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Sharpen your eyes, not just your pencils...

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*NB: Originally posted on 5th August 2015 on the old website*

I was a college lecturer for 13 years and I loved teaching Art & Design - still do (and hope to do more of it through workshops and e-courses) - and one of the greatest joys about it was watching the skills of the students improve and to see their own pride grow as they saw their work getting stronger and stronger as they practiced.

But one of the most fascinating things about learning to draw (a skill which I sincerely believe anyone can learn to do and do well if they are motivated to try!) is that it is less about pencils than you realise - and much more to do with your eyes (well, and your brain!).

At its very simplest level, drawing is putting marks on paper - and we can all do this from a very early age. One of the most vital skills that needs to be honed if we wish to develop these marks into recognisable forms is the ability to see. Yes, you read that right - to draw better we need to see better.

Let me explain what I mean. Take a look at this:


Do you believe me? That both the top and bottom shape are the same shade of grey? (hint: try covering up the 'join' with your finger!) Or this one?

I kid you not - both squares A and B are exactly the same shade of grey. The thing is, sometimes what our brain tells us we see and what is actually in front of us can be different.

Our brain is such an efficient piece of kit that it makes a lot of decisions and judgements before we are even aware of them. It makes assumptions and choices based on what we know - and these judgement can be influenced by the colour that is next to something or the label that we give it. People often find drawing hands or faces really difficult - and this is because we are so familiar with them that our brain 'knows' what they look like and this 'knowledge' can get in the way of what we can actually see.

So, one of the most exciting elements of learning to draw is opening your eyes and really learning to see - a subject I think I may return to :)

And in case you didn't believe me, here you go...

So there you have it - what our brain tells us we see and what is actually in front of us can sometimes be different! And you thought drawing was all about the pencils...

H x

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