I frown whenever I hear people say they don’t know how to draw because I know that they can. They drew when they were little and, just like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it.
But here’s what I find interesting. You don’t tell people you don’t know how to ride a bike even though you haven’t been on one in ages. Riding a bike sticks and it’s simple. Easy. Fool-proof. The goal is to not fall down. And, by golly, if that’s the measurement of success for riding a bike, about 99% of the population can succeed at cycling.
Now let’s compare that to drawing. Who doesn’t know how to hold a pen? Or drag it across the page? Everyone can do those things. The question then, is why, when prompted, do a lot of people say they don’t know how to draw? It’s simple. Drawing, unlike riding a bike, falls into the realm of subjectivity. What that means is that people equate “can’t draw” with “not good enough at drawing to call my drawings art.”
What’s your story?
As I’ve taught myself about illustration and worked as a magazine editor, I’ve realized that everyone has a story. It’s true that certain people have a predisposition towards creating with a pen or a brush, but being able to draw or paint is merely a skill. With drawing as with chopping firewood or knitting, you can learn the techniques and improve over time. Skills do not an artist make.
So what does make an artist? Stories. Experiences. Theories. Imagination. Humor. Wit. It’s the intangible stuff combined with the skill that makes a great artist.
Multipotentialites get this. They’re constantly foraging for information, cross-pollinating their interests with new discoveries, all in the name of curiosity and joy. An artist’s output is the result of his experiences mingling together to form a new thought or idea. And the world is just waiting for multipotentialites to tell their stories through art.
What if you’re not technically sound as an artist?
Most people set themselves up against an impossible standard. Drawing doesn’t come with a measure of success, like riding a bike does. Making art is about having the courage to acknowledge that what you’re creating is yours. There is no standard to reach because you’re unique. Your experiences, ideas, and thoughts, when coupled with your very own form of creative expression, are art.
Don’t believe me? Have a look at these people and at their work and notice that there isn’t anything “perfect” about them. It’s in their imperfection that their perfection lies.
James Kerr of Scorpion Dagger takes characters from Renaissance paintings, puts them into contemporary situations, and makes them come alive using animated GIFs. He has no formal art background. Rather, he studied history and political science at university.
Kate Beaton is a self-taught cartoonist who creates historical comics with a humorous twist. She studied history and anthropology at university.
Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half suffered from depression and blogged regularly about it with the help of her comics, drawn in Microsoft Paint.
Former art director Brian Rea’s illustrations are simple, yet powerful. He illustrates articles about relationships, love, and heartbreak for the New York Times’ Modern Love section.
These artists are re-writing the rules about what art is. They’re all different. The one thing they have in common is that they have stories to tell. As a multipotentialite, I’m sure you have many stories to tell too. How about sharing them with the world through your art?
Do you tap into your multipotentiality when creating art? Have you used your range of interests and experiences for creative expression? What stories do you tell?
Amy Ng is a magazine editor turned illustrator and educator. As a self-taught artist, she regularly writes on the topic of entrepreneurship, illustration and creativity; deciphering clues and shedding light on the intersection between them. She keeps a blog at Pikaland where she experiments with her ideas and teaches aspiring artists and illustrators online at Work / Art / Play.