(re)Learning to draw

I was reading the book Chasing the Perfect by Natalia Ilyin not too long ago and she talks in the first chapter about what she calls the “no-draw rule” for graphic designers. (There is a nice long post about this over at Speak Up) This rule, Ilyin says, is a hold over from the early days of modernism. Something that stemed from the belief that drawing is a craft and is below the work of a designer, the idea maker. I think that this rule used to apply, but not so much any more. Designers draw all the time, and draw well. I think I fall less under the no-draw rule and more under the can’t-draw rule.

Don’t get me wrong, I can make sketches, and I can make a drawing well enough to get my point across to my students when trying to express an idea or help them visualize their ideas. But I can’t DRAW. I can’t make pretty pictures that make people say “I wish I could do that. He is SO creative!” And I want to. Really bad. I see things that make me say “Hey, that looks like fun. I wish I could do that.” So I have decided that I am going to learn how to draw again.

I used to be ok at drawing. I had an instructor for a life drawing course that actually thought I was a drawing major (my greatest moment as a drawer). So I used to be able to do it, and fairly well. But I have forgotten how. I was watching an episode of the PBS show Art:21 not too long ago and Richard Serra was one of their featured artists. There are a lot of shots of him walking around his sculptures and making drawings of them. When asked what he is doing he said that he is “keeping his eye and hand together.” He talks about keeping his hand and eye together, in coordination with what he sees. The more you draw, the better you see. It is that philosophy, or attitude, that has real application to all forms of visual communication, design included. And that is why I want to learn how to draw, again.

So my goal is, ideally, to make a drawing every day. But I will settle for one a week if the daily thing doesn’t work out. I hope to post said drawings here so the whole world can watch me learn how to draw again. And if no one sees, then at least I have a digital back-up if I ever loose my sketchbook.



  1. natalia said

    I think perhaps the “no-draw” rule is lurking under your “can’t draw” experience. “The no-draw” story in my book is an example– just one of the ways our education is shaped by the unspoken views of our teachers and their teachers. But there are always people whose drawing “proves” the rule. Who was the famous forebear who said, “No day without a line?”

  2. jonrussell said

    First I have to say I am quite surprised and pleased that you found my entry. And I think I see your point with the lurking of the no-draw rule in my education.

    I think one of my main reasons for this post and the goal of a drawing a day is I don’t want this to creep into my students thinking. I hope I can break the chain (or at least weaken a link or two) of the no-draw rule in design education. I think being able to draw can really open up the way a designer works.

    Thanks again.

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