I can’t draw

How many times have you heard someone say or have often told yourself ‘I can’t draw?’ How many pencils and their paper brethren have suffered the wrath of defeatist frustration?

The simple truth is that everyone can draw. To draw is not to make a highly accurate shaded sketch of a horse. Drawing is so much more than an incredibly realistic 2B endeavor of your friend’s kitten for their birthday.

Will Aslett

Mark-making in its simplest form centres around how you think and how you feel. To draw is a way to document what you see, when you really take time to look at something. Styles are born from these observations, delicately put by Anais Nin, ’We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are’ which explains why one man’s bear is not the same as another man’s bear. What we draw is special. Yes, even that… whatever that is.

Drawing is especially pertinent if your profession exists in the creative realm. Design in any shape or form is a very visual convention, helping give context and clarity to an idea. Not only part of the process, it’s a way of developing and playing. There’s a layer of discovery to be uncovered and without an exploratory period on paper you won’t get the best out of your idea – no one gets it right first time without a little thinking time on sheets of pure white.

Richard Williams is heralded as one of the great analogue drawing-movers of our time. He once wisely said, ’I’m afraid my brains are in my hand’ which is something that will really resonate with any design fiend, the fact that a lot of our ideas start out as a scrawl on a scrap and are somehow channeled from fingertip to pencil tip. Bolts of thought are documented with an invisible intensity present as the idea is earthed to the blankness of a page.

Something we all did when we were a lot younger (little even) was to draw absolute nonsense fueled by our complete innocence. We weren’t scared of an empty piece of paper and there certainly wasn’t a fear attached to the first mark on a clean space. As somewhat of a modern cliché (what with my thick rimmed glasses and all) I like nothing more than to grab a coffee, draw my pencil from its case and release. Chris Ware, the master of beautifully illustrated gloom has never said anything so hopelessly true, ’Your sketchbook should be a sort of ”mental shelter” – a cosy core into which you can always huddle for warmth and solace’.

I Can't Draw, by Will Aslett
I Can’t Draw, by Will Aslett

Like a mysterious fog, a myth surrounds a person being born into something like drawing. While there is a truth in the ether that natural talent can be hereditary, the argument of whether that factoid is the be-all end-all of being able to draw falls flat on its face. You can learn to draw – it just takes a lot of time and practice to get to a stage where you can maneuver a pencil with an air of nonchalance. The gradual and fundamental improvement of all one’s work starts with a silent desire to do something with an invisible determination, resulting in an earned talent.

A final nugatory leaving some creatives bewitched is the pressure of peer pleasers or making for acceptance. We shouldn’t look for approval in our art, we should not imitate. Instead we should create because we want to and experiment with the way we see things. Uncle Walt dispels those feelings in this part of ‘An adventure in art’ from 1954…


The art of writing in many ways is the brother of drawing in the grand old house of creativity. To write is to document everything drawing does, but by way of putting words to paper – or indeed to screen in this new fangled age of flying cars, hoverboards and ‘the internet’. We’ll shy away from writing for now though. One step at a time – because as well as being unable to draw, unfortunately I can’t write either.

Will Aslett is lead digital creative at The Good Agency. You can find him on Twitter, @willaslettdraws, or on his website www.willaslettdraws.com.


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