Five Exercises That Will Turn Anyone Into an Artist

Whitney Sherman is an award-winning illustrator and director of the MFA in Illustration Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art. She is also author of Playing with Sketches, 50 creative exercises for designers and artists (Rockport Publishers).

We asked Sherman for advice on how to get over the drawing hurdle many of us are afraid to jump. She also offers up five drawing exercises from her book to help anyone get started.

Why do you think it’s so hard for people to get started drawing?

For non-artists, I think that the culture of drawing is not extended or continued with or for them beyond early childhood. Grade schools and high schools, for the most part, value math and science over the arts, which gets cut out when budgetary pressures arise. What is then neglected is the haptic qualities of “making,” which can contribute to retention of learning as well as foster communication. If a non-artist is only shown an example of classical or academic drawing, they will be thwarted by not having those skills. If encouraged to make native marks [draw in their own way] and be respected for that, most people would grow up with less doubt on their ability to draw and would enjoy the process, which is a very important part of drawing!

For creative people who are working in artforms that do not regularly encourage drawing, some of the reasons are the same – recognizing and celebrating native marks, but I think it goes a bit farther to include practice. Creatively leaning people continue drawing beyond childhood for longer than most, yet their particular area of creative focus as an adult may have not required the use of drawing, and so it is left behind, unpracticed. In both cases, having permission [from a teacher, from ones self] to draw as one does, to appreciate that and practice it will foster comfort and confidence with drawing. Read the rest of the interview here.

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