Columnist: Ted Pigott Ted's Beyonder Story
As an artist, one of the things I adamantly believe in is “sharing my work.”
So, I am very pleased and excited to have the opportunity to share more of my work in this column, along with some of my thoughts, ideas, opinions, and passions. Over the next year or so, I look forward to offering my perspective on living a creative life, with a particular emphasis on my experiences as an America artist based in Taipei.
For my inaugural column, I will start with something near and dear to my heart: drawing.
A friend on Facebook once asked me, “Ted, how can I draw better?”
I had to stop and pause before I replied, because I wasn’t really sure how to answer that.
But truth be told, I feel that I’m still learning when it comes to drawing.
Having said that, though, I do have a few thoughts about how it might be possible to become a bit better at drawing.
To draw better, you have to draw more. There are no two ways about it. If you want to improve your drawing skills, you simply have to draw. A lot.
I’m a big believer in the 10,000-Hour Rule that Malcolm Gladwell put forth in his best-selling book Outliers. I’m not sure if I’ve put in my 10,000 hours yet, but I do know that every day, I never miss out on a chance to draw, even if it’s only for five minutes at a time. At a concert, on the MRT, in a café—I always have my pen and sketchbook close at hand.
I often repeat to myself, “Don’t think. Just draw.”
And then I just draw.
And then draw some more.
Day in and day out. Put in the time, and build up those 10,000 hours of practice.
It sounds so simple.
And it is.
And it isn’t.
Because what if you are not motivated? Are there some ways to motivate yourself to draw more? I believe there are.
To start off, draw what you love. I love beer, coffee, pizza, dumplings, flowers, teppanyaki, the alleys of Taipei, people on the MRT, and the palm trees of Pingdong. I love to travel, and I love to draw what I see in front of me. So this is what I draw.
I know—there are a million things you can draw in this world. You can literally draw anything.
So, then, why not focus on the things you have a passion for? The things you like and are naturally attracted to? The things that would find their way in front of you, even if you weren’t drawing?
I believe that when you draw the things you love, then–somehow, some way–this love shows up in the drawing itself. It can’t be faked.
I know it’s possible to make a technically competent drawing of say, a bridge, but unless you have a passion for that bridge, I think that the drawing will likely fall flat.
What do you love? What turns you on? What fills you with passion? Go there, and draw these things.
And now for some contradictory advice: Draw what challenges you. Yes, this is almost the complete opposite of what I just said, but I think it really works. Draw what you have trouble drawing. If you have trouble drawing faces, for instance, focus on drawing faces.
I, for one, have always had trouble drawing hands. So, I decided to focus on drawing hands whenever I could. I drew a lot of hands, mostly my own, in a variety of poses, but also the hands of others. Gradually, over time, I came to like drawing hands, and my drawings of them slowly improved. Now, I feel that hands are some of the best things I draw.
But there are still plenty of challenges left. Next on my list is noses, and then eyes, and the faces of babies and children. Fortunately (from my point of view), there will always be new challenges for me to draw, for the rest of my life.
But don’t stress too much if you feel you don’t draw something well. You might think you “stink” at drawing people, for example. You may hate the way you draw their hair or their noses. You may think you always make their arms too long. However, I’ve discovered that what you may think stinks is actually your style. (So celebrate it.)
We are all our own worst critics. And you may hate the way that the people you draw always end up with imperfect hair, button noses, and long flowing arms.
But that is your style. That is what makes it interesting. And personal. And unique. It’s the flaws. The imperfections. What someone else wouldn’t (or couldn’t) draw.
It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but at least it’s yours. And not everyone will like tea (just as not everyone will like your drawing style). Some people like coffee or Coke or hot water. That’s fine. Just keep on making and serving your tea to those who do like it.
Do your drawings have to be perfect? No, not at all. Mine certainly aren’t.
I often say that if you want something photorealistic, why not just take a photo? And while I most certainly do have great respect for photographers and artists who can produce picture-perfect pieces, what I want to see (and draw) is a personal interpretation of the world that is out there. What is interesting, in my opinion, is how an artist sees the world and puts it down on the paper.
To be sure, techniques and skills are important, and I’m always trying to improve mine. But these things are only tools to help you tell your own story, visually.
Again, in my mind, it all comes down to drawing. All the time. Every day. As much as possible. That’s how you get better. And for me, this makes your life better, because for me, every day is better when you draw.
You might think you are too busy, and some days may be more challenging than others. But even if it’s just two minutes at breakfast or five minutes on the MRT or ten minutes at lunch, at least you drew something that day.
So, as much as I have enjoyed writing this article (and as much as I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it), it’s time for me to take a page out of my own (silver-lining) playbook and wrap this up, so I can go off and draw. : )
Because in my humble opinion, you don’t really get better by talking about drawing or by writing about it or even reading about it, although these things can help. No, the only way you can truly get better at drawing, in my honest opinion, is by doing it.