No, drawing is not a gift

No, drawing is not a gift

Once in a while, I am approached by people at markets and online wondering how my journey got me here. Some ask about where I am from and how I ended up in Finland, and others about why I chose to draw birds instead of anything else. But if there is a question I get a lot of is when I started drawing. Most often than not, that is because they have a kid in the family that loves to draw but sometimes they are just interested to know for how long I've been doing it to explain the result.

I tell them that although I love drawing since I was a kid, I spent a lot of years barely drawing anything once I started working as a graphic designer (which is a surprise to a lot of people). I went back to drawing in 2019, but back then it was just a little hobby that I would do once in a while when I got sad, and it was never birds. 2020 was the year when I started dedicating more time to it and putting in the hours needed to get any good at it, and in came the birds.

When they realize that I have been doing it for a little over 2 years, the "that's a gift" conversations start. There is a little bit of "That's not long", mixed with "You were probably born with this talent" and ending with the "I don't have that skill/capacity".

At first, I found this conversation a bit dismissive as it took away all the effort I put into growing as an artist, like no matter what I wanted to draw it would be amazing right away. But now I find it quite funny as people have no idea that THEY TOO can be an artist and a good one at that.

Let me show you how I started.

watercolor illustration of a couple

Yes, this is not a bird, but the skill and technique are quite visible, and a bit lacking. You may say that it's good, but for someone that has drawn since childhood... I can show you better artists at 15 years old.

Now let's try a bird, shall we?

Pen illustration of a birdwatercolor illustration of a male house sparrow

These are some of the first birds I did. You can see that I have been drawing before, but you can also see that they are in no way, shape or form comparable to what I do now.

Then there is also the experience you have with the material. For some odd reason, I decided to dive into Watercolours right away. A quick Google search with "what is the hardest medium to paint with" will leave you with this page:

Print screen of google search on what is the hardest medium to paint with

But the matter of fact is that I have more hours working with watercolour than I have with any other material (if you exclude my childhood art with colouring pencils and crayons). Recently I'm starting to (almost) catch up with oil-based pencils but mostly because I have been incorporating them with my watercolour work. So it's normal that my watercolour pieces are better than my acrylic pieces for example.
The more time you spend on a material, the more you can control it. You understand the behaviour, the timing and the usage. This takes time, especially with an incredibly liquid material that moves around even when you breathe a bit harder.

But wait, there is more. Now let's talk about subjects.
My husband is an artist. He is a 3d artist for video games and he specializes in guns. He is absolutely amazing at what he does. He cannot draw a bird. Not even in the same medium that he is used to. Because he is specialized in guns! That's where he has hours and hours of experience. Me on the other hand... I cannot draw a gun to save my life. I can draw you the idea of a gun, but I will never be able to do it in a way that you can distinguish one model from the other. But I can draw birds that you can perfectly say the species. Why? Because I have hours and hours drawing birds. Drawing them, researching them, and understanding them.
Just because I'm good at drawing birds, does not mean that I will be good at drawing other things. I may have trained my observation skills and my motor skills to be able to achieve a semi-decent-looking squirrel for example, but it will not have the same quality as my birds.

Studies of eyes and bills of eagles

Drawing is a skill that you improve with practice. It's more than just the motor skill, it's the understanding of the shapes and textures, it's understanding of how that subject moves, it's understanding of light and shadows and how materials react to it. It's composition and colour theory. It's knowledge of the medium you use, that can be off-turned if you change for example brands. It's a perfect storm of knowledge and skill that you get with time. Yes, some people are more inclined to it, but that does not mean that if you would like to draw, you would not be able. With practice and love for the craft, you can create beautiful art pieces that right now seem impossible to you.

Back to blog

1 comment

Beautifully written blog post. Calling someone talented, while well-meaning, can often feel dismissive of the hard work one puts into perfecting a skill. It’s very rare to be born with a remarkable gift- most people are great at something simply because they’ve put hours into it. We put hours into something because we love it. So really, being ‘talented’ at something is often just a reflection of our passion for it. :)

Stephanie Moore

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.