Why draw? It’s the simplest of questions, yet it deserves some thought. Drawing is an activity that is easy to take for granted, given that many of us have been doing it for longer than we can remember. Chunky felt-tips and reams of old printer paper with perforated edges were a means with which to make our first marks, stick figures emerging before we could even form a sentence on the same page. In the arc of an artistic life, these were our cave paintings at Lascaux, the very first step in a chronology of drawing that would only develop, becoming both more refined and more expressive over time.
Drawing is a compulsion for children and something that tends to garner praise at an early age, the recognition being that an ability to create art is a more impressive and elusive signifier of a gifted child than SATs results or athletic trophies. Sadly, there also comes a point – usually in our teens – when the opposite is true, when continuing to “doodle” is dismissed as a phase out of which we should have grown. All too often I speak to brilliant artists who were thrown off their wide-eyed exploratory path by an adult influence – a teacher whose narrow concept of art doesn’t fit with one’s own; a well-meaning parent who suggests getting a “real” job. The pursuit of other careers gets in the way, only returning to their initial passions in their 30s, 40s or even retirement age.
A return to regular drawing can be an attempt to reconnect with our earlier selves and try to document that wonder once more. It is a worthy ambition, in keeping with Pablo Picasso’s famous quote that it took him “four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”.
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