Drawings is learning to see.

This is a hand.

Its shape is unfamiliar as a symbol for a hand: you know, the lump with 5 sausages sticking out of it which we tend to draw as representing a hand. But to draw a good hand, you mustn’t approach the page thinking that you know what a hand looks like. You look at a hand, and see contours, shapes, light, shadow… and you draw what you see. I’m not so good at drawing from my head because I don’t know what anything looks like. Well, I do, but… there is no one universal hand that looks like everyone’s hand, so I need to know which hand I am going to draw.

My nutrition teacher was talking about this last week, and I love when these ideas cross over to different art forms, overlap with various realms of life: it becomes a general philosophy that applies to anything. My teacher was saying that a good nutritionist doesn’t assume that a client will receive a specific protocol because of a given condition they tell you they have. Rather, approach it with nothing preconceived and let the evidence guide you.

We get in our own way so much. I think this hand looks like a hand, now that it’s done. But I’ve been taught that the symbol for “hand” does not look like this, and as I’m drawing it, I’m trying to “correct” it – to make it look like the ballooned out dish glove of cartoon hands. Why fight the evidence? And letting go of what I think it is “supposed to” look like and just drawing what I see lands me with a more convincing-looking hand than my forced version would have been. Sure, it doesn’t always work out – sometimes things look too funny for our brains to accept what they really are (extreme foreshortening in some cases, for example) and drawing it as-is may not translate.

But my point is:

If you want to draw a hand or a nutritionist or a stubborn penguin girl or even a spoon, but can’t get it to look right, chances are your biggest problem is not an inability to draw; it is the idea you have in your head that you already know what a spoon looks like.

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