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How to Conquer the 'I Can't' Mentality in Drawing

Karleigh is an artist and music lover with a passion for writing.


Are You Afraid of Learning to Draw?

As a student who took art classes all the way through high school, I have heard "but I can't draw!" time and time again. When facing a daunting task that feels impossible, it's easy to say you can't do it and cast it aside, especially when it's something artistic. I agree, sometimes you really do feel like you aren't capable, but that is likely because you don't have enough practice or because you have been surrounding the idea with so much doubt.

I had a friend in my last year who said she sucked at drawing portraits and wished hers looked like mine. As a disclaimer, I have been drawing since I can remember, and she had only recently started for class, which is why she felt such a huge gap between our quality of work.

After some time, I was able to see her work and knew that she was capable of creating great things, but she wasn't receiving the right guidance from the teacher. So, after asking me several questions and wanting my opinion on things throughout the year, she got better. With some friendly help, she was able to say 'I can't' a little less, and I saw an improvement in her work.

If you want to learn how to overcome the difficult process and gain more confidence, carry on reading.

1. Recognize What You Want and Set Goals

In order to get better at something, you must know what you want to achieve and how. When I was around ten years old, I decided that I wanted to learn how to draw portraits, and I wanted them to be as lifelike as possible. Of course, I sucked at first, but I got better with time. I had that goal in mind for a long time and never forgot about it, no matter how discouraged I felt some days. It was important to me, but only because I made it important.

Whether you want to draw the most accurate landscapes, lovable cartoon characters, or cleanly cut buildings, keep that idea alive and focus on it until you start to see results. If it helps, find references to help get you started like I did. Find a photograph of something you're interested in and draw it as well as you can, and take your time! Nobody is rushing you here. If, at first, your copy looks nothing like the original, remind yourself that you are learning. You'll get there.

2. Practice, Practice, and Practice

This is the most important step of all. If you don't, how will you get better? I once heard that in order to be an artist, you can't just think about drawing—you need to physically do it. Hone your craft, whether you're good or not. If you truly love drawing and letting your creative muscles work, then this step shouldn't be too difficult.

I drew more portraits than I could ever count when I was first starting out. I would draw them quickly, ultimately sabotaging myself. But regardless, I did them with all of my might. I hated most of them, and I didn't finish a lot of them—almost every one ended up in the garbage. It feels redundant, but in the end, it is how you figure out what techniques work for you, and it gives you the chance to show your resilience.

I would draw alone in my room, sometimes so frustrated to the point of tears, but I knew I couldn't give up. Every once in a while, I produced something worth showing my parents, and their reactions made it worthwhile. It's okay to be hard on yourself and expect good results at first, but not to the extent of giving up on it entirely. Your drive is so important!

3. Shake It Up

Sometimes I felt like no matter what I did, I still wasn't getting anywhere. When it felt like I was plagued with 'drawer's block,' I would change things up and try a different art style. Typically, I tend to stay in the realm of realism, but during those times, I would explore contemporary art, line art, or even cartoons. It would help to take my mind off of what I was doing and help me to appreciate everything that goes into my preferred art ism when I went back to it.

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A lot of the time, we fall into a rut where we do the same thing over and over again, which stops us from advancing with our skills. Changing small things like the shade of your pencil, the pressures you're applying, or simply the way you move the pencil can have a massive impact. Even being more aware of what you're physically doing can put you in the proper mindset to draw more accurately.

4. Find Some Inspiration

There will always be someone more artistically inclined than you, but that should only be more incentive to push yourself to be the best artist you can be. Because some people have spent so long practicing and mastering the craft, they will have their own personalized drawing style that you could learn a lot from.

Study their lines, the shading, how they compose the picture. Take in everything you can, and try to apply these things to your own art. Find someone you admire and try to outdo them at their own game—you may even surpass them! (Just don't let them know that).

From my experience, I would search through popular art on Pinterest or Instagram and try to copy them just for practice to see if I could replicate their drawing styles. Sometimes it's more difficult than you may originally think, but you might find yourself developing a new style without even realizing it. It even helps to find a budding artist and look toward their work to inspire you to dig deeper and force yourself to keep drudging through the madness.

5. Remind Yourself of Your Capabilities

If you've spent what feels like ages trying to master drawing, then surely you have enough dedication to get to this point. Every great artist has started somewhere, you included. It is never easy, but I don't believe a passion should ever be easy, or else everyone would love the same thing. You made the conscious decision to stick with it, to dedicate yourself to learning, and now you are here, hopefully more content with your abilities and with some added confidence.

It is important to remember that you do, in fact, have the ability to do whatever you set your mind to, and with even more focus, you will be even greater. On those days when you don't think you can do it, don't panic—you've been there before, and now you know that your devotion will get you through it.

Even if you have to say it out loud to yourself, never go without reassuring yourself that you have the power to become as artistically inclined as you desire. We will always be our own worst critics, but sometimes we have to shut ourselves up and remember everything we have put into the journey thus far.

We all experience self-doubt, even at the best of times. It is up to each and every one of us to decide how we will overcome it, and by reading this article, you have already started in the right direction. You can do it; I know it. Somewhere inside you, you know it too.

© 2018 Karleigh Rose


Shasta Matova from USA on July 02, 2018:

These are really good tips! For the longest time, I said "I can't draw." But last year, I finally figured out that drawing is a talent that can be learned. I am working on learning now. Thank you for the encouragement.