Often a beginner will ask me what should I draw? How would I know is my answer. How would I know what you feel, what moves you, what you wish to express? If you were writing poetry, would you ask me what you should write? The answer is in you but you must allow it to come through. All of us have visions of what we would like to draw or paint. Vague ideas perhaps, but promptly squashed by a litany of negative thoughts, I could never draw this, it is too difficult, it will look stupid, no one ever loved me, I could not draw a stick figure to save my life, etc… Perhaps I should draw something easy. Do you have something I can look at?
For example you think of drawing a foot. Now surely it will look silly, it is too complicated and what will people think? They will ask questions, it will be embarrassing. They will think that you have a foot fetish. Yet, that image that came to you unannounced and for no apparent reason is what I can not teach you and what you must encourage. You will acquire techniques if you study long enough, but what you have to say is what will move me. Draw the first thing that comes to mind without judging it. You must start somewhere and I promise you that your fifth try will be five times better than the first. Thinking is your enemy. It will tell you that you are small and without talent. When I start a painting, I decide that it will be beautiful. You can not create beauty if you decide in advance that it will not be very good.
When you are sketching this way, drawing whatever you intuition suggests, you are creating, that is doing something no one in the world has ever done. True, your first sketch may not be that great but neither were my first sketches. But one could see that I had compelling and originals ideas to express. With time, my skills and confidence increased and my art became better. We all draw intuitively different things. Dali painted elephants, Chagall painted violins and happy couples floating in the sky, Magritte painted large apples! Art is a form of self psychoanalysis. In time, we come to value and recognize the reasons we draw certain symbols. I often drew a high arching bridge because there was such a bridge that spanned a deep valley in my childhood hometown of St-Brieuc on the coast of Bretagne.
Surely it takes courage to reveal to the world such personnel information. But it is what made famous artists great. Their uncensored willingness to express their innermost feelings. Another way is, for example, to simply draw a tree. One can not separate the observer from what he observes. Everything that we see is filtered by our mind, by the way we feel. If we all draw the same tree, each of our trees will look different because we are different. When you draw a tree, you will also draw yourself. It is you that is seeing a tree. That your tree is good technically is not enough. You might as well take a photograph. It is your pencil strokes, your interpretation of that tree, the emotions that your drawing convey that will appeal to me. If you choose as a last resort to copy something, perhaps a photograph, do not copy it. Instead, inspire yourself from it. If you are looking at a landscape, simplify it, move a tree here and there, paint a rock instead of two, change the sky from sun to rain, add yourself sitting by the river. Make it your own image.
Am I saying that it is easy? No, none of the great things we accomplish are. There will be period of doubts and moments of confidence before you can achieve a final harmony but the initial sketch must be spontaneous and reveal something beyond thought. A graceful line or two that mirror what you feel. Draw the first thing that comes to mind without judging it. An image will come but you must allow it. With time, your techniques will improve. You are the artist, you are the poet. What you will draw will be as unique as you. I can teach you skills, shading, perspective and depth… What I can not teach you is you. Draw without thoughts. And by doing so repeatedly, your confidence in your inner voice will grow and you will come to cultivate it as one would beautiful fruits from a secret tree.