Learning to draw from a Ted Talk and what it taught me

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Note: Originally published on Medium.

So me, being highly interested in learning new things and challenging myself, watched a video from Graham Shaw on how to draw. Well, more specifically, the video was about how to draw cartoon faces. It was entitled “Why people believe they can’t draw — and how to prove they can”. Well, I pressed play, got out my pen and paper, and I started drawing. Throughout the course of his fifteen-plus minute video, he shows several simple steps that can be used to draw hundreds of thousands of different cartoon characters. Granted, it IS limiting. You can’t draw much more than faces, and you can’t draw much more than simple cartoons, but if you’re someone whom can’t draw to save their life then you’ll be much further along than when you started watching the video.

It’s fascinating really, the steps that Shaw takes you through when you begin drawing. At first, there is just a shape. It sits there on the page, and you feel rather annoyed that all he told you to draw is a shape. Then, a moment later, he shows you another line to draw. A few seconds after that, and a face jumps out of the paper, leaping to life. Although hundreds of thousands of people ahve have learned to draw the same character(s) from Shaw, there is a certain magic about bringing something to life for the first time. The same magic as when you picture your first character in a new book, or when you finish writing a fantastic scene and it jumps to life in your mind as you read it.

The majority of people proclaim that they cannot draw. I would definitely include myself in the majority of people who cannot draw, however Graham Shaw has shown me something that no one else ever has. He showed me that it doesn’t take sheer talent to “draw”. It takes talent to be able to create, but the ability to draw can be learned. I can learn any number of combinations of shapes that will create an image on a piece of paper. I can rearrange any number of memorized shapes to make something beautiful appear at the end of my pen. Interestingly enough, most people call this learned ability fake and un-artistic. However, the majority of people who learn to play a few fixed songs on the guitar, or memorize a string of notes on a piano, fall into the category of those whom can play a musical instrument. Would not memorizing note patterns and memorizing shape patterns fall into the same category? You memorize the exact locations of the chords on a guitar, wouldn’t memorizing the exact places to position shapes be the same? Well of course they are.

Memorizing a piece of music and memorizing a piece of art. They may not be creative in the sense of creating something new and original, but the creation of something musical or artistic is extremely good for your mind and heart. Now, would I like to learn to draw enough to be able to create original art? Would I like to be able to take strings of notes I’ve learned and rearrange them into something original? Of course I would, and that all comes with time. The learning of your first chord, learning to draw your first shapes, I would go so far as to say that the two of these are indeed the same steps. The same steps towards an artistic world that you’ve never had access to. When I first picked up the guitar, I didn’t learn two chords and then immediately pick out how to play Hotel California. My ear hadn’t been trained to the notes, my fingers didn’t know where they were supposed to go. I believe that the same applies to drawing, and I’m quite excited to see where my drawing experiences take me.

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