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How Hard is it to Learn to Draw?

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We’ve all dreamed of being great artists; pulling out our pencils and quickly drawing a masterpiece that we can be proud of. But, anyone who has tried to draw a perfect picture on a whim knows that it isn’t easy. Can it be learned though? How hard is it to learn to draw?

It is hard to learn to draw, but it’s a quicker and easier process with the right resources, support, and dedication to learning the right skills. Learning to draw can be a rewarding experience, which makes it important to focus on the journey instead of just the outcome of beautiful art.

Personally, drawing is something that never came easily to me. I went to countless art camps, took art classes throughout high school and college, discovered AMAZING art classes on Skillshare, and practiced, practice, practiced. 

Whenever I sit down to learn how to draw something new, it’s a battle. Learning how to draw isn’t easy. But, it can be made a LOT easier with the right strategy and tools. If you’re finding it hard to learn how to draw, here’s what you can do to make it easier.

Before we dive into strategies you can use to make it easier to learn how to draw, let’s talk about why it’s hard to learn to draw in the first place.

Why is it Hard to Learn How to Draw?

Drawing is hard to learn because we aren’t used to looking at the world in individual parts instead of a whole. To draw, we need to see objects, people, and landscapes as smaller shapes. Learning to draw is also hard because our hands are moving in new ways. We need to build up our muscle memory.

First, let’s talk about the issue of how we see the world. 

How We See the World Makes Learning to Draw Harder

For very good reason, we see things “as wholes.” Basically, if I look at a dog, I don’t see a series of rectangles and circles attached to each other. I see a dog. I’m not sure my dog would be as cute as a series of shapes anyways.

But, when I sit down to draw my dog, it’s important for me to put his cuteness aside for a second and break him down into shapes. 

Instead of looking at the whole (my dog), I need to see his individual parts (connected rectangles, circles, etc).

dog with shapes on it
drawing of dog

Speaking of shapes, this brings up another factor about how we see things and why this makes it hard to learn to draw. 

It’s not natural to think that my dog is made up of a series of circles, ovals, rectangles, and squares. No, to my brain, his head is shaped…like a dog head. His tail is shaped…like a dog tail. And that’s the problem.

Our brains are really good at seeing the world as we’ve learned to see it. My dog walks in the room and seemingly instantaneously, I know it’s my dog. I don’t say, “well, it’s a series of shapes, and my past memories tell me that this specific series of shapes resembles my dog, so it must be my dog.”

Basically, the way that we view the world is really helpful for everyday life, but not so helpful for drawing. 

When we sit down to draw, we need to resist our natural instincts to see things as whole objects, and instead break them down into their individual parts, ideally in the form of shapes.

This isn’t easy to do, especially as an adult. Part of the reason why drawing is so hard as an adult is that it becomes harder and harder to break out routines and habits as we age. We’re so used to viewing the world in a certain way that it feels challenging and unnatural to change it.

It’s also something that we rarely practice in school outside from art class. Children use art as a form of learning in the beginning of their educational lives. Think about how hands-on and creative a Kindergarten classroom is. Viewing the world through an artistic lens seems to fall away in higher levels of education (source).

This means that we fall out of practice with viewing the world artistically and working our artistic muscles, both mentally and physically.

Let’s dive into the physical aspect of drawing.

drawing from reference
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Our Physical Skills Make Learning to Draw Harder

When we learn to draw, we force our hands and muscles to work in new ways and do things they’ve never done before. This can feel really awkward, clumsy, and labor intensive. You know you want to draw a straight line, but no matter what you do, it comes out shaky.

Muscle memory is key to drawing, but can take some time and effort to develop.

Have you ever felt like sitting down to draw something new is exhausting? Your brain is working harder than it should and every stroke feels like a challenge? There’s a reason for that.

Research shows that your brain is more active in the initial stages of learning something new, which decreases as the learning progresses (source). 

This means that it doesn’t just feel like your brain is working harder when you’re learning something new, it actually is.

In a study of violinists, it was found that, while the same areas of the brain were activated in both amateur and professional violinists as they played their instruments, the brain activation in the professional group was more focused. This indicated that they were performing the task more efficiently and automatically (source).

Learning new skills is always challenging and requires us to go through a new process of motor learning and muscle memory. If we were learning how to ride a unicycle, we’d expect that. But, isn’t drawing just like writing? I mean, we’ve all been using pencils since we were kids, right?

Part of the reason why drawing is so hard is because we think it should be easier. In reality, when we learn how to draw, it’s a brand new skill that requires different types of movements than writing.

Yet, the fact that it’s so similar to writing trips us up. Our hands are used to moving the pencil in a certain way and now must relearn how to use an old and familiar tool in a completely unfamiliar way. 

That’s hard. 

But, you CAN get around it and become a great artist. Yes, it’s hard to learn how to draw, but there are ways to change how you see the world and build your muscle memory so that it becomes easier. 

115 objects to draw when you need artistic inspiration
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To Learn How to Draw, You Need to Put in the Hours

When you’re learning a new skill, you need to practice. There’s no way around it. You need to sit down and practice seeing things in individual parts instead of whole objects. You need to build up your muscle memory and train your hands and brain to use your pencil in the way that’s necessary for drawing.

You need to put in the hours.

But, I’m not suggesting that you sit down with paper and pencil and blindly draw. You need your practice to be guided, intentional, and effective. Remember that we’re trying to shorten your learning curve. 

Enter Skillshare.

Take Skillshare Classes to Improve Your Drawing Skills

It can be really hard to learn a new skill when you’re left alone with no clear path to follow. What should you draw? How? In what way? It’s enough to make someone give up. Having a clear path to follow to improve your drawing skills is REALLY important.

And that’s where Skillshare comes in. 

I use Skillshare almost every day, and it has made a world of difference in my art skills. 

On Skillshare, you will find professional artists who are also great teachers. They know how to guide beginners through the challenging parts of learning new art skills in a quick and efficient way. 

Start off with a beginning drawing class and commit to completing at least one lesson a day. Before you know it, you’ll be looking for more advanced classes and will be surprised to realize that your skills have grown. 

I can’t recommend Skillshare highly enough as the place for beginning artists to learn how to draw. It’s a game changer.

Luckily, you can take advantage of everything Skillshare has to offer absolutely free. When you grab this free trial of Skillshare, you’ll have unlimited access to every art class they have to offer. 

Once you jump into their class catalog, you might get overwhelmed by everything they have to offer. Here are my suggestions for classes to get you started on your drawing journey:

Learn to Draw: Daily Practices to Improve Your Drawing Skills

Become a Better Artist: Drawing Essentials

Urban Sketching: Drawing What You See

It’s hard to learn how to draw, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing it. Learning art is such a rewarding experience, and it’s something that is definitely attainable with the right resources and time commitment. Whatever you do, enjoy the journey and make art that you love.

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