Drawing Badly – Part 3 – Conclusion

Have you ever watched some amazing gymnastic move or a flying, twirling figure skating jump, and wondered what that looked like the first ten times the athlete tried it?

We completely understand that it takes tremendous amounts of practice to be a great athlete.

So, what’s with the idea that you should be an instant success at being an artist? Isn’t that a rather strange expectation?

The athletes fall down a lot along the way – and so will you, but you will skin your self-confidence more times than your knees.

Mistakes are an opportunity to learn – and that is a good thing.

In fact, MOST of the art we make is made just so we can create those once-in-a-while pieces of wonderful art. Just stepping stones, as it were. Practice making perfect.

You would think we would have a cheerleader on our side.

Instead we have the infamous INNER CRITIC.

What if I told you that is your cheerleader?

In art, there is no such thing as an inner critic.

And I’m not practicing denial.

I know you hear voices inside saying your drawing is wrong, but they are not coming from a critic.

In other areas of your life, if someone once told you that you are terrible at everything you do, and you bought into that, there is serious work for you to do with that issue.

But that is NOT the voice you hear when you make art.

Consider this: If you have an inner voice that tells you something is wrong with your drawing, it follows that the voice must also know what’s right – or it would not be able to tell something was wrong.

And the voice is trying to protect you from “wrong” so you don’t get hurt.

It’s almost like somebody is looking at a map, and saying “Wait – you turned the wrong way!”

Who do you think that could be?

Bingo – the voice you hear telling you the drawing is wrong is your well loved eye and brain team, who have worked hard at mapping out everything as it should be – who devote every waking hour to protecting you from harm.

They are not judging you.

They are not criticizing you.

They are GUIDING you – reporting the lay of the land, so to speak, as they always do.

They are not saying you are an idiot and should give up art forever.

They are saying “that line is in the wrong place and you should move it”.

They are your INNER GUIDE.

Just this small change in perception can redirect your whole art life.

You know what’s right, so you also know what’s wrong, and your inner voices are helping you do right.

As an art teacher, I have become well known for something I call “fuzzy” drawing. I start every class with that lesson.

We use forgiving tools (otherwise known as a pencil and eraser), and instead of boldly choosing a path and forging ahead, we “hunt” for the correct lines using small, light strokes and adjusting them as we go – listening to our inner voice for guidance.

The act of “sketching” has often been defined exactly that way, in fact.

Think of your Inner Guide” as a sketch buddy, quietly making helpful suggestions according to what it knows.

And it certainly helps to add all you can to what the Inner Guide knows, so LEARN all you can about the basics of drawing and practice until those things become hard-wired.

Then practice some more –  and trust that you will get it right – even if it takes awhile. You are NOT in a hurry.

The greatest joy of art making is in the process. The end product is good too, but the real gift is in the journey.

Enjoy your journey.



  1. Sometimes I know something is off but not sure what and I ask someone else I trust at those times. Other times, yes, I know what is off and sometimes it’s enough to care about and change and other times it’s not. The horizon on an ocean or beach scene is pretty much a must do but a misplaced scribble by a flower pot can become an extra leaf – I’ve done that one lol and saved the sketch! The first one, the beach scene, was a birthday card so it had to be fixed especially since I was giving it to my artistic granddaughter. The other was in my sketchbook so I could have left it but I like to fix things even in my sketchbook typically.

  2. Ha – I certainly have done the “added leaf” thing more times than I can think about. Mistakes can lead to new ideas and even new techniques. Watercolor is a hard fix, as you know, and I once flubbed the color on a whole tile floor in a painting that was all done otherwise. I should have listened to my inner guide who told me that color would not look right. I was desperate so I painted the whole floor over with gouache because it is opaque, and in the process discovered a whole new way to combine watercolor and gouache in a painting. So mistakes are good for sure – but not to keep if they bother you.

  3. My inner “Guide” must be broken. It is all for telling me something is wrong but not so good at how to fix it!

  4. Dora – Has your Inner Guide had much art training? Otherwise, it wouldn’t know those answers.

  5. Funny…while I don’t like the “No Rules” movement, I don’t have a problem with it either—let me finish my response before you start scowling—as I’ve “interpreted” movement as a way to move people past the fear of even getting started in creating. While it’s true no one was born with a pen in one hand and a brush in the other as you demonstrate, FEAR doesn’t often respond to logic and seldom to reason. Since the fear is real and paralyzing, telling these folks there are no rules in getting started can often get them past the fear.

    I’ll even go so far as to say that getting started by IGNORING the rules is not a bad thing…as long as you a) understand that there will be mistakes and they’re seldom fatal; b) don’t think you can stay in that place* of “no rules;” and c) understand that at some point you’ll need to LEARN the basics (and more if there is sufficient interest).

    The problem I have with the No Rules idea is with the entrepreneur(s) that tells folks there are no rules and they can’t make a mistake as long as they buy the widgets, programs, books, etc. being offered as a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. This misleads folks into thinking they *should* be able to create a “masterpiece” right off the bat without learning the basics if they just buy the “thing” on offer.

    I believe in starting where you are, using what you have and doing what you can…and LEARNING all that you can along the way. If this means ignoring the so-called rules for a while that’s okay. Just know that something worth doing is ever without a learning curve so that we may do it well.

    *Well, you can stay in that place…just don’t be surprise or unhappy if no one else wants to stay there with you.

  6. Thanks for reminding me again, and I would sure rather be working through all of this with drawing and painting rather than gymnastics and ice skating… ouch.

  7. What is art anyway? It seems you can call everything art today. Even monkeys and elephants make art these days.

    But when it comes to realistic drawing and painting, there are rules that tell you, if you want to achieve this, you have to do this or that. When I started drawing I was glad to find some general rules and guidelines that helped me to get going.

    I think one problem today is that learning is seen as something negative. Something you occasionally have to do, not something that is fun. Another is, that many people seem to think that there are no facts, that everything is subjective. No wrong or right, just taste.

  8. I love this! It makes so much sense and is encouraging. Thank you!

  9. What a great article, Jessica! You’ve put into words the ideas that have been swirling around in my head ever since I first heard about the concept of the “inner critic”. I’ve always felt that the voice in my head was more of a guide than a critic, as you said, not something to be expelled or battled with, but something to use constructively. I’ll pass along this series of posts to the members of my Facebook group (past students of mine). I would guess they will agree with your take on things, otherwise they wouldn’t be taking my classes where I teach specific drawing and painting skills.

  10. This is a life changing article and concept. I am an artist, and also have spent most of my life in the mental health field. Counselors refer to part if what you are suggesting here as “Reframing.” Meanung, reframe a negative concept into a friendlier, more manageable one.
    I have NEVER thought of my “inner crutic” as a cheerleader, and I bought into the idea of the inner critic hook, line, and sinker.
    I am stunned by the idea/reality/truth that my inner cheerleader/sketch buddy has been misunderstood by me and is actually is my guide…
    I also now fully believe this is not only limited to my artmaking efforts…
    You have given me much to ponder. I will be crediting you from now on when I work with clients who are overwhelmed with their own harsh self judgements.

    Thank you for this article.

    Michelle Gray

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