The Ways We Draw

There are many kinds of drawing: realistic (as much as anything can be), subjective, schematic, abstract, cartoony, impressionistic, expressive, controlled, free, tortured, obsessive, spare, inventive. We could go on. And on. But we'll divide drawing into three main categories: making marks, drawing what we see, and drawing from imagination. Children begin with making marks, basic scribbling, then go directly to drawing from imagination. As we grow older, we want the skills that come from doing observational drawing so that we can draw whatever we want.

Here, we'll begin with making marks and go directly to drawing what we see. Then we'll come back to where many of us left off as children to drawing from imagination but this time we'll do it with heightened awareness, a sense of our own purpose, and greater skill. Our goal is to find our creative voice, not to stop with careful rendering. There are now cameras to record the world around us, but we can still benefit from drawing it, if we're so inclined. Careful observation gives us a more intimate connection with our world, and knowing how to draw what's around us, in one way or another, can give us greater freedom of expression. Even if we focus on this kind of drawing, we want to discover our unique, imaginative self in it.

We'll soon see that drawing begins to ask questions questions like, who are you and what do you want to say or do? We don't need to answer right away, just know that the questions will arrive, one after the other, at awkward moments, niggling like uninvited guests. We can be well mannered, of course, and hospitable, too. We provide a bed and a little food, but we'll go on with our lives and get to know our guests in time. We can't rush these things. Still, it's good to know that in drawing we don't just learn skills; we come to know ourselves as creative beings.

So, now, let's begin. Get out your paper, your pencils, charcoal, pens. Get out your ink and brush. From a tree outside, pluck a twig to dip into ink and draw with. As you read what follows, try each kind of drawing yourself. By experimenting, you'll start to get that feeling of freedom we need so much in making art and in living a full, rich life.

"All things come from nowhere. How vast, how invisible, no way to explain!" —Chuang Tsu