Friday, July 9, 2010

The Magicians' Sectrets Revealed

I have an on again/off again relationship with drawing. I like drawing even though I'm not that good at it, but I often go months without drawing a single thing, which sort of negates the purpose of learning to do anything.

Right now's a serious on phase and I've easily drawn more this week than in the past two years. I've made progress, but I get very frustrated that I can't put down the lines that are in my head' let alone do what other artists I admire can do.

Luckily ASIFA Hollywood is on the case and cheered me up with a post about the erroneous idea most non-artists have that drawing is like magic. It's not. They even compare it to Penn & Teller and how their revealing of how a magic trick works actually makes it more enjoyable.

I don't think I've thought of it quite like that before, but the idea of drawing as some sort of talent that allows a chosen few to effortlessly depict anything they want leads to two of the biggest problems in artmaking.

The first is the "I can't draw" problem. Put most people in contact with drawing and they'll either adamantly claim that they can't do it or express that they wish they could.

This is such a weird idea since everyone draws as a kid, but most just stop at some point and don't develop it any further. How can something you did when you were 3 be something you're completely incapable of doing as an adult?

I've always thought of playing the violin as magic. Unlike drawing most people don't play the violin as kids so there's a valid excuse for not doing it. And even if you don't know how to play the piano or guitar you can at least noodle out a few notes. Not so with a violin.


The other problem the "magic drawing" idea creates is the general disrespect of commercial artists and the undervaluing of their work.

If you know anything about commercial art (or at least have read Clients from Hell) you're probably familiar with how often artists get screwed on payment. If you think of art as something a certain few blessed people can just conjure up out of thin air it doesn't have much value since you can make as much as you want.

I once heard a story where cartoonist Sergio Aragones was at a convention and got yelled at by a customer when the sketch he paid $75 for only took about a minute to complete. He responded "You're not paying for the time it took me to draw that. You're paying for the 30 years it took me to learn to draw that."


It's better for everyone involved to treat drawing as a skill that can be learned rather than some sort of pencil-based alchemy. Just like with Penn & Teller, knowing the secrets make it even better.

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