Drawing Badly . . . A Series, Part One

OK, here’s the cage-rattling premise of this booklet – I won’t keep you guessing.

There IS such a thing as a drawing that is wrong!

Oh no! But, wait . . . that’s not what they’ve been telling me. There is no such thing as a bad drawing. This is not encouraging at all.

Actually, it is most encouraging. As you will soon see.


All of you spend time in art circles online, read art publications, attend workshops, etc. If you are not deaf and blind, you have heard ALL the efforts to encourage people to lose their fears and create art. You hear them ALL the time, in fact.

This is very well-intentioned because making art is a joy, and once you are making art, you want to share the joy. Get everybody onboard.

But there are some major, widely accepted roadblocks in the way:

Most people will tell you they cannot draw – even straight lines and stick people. Or they just weren’t born with the “gift” or the “talent” and gave up a long time ago.

Most people will tell you they have this monster inside who always criticizes their attempts to make art. How many times do you think you have heard the term “Inner Critic”? Entire careers are built on the discussion of this demon.

Most people will tell you that their second grade teacher told them their drawing was bad and they could never get the courage to try again.

Interestingly, most people will NOT tell you they aren’t interested in drawing.

Therefore, because so many people are at least mildly interested in creating something, and most people are stopped by the roadblocks listed above, a whole movement has sprung up to help people get over these roadblocks.

The offered solutions are usually based on denial that the roadblocks are real.

There are no rules, so don’t worry.

No such thing as right or wrong.

Don’t use an eraser – just live with the mistakes (because there’s no such thing as mistakes, remember?)

Just start, just do it, just scribble, just throw paint.

You don’t have to know anything.

Just tell that Inner Critic to go bother somebody else.

These are all heart-driven solutions intended to get you over the hump and into the fold of confident art makers.

The only problem is – they don’t work.

Denial rarely works. If something is there, it’s there.

Did you ever find yourself in some emotional meltdown, and your loved one or support person tells you:

Just STOP feeling that way

Just get over it

Chill out and scale back the drama

You’re getting upset about nothing

“But I FEEL this way,” you wail. “I CAN’T just stop!”

It does no good to decide there are no rules about art, there is no wrong way to do art, etc. because you FEEL this is not true.

And you are right.

There ARE certain simple rules that are necessary to make a pleasing drawing. Inherently, you know this IS true.

You know because you are probably the first person to not like something you have drawn, and worse, if you are not trained at all, you don’t know what is wrong or why you don’t like it, or how you could make it more likable.

You just have to live with it – and that might keep you from making another drawing soon – or ever.

But, how would it be for people to tell you that there ARE a few foundational rules that are very easy to learn, and if you practice them, you will make many more drawings you like and fewer you don’t. And when you don’t like a drawing, you will know why and how to fix it so you do like it.

Wouldn’t that be better? It would.

So, I’m going to tell you that right now. Because it’s true.

Is there any such thing as a drawing that’s “wrong”? There is.

Not the kind of “wrong” that means you did a bad thing, but the kind of
“wrong” that simply means “not right”.

Who makes those rules about what’s right or wrong?

The human eye does. And it’s all about survival.

To Be Continued



  1. Thank you. I get very irritated at the concept that anything you do is right in art. It simply isn’t true.

  2. Very timely for me, thank you! At least I have learned over the past couple of years, practice really helps me.

  3. As a retired art teacher, I never bought into the current therapy approach to art. Because it is not true. Drawing is a learnable skill. Not everyone will be a master no more than anyone who learns to swim is an Olympic athlete. The truth is what it really takes is TIME and EFFORT. I have used a couple approaches with basics such as Mona Brookes, and if someone is willing to actually do the work, they learn. Emotions are valuable because they are the dashboard lights to what is going on under the hood. You have to get at what is triggering the emotion and deal with the core. If you can learn to print, you can learn to draw- uses the same part of the brain. MRIs show this. Congratulations to you for being brave to unmask this.

  4. Thank you so much for the honesty.
    Over the years (I’m an old woman now) I have taken drawing classes and came away discouraged because I knew I was doing something wrong but no teacher told me what to do to make it correct. It made no sense to me to repeat my mistakes again and again. I felt it would be just that much harder to unlearn. So.. I’m in hopes I really can learn to draw well enough for my own pleasure.

  5. Just found this page… and of course, i agree with you So here’s the story i tell over and over to those who tell me they ‘can’t draw because they aren’t ‘talented’. True story: When I started teaching, I was probably an old school kinda teacher. When i taught hi school, I often had recent immigrant Chinese students ..mainly .because they didn’t have to speak English to be in an art class. I was really impressed with their ability to draw whatever was in front of them but I felt bad that they lacked ‘creativity’. But it was the 60’s, and ‘creativity’ was the catchword, and being able to draw well wasn’t seen as important. Jump ahead 25 years. Now i am an Art Therapist, travelling in China. Early one morning i am walking on the Bund in Shanghai – a park alongside the river that faces a line of European, 19th-century buildings, built by the Brits. A ‘snake’ of 6-year-olds, holding on to a long rope approached, clutching what looked like sketchbooks led by a couple of teachers. They sat the kids down on benches that faced the intricate buildings, talked to them a bit, and the little gremlins hauled out their pencils and started drawing. ??????? C’mon… there is no way they could or should be drawing those complicated buildings, but i hung around to see. They looked, they drew, they looked, and drew some more… and they were doing wonderful (for 6 year olds), detailed drawings of the buildings! As part of learning motor control they were being TAUGHT to look, record and reproduce what they saw. BIG LESSON for ME! When i retired, I taught some adult illustrated journal classes full of students who ‘couldn’t draw’. I would ask insecure students: Were you born with the talent to read and write? No… SOMEONE TAUGHT YOU. Who taught you to draw……….. blank stares……Because here in the west, ‘art’ and ‘drawing’ are seen as an unnecessary frill unless you are told you are ‘talented’. It was a good start, and opened the door to learning how to draw.

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