Are artists born or made?


When I watch my five year old draw, he has this natural flow with no obvious upfront agenda. He simply adds to his picture as he develops a narrative in his imagination. When his drawing doesn’t turn out the way he intended, he just changes his story and turns it into something else – without getting hung up on it being “right” or not. His flexible, joyful, non-critical approach to making art inspires me. It reminds me how much I loved to draw when I was little – and that unfortunately, like many, I stopped drawing as I got older.

drawing closeup

A few weeks ago, I reflected on David Kelley’s TED talk “How to build your Creative Confidence”. In this week’s post I wanted to touch on some myths about drawing that may contribute to why so many of us lose our creative confidence as we grow. Over my years running Thrive, I’ve learned a lot of this firsthand, but there are also some great books out there – especially Mona Brookes’ Drawing with Children – that touch on some of these ideas. If we are aware of our own beliefs about drawing we can be more mindful about the messages we send our kids about their creative potential.

Common Myths About Drawing

1. Artists are born, not made

Drawing isn’t a genetic predisposition that some people have and others do not. Drawing skills can definitely be developed; if not, why would there be art schools? As with any skill, the more effort and practice you put in, the more possibilities unfold.

2. There is a right and a wrong way to draw

Everyone has an opinion about what they like and don’t like when viewing art, of course. But that doesn’t mean that art is right or wrong; art is never inherently good or bad. If you go to an art show or museum and see all the different ways artists have chosen to depict their subject matter, it’s easy to see that there is no right way to draw.

3. Children should acquire drawing techniques through experimentation and teaching specific skills will squelch their creativity

This one is close to my heart because if I had been taught more advanced drawing skills, I might not have given up my favorite past time. As we grow older, we’re more likely to become frustrated when our hand can’t keep up with our ideas; helping kids develop a range of drawing techniques keeps them engaged and confident as they approach each new project. It’s always important to ensure kids have plenty of freedom and encouragement to create with their own ideas and style, but also to teach them new skills. As Mona Brookes points out, we don’t expect children to learn to play the piano without instruction – why should it be that way with art?

4. Real artists draw from imagination without looking at anything

The misconception that artists imagine what they want to draw – and Voila! they just draw it – is really common. But in reality, most artists do loads of research and practice before drawing, or have resource images that they refer to throughout their work. Then they add their imagination.

5. Drawing is just a hobby – it doesn’t have any real importance

There are so many benefits our kids can glean by learning to draw. It develops hand-eye coordination, visual-spatial awareness, and attention to detail, to name just a few, promoting problem solving and decision-making skills along the way. Drawing also has the advantage of being really fun, and a great way for kids to express themselves and communicate. There’s a huge list of jobs that require drawings skills, such as architects, designers, artists, and engineers, but making art can be a powerful anti-stress tool no matter what career path your child chooses.

These myths about drawing can be great conversation starters with your kids. Simply knowing that everyone can learn to draw, and that there is not a right way to do it, has the power to free us all up to continue developing (or re-developing!) our creative confidence.

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