11 October 2016

[art] Why Do You Think You Need To Draw A Straight Line?

Now that I've returned to drawing and plan to draw more I can expect this to happen.

Now, it must be said that my drawing talent is middling at best. I, as every aspriring artist, want it to be more, and that's why we practice. And what follows is some philosophical ruminating; feel free to skip. But it is a question I heard whenever I found myself drawing and people would look at what I was doing.

When you have a reputation as an artist, people will do that. They love to see art happen. And when they do, a phrase comes unbidden, almost compulsively from those who admire what you do:

Oh, I couldn't even draw a straight line!

Which is a nonsensical thing to say, when you think about it. There are, I'm confident to say, absolutely no straight lines in my sketchbook. I've looked it over. They don't exist. But the question is ere asked and I've heard it enough in my life that me, only an aspiring artist with middling talent who still mostly draws for his own pleasure that it's become this conversational token, something that is handed over for the privilege of watching (which, ironically, is free, so long as you don't, like, lurk over the shoulder. Bubble, people!)

The more one thinks about it the more quizzical it becomes. It's patently easy to draw a straight line, anyone and everyone can do it; get yourself a ruler, a piece of paper, and a pencil, and run that one bad boy along the other. Et voila! Straight line achievement unlocked.

Pointing out that simple truth, of course, isn't the answer, because that isn't what people mean, not at all of course. Everyone, I think, has a yearning to do art; they don't because they think there's this mystical barrier keeping them out, that once they quit being kids, when the only excuses they needed were a box of Crayola and a stack of scrap paper (or maybe a wall, as many parents still struggle with budding artists who want to do installations), they had to have training. They had to be accomplished. They had to produce perfect finished works or it wasn't worth starting.

You can point this all out to an admirer, and still you'll hear it: I can't do art. I couldn't draw a straight line. Which makes you wonder who said drawing a straight line became the barrier for entry into the artists' clique.

You don't have to be able to draw a straight line. Not only that, you don't have to really want to be a capital-A-Artist. You just have to want to do some art.

And, I find myself coming back, as Ouroborous, to the head from the tail with this thought, which leaves me with another one: Why do people who admire art being made feel compelled to declare that this simple thing, they cannot do? I don't know if anyone, including me, will ever be sure, but I have a feeling that, when seeing art being made, we all hear the call to do it ourselves, and art in society is not treated as a given but as an option, and we fear failure at the trying.

I suppose I would ask anyone saying that to look at themselves and ask why, and just that once, answer that call. Perhaps people feel as though you need to be going for pro status for just trying, and that's certainly not true; I have gotten so many hours of pleasure out of simply drawing for the simple creative act I've lost count of them. I'd advise my interlocutor to come to terms with that thought; try drawing simply as a perfectly private pastime. The world, after all, isn't full of commercially successful artists. That isn't everyone's destiny. But one may well enjoy drawing for pleasure, and you don't even have to see yourself as an artist to do that. Bob Ross and Bill Alexander built empires on teaching people to do art that they liked just because they liked doing it, and not much more.

And if you, after trying to draw for pleasure, feel that it bores you, then don't regret letting that go. The world is, after all made up of artists … and art lovers. And if you enjoy just looking at and being around art, we artists appreciate that, truly. Because a great deal of the fun of doing art is knowing someone's going to look at it and maybe even like it. We could very well be pointless without the rest of you.

So, do some art. Even if you can't draw a straight line.

Nobody ever said that was really a requirement, anyway.

I'll probably revisit this idea some time down the road. 

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