more art instruction from well- meaning adults.  Some of it comes from parents: Jimmy, grass is green, not blue.  Or from teachers: HOW many legs does a dog have?  The pursuit of reality or realism in your drawings starts to make drawing something to get frustrated over.   I believe the pursuit of realism in drawing at an early age is something that is pushed on children much too soon.  Later in life, there is nothing wrong with trying to obtain realism in your artwork, because it is an advanced artistic lesson.  It is a pursuit of perfection.  If you can create something that looks exactly like a photo or someone you have seen before, for many, that is the pinnacle of artistic talent.  Why is this?  Because many parents, grandparents, or other adults in the life of a child artist cant explain how to improve the art they are looking at.  They look at it (and because they themselves stopped drawing as a child) cant find the words to describe what is missing in the artwork they are being shown.  The easiest thing they can do is instruct the child to draw a picture in a magazine, a comic book, newspaper, or the vase on the table.    Children artists soon figure out that the closer they get to copying what they see in front of them, the better the compliment from the non-artistic adult.  What also comes with this is non-artistic rules.  When non-artistic adults, who dont know how to explain concepts like perspective, lighting, or shape-based construction of figures and elements, they say vague terms like that doesnt look quite right or something is wrong with that picture, it doesnt look like the photo

Suddenly, there is a right and wrong way to draw.  Before this, it was pure joy and free-form expressions of whatever popped into your head.  Once there is a wrong way to do something, there is automatically a displeasureable outcome associated with not getting it right.    These (unwanted) art lessons begin and some children adapt and rise to the occasion to start applying them to their drawings, which leads to the above point of some children getting better than others.  For other children, this shuts them down and they slowly stop drawing. 

Some would say that this culling of children that just enjoy doodling and those that will one day become professional artists is natural; maybe even necessary.  I agree with that point to a degree, but I have met too many talented artists that feel they missed the boat early in their childhood development and turned away from an art ability/desire that they loved to pursue something more practical.   Teachers or parents instructed those young artists that they would not have a future in art, so they stopped pursing it.   Most of us know someone who has told that sad story.  This leaves me to believe that this early childhood discouragement is more of an epidemic than we know. 

I believe that, just like our schools have done for math, reading, and writing, we need to have a curriculum in the schools that progresses students throughout their childhood and into adulthood (or high school graduation, at least).  Not all students would stay with the curriculum, but those that want to should be able to grown beyond elementary artistic basics and repetitive concepts.  The Masters where taught to draw very early in their lives and grew in that knowledge of drawing until, later, they started painting.  We give children paintbrushes as children without telling them how to use them.  We tell them to paint a tree before they know how to draw one.   We are setting them up to fail. 

Thoughts?  (Part 2 and 3 will come shortly) 

Recommended Journals
The Mark of the Beast - Clients from Hell
From the "Clientsfromhell" website... The best way to avoid a lot of complaints that come with freelancing is to screen clients. However, not every client from hell has a pair of horns sticking out of their forehead. Here are some signs that you may be making a deal with the devil: Ambiguous expectations: A client is employing you because they lack the skillset or resources to complete a project themselves. However, the client should have a clear idea of what they're after. Failing that, they should be eager to help you help them figure it out. Clients who fail this test have project scopes balloon overnight, or they react with anger and co
The Secret Drawing Ingredient
If you're an artist of any kind it's extremely important to hone your craft and technical abilities.  After all, the better you draw and the better you are at mastering the drawing tools you use - the easier it is to convey your unique message for public consumption. But how important is technical ability, really?  Obviously, it's very important.  Understanding anatomy, light and shadow and perspective are key to solid drawing.  It's important to always be improving in those departments.  It's also very important to master the tools you use to draw with. Learning to render or color professionally can only increase your appeal to both fans an
ART: A Guide To Going Public With Your ART
When an artist decides to take the next step and share their work with the world, how do they begin? Today artists have more options than ever before. In this article, we will take a look at several of these options. Before we discuss the various opportunities available to artists who are ready to venture into the public eye, let us talk about some basic fundamentals. First and foremost, you must have an accurate and professional portfolio of your work. Most artists I know have photographs made of their works – these photographs should have excellent lighting (to portray your works true colors) and a nice, clean composition. I have a gre
Comments59
anonymous's avatar
Join the community to add your comment. Already a deviant? Sign In
vitaminanime's avatar
Very interesting. I remember my mom told me when she was in kindergarten? she told me she had a teacher who told her she would never be an artist and she didn't draw again for years until our friend who's an artist showed her that anyone can draw, and she's still not much of a draw-er
Golden-Angel-Dragon's avatar
Golden-Angel-DragonProfessional General Artist
... I wonder how my father would react to reading this if he understands English fully.... I'm in that pit of "Well-meaning adults kill a children's joy for drawing"
BFan1138's avatar
BFan1138Student General Artist
During my pre-college years, I don't recall every drawing anything for the sake of drawing, unfortunately.  In middle and high school I learned I had talent, but since I disliked school so much (and still do, to a degree), it never occurred to me that it would probably be more enjoyable if I tried it outside of class/homework.  I didn't discover THAT until a year ago, at 25 years old no less.  I could have saved a lot of time, effort, and grief if I had known I love drawing sooner, but I still learned many things about other aspects of my life which I value now--so perhaps it was for the better.  And while I was concerned about beginning this path relatively late, the universal advice seems to be that you are never too old to draw or animate.

(Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure I didn't hate art in school either, but for some reason it just never occurred to me that it was a path worth pursuing.  Of course, animation was basically never discussed in those classes, so that may be why.)

Anyway, I better make a point so I'm not just rambling!  I think it's important for parents and teachers to not only refrain from squashing desire early on, but to encourage children to experiment art, music, etc, and perhaps discover a love and/or talent for one of these fields that would not have been discovered otherwise.

Also, others have already mentioned this, but we need to stop perpetuating the idea that only certain occupations are worth getting an education in.  I say bring on the Philosophy majors; we need more of them!  Bring on the artists, the musicians, the writers, and the storytellers. I don't believe our careers should bring us down to an early grave from stress and lack of meaning.  I hope I can be excused for that little soapbox rant, but I feel strongly on that subject.
BFan1138's avatar
BFan1138Student General Artist
Oops, that's "*ever* drawing" in the first sentence, not "every drawing."
tombancroft's avatar
tombancroftProfessional Filmographer
Great points, thanks for adding them.
SimeonLeonard's avatar
SimeonLeonardHobbyist Digital Artist
Now that this series is complete, would you consider updating each entry with links to the next and previous parts? I'd like to share this on Facebook but people who aren't familiar with DA might have some difficulty finding all three parts. I found this very interesting! Thanks for sharing your insight. 

tombancroft's avatar
tombancroftProfessional Filmographer
Good point.  Thanks
Golden-Angel-Dragon's avatar
Golden-Angel-DragonProfessional General Artist
Or maybe copy and paste them all into 1 journal!
bj0yful's avatar
bj0yfulProfessional General Artist
Nail on head, Tom! I can testify to the scars of early childhood discouragement.
In the third grade I painted a poster-sized solar system that received a D because my parents weren't supposed to help me.  (My mom showed me how to use the compass to make round planets. The rest was all me.)

I was also plagued with the stigma that being an artist was not a viable career option. I got the ol' "You better marry for money" bit a lot. I know my parents meant well, but the damage was done. I learned to hide my talents in more "acceptable" ways... volunteering to paint theater sets, etc.
To this day the voice in my head that I'm "goofing off" if I'm creating art is loud and clear. Even when I'm designing for clients I have to muscle my way through the lie that making art is somehow "playing" and not serious work. My head knows this is false, but that message has been so ingrained it takes a conscious dedication to override it. 


tombancroft's avatar
tombancroftProfessional Filmographer
Great thoughts. Thanks for the addition to the strand.  
Tiquitoc's avatar
TiquitocProfessional General Artist
I'm in agreement there.

True is the fact on the first cildren's interest is to draw, and they want to catch the worl who surround them.   Sadly, bit per bit, the adults try to kill that initiative due they think the kids must be taught, mainly for a society well accepted carrer, you know: lawyer, medic, engineer, etc.

So then, is the moment when the love for create starts to die, and it's painful to see how it progress, but, the first contact, the children must to explore by themselves, to touch the paint, feel the brushes, hold a crayon, and let their imagination leads her hands; later, we can start to teach them how to use the materials and later, who knows, maybe we are having the next Da Vinci in front of us! :D

So I accept that part where we must not start to kill that interest, that curiousity, because, there is the magic...
JazyLax's avatar
JazyLaxStudent Filmographer
I remember when I was around 7 or 8 when I decided I was going to become one of the greatest cartoon artists of all time... Its still a long way now that I just started my animation studies, but indeed one of the things that I always did was draw for fun, for the joy of it, and without caring. Suddenly my friends (of a bit greater skill than mine) would tell me I was wrong, but ya know? I drew what I liked and how I liked, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding. But now I draw for both things. I draw for fun because its my dream to create an influential comic, but I also draw because if I am to become a professional, it wont always be about the fun, but about how greatly skilled I am. 
bj0yful's avatar
bj0yfulProfessional General Artist
Glad you had the gumption to stick with it! Keep drawing! :)
Okayim's avatar
Sadly, I agree with everything said...I know the art program at my middle school and high schools were also incredibly low-funded. Whenever budget cuts had to come up, the art programs were always the first things to take the blow (visual art, band, etc.). 
magentamorbid666's avatar

You said it perfectly. I was lucky enough that my mom was more encouraging with me and my siblings talents (my brother is a musician) and my dad was happy with anything I did. My grandfather is also an artist so I guess I had more encouragement overall.

I still remember though, no matter how good an artist I was there was always someone better than me. My best friend when I was young always drew better horses. In college my fine art teacher actually said I should draw more like my friend Amy, that my work wasn't right.

When I have kids I'd like to think, and hope, that I'll encourage them in whatever talent they have.

Mmkaay's avatar
MmkaayStudent Digital Artist
I'd say this applies for doing everything in life in general. The standards and things taught and said by authority figures shapes the limitations and "rules" we have in our paradigms of our daily lives.
Marc-F-Huizinga's avatar
Marc-F-HuizingaProfessional Traditional Artist
Hi Tom!

This definitely is exactly as it is. I remember days where I was drawing exactly those tanks, soldiers and airplanes and I really loved every single second of it. Then as I build a conscience and the ability to analyze what I was doing everything became a competition. Sooner or later I dropped out of it completely because I tried to get a grasp on concepts unknown to me. So by the age of ten or twelve I didn't draw anymore at all, maybe an occasional doodle in along my math notes.

As I grew older and was trying to find what I wanted to do with my life, I couldn't find anything I really wanted to pursue. Suddenly in the far corners of my mind, that artistic feeling called out to me. Here I am, 4 years since that day, relentlessly pursueing that what I used to enjoy the most. And guess what? I'm really enjoying it again.

I think there's something to be said on the development of a child's brain with this. You often hear stories of people that get in a rut and don't think they're improving. Sure, sometimes the mind is ahead of the hand in terms of coordination, and sometimes it's the opposite way, but it's when we face problems and don't quite know how to deal with them that makes us improve. Which in turn gives us newfound joy. Just like drawing those armies and airplanes I used to draw.

Can't wait for the other parts, Tom!
tombancroft's avatar
tombancroftProfessional Filmographer
Great comments, thanks.
Deckboy's avatar
DeckboyHobbyist Artist
Sorry for the double post.  I meant to add that my mother went to college and got a BA in Art History.  So she always had an appreciation for art.  She knew the basics of how to draw and different basic art tools, and she had several books detailing how to draw different things like trees, animals, boats, etc. . .  So I was able to learn from her (and the books) when I wanted to.  It was never forced on me or forced OUT of me.
Deckboy's avatar
DeckboyHobbyist Artist
Totally agree.  I hadn't thought about this before, but my parents never discouraged me from art.  My first art class was in high school and the purpose of that class was to get students to try "new forms of art" (clay, draw, paint, sculpt, lineart, etc. . .)   I think this was actually really important for my own growth as an artist because I was allowed to experiment and grow in my artistic skills in the way(s) that I wanted.  I started drawing at a young age and cannot remember ever being verbally discouraged in any way, even though I was drawing stick figures getting eaten by dinosaurs or a guy on a skateboard going across the page or buildings from a flat 2d perspective, etc, etc, etc. . .

Very interesting Journal thanks for the great thoughts!
meghanart's avatar
meghanartStudent General Artist
Tom, you've made some interesting points that got me thinking of my own artistic journey thus far. The parts where you mentioned realism intrigued me a lot. As a huge fan of Disney, Pixar, and all animated things, I grew up copying them and learning from the films by watching and drawing them frame by frame. Even to this day I sometimes feel the pressures of non-artistic adults that my work isn't as good as it could be, because it's cartoon-ish. Somehow I persevered through high school. I think it's because I was influenced by Neopets (I drew lots of fake creatures and created characters for them, posted online and got feedback) and kept a sketchbook, where I could draw whatever I pleased.

As an art student now, I understand the importance of realism, but when I was younger (and sometimes even now), the pressures of your work "not being good enough" because it's wasn't real was, and sometimes is still, definitely frustrating.

I teach an art class for home schoolers ages 5-10 in my city and I'm going to make sure I don't pressure them to much, now that you've pointed this out to me. Although I want to teach them to be able to draw realism, having fun with art and learning basics (like you mentioned, shapes, composition, lighting, etc.!) are important, too, especially as kids.

Thanks for the thought provoking post.
meghanart's avatar
meghanartStudent General Artist
I will add that I was talking to my dad recently about his artistic career. His was short-lived - mostly only in high school. He was fantastic at copying pictures, and still is. It's pretty great. But he told me that he never was able to make things up. I think he wishes he would have been able to when he was younger.
MMStudiotrademark's avatar
I fully understand where you are coming from with this, because many people do not know this about me, but when I was little I would misspell stuff in my comics all the time! My Parents would always correct me, but to me it was just funnier looking if candy was spelled Kandy or if soda pop was spelled sodee pop! Today I still write that way sometimes on purpose. I know it annoys some people, but too me it just makes cartoons a little more fun.Plus one of my mottos is, "there's no wrong way to draw cartoons!"
LordGuardian's avatar
LordGuardianHobbyist General Artist
very nice journal
anonymous's avatar
Join the community to add your comment. Already a deviant? Sign In
©2019 DeviantArt
All Rights reserved