Beginning to Draw at 22
So how do you teach yourself something you know nothing about?
June 13, 2013
being self-taught

being self-taught

I drew this when I was 22.

Having never even thought about art until I was that age, it seemed like the perfect thing to try to do professionally. With only 2 years of university left, doing a degree related to film, it made me think about the possibilities of communicating without words and it made me start playing around with the idea of learning to draw.

The only real thing that came about from this playing is my realizing that I have absolutely no talent, ability or chance to ever be able to produce anything but a stick figure… a deformed stick figure. So of course I decided I want to do a lot of that. There’s a certain pleasure in masochism I suppose and I think I read somewhere once that we’ll never be happy until we find the thing that we can’t do – and then we’ll want to do it.

So I started trying to learn. Completely on my own, never having been to an art class even in school – that was a time to drink beer and play basketball. To this day I’ve never seen a real, live person draw. It literally took me years to figure out the process of drawing, the appropriate use of lines and tones – things that someone might have been taught in the first month of art school took so long to figure out. When there’s no one to point the way to you, every path seems like it could be the right way, so a lot of self-teaching, I think, is finding out not only what you need to learn, but also the things that you shouldn’t learn, to what degree you should be studying and how elements that you study separately come together to form a whole. Drawing and painting are very holistic. We study aspects of art separately, but they all come together to form one drawing, one piece of art. Art can be like mathematics sometimes, I think, there are a lot of connections that you need to be able to make and to analyse correctly and if there is no one to show you how to apply the correct formulas – you’re in for a lot of heartache.

Having said that – I’ve decided that this is the year I learn to paint in. I’ve gone from – I’ll never be able to, to it’s a matter of work and who I am and what I think about myself is completely irrelevant. Art is a skill, and like any skill your success depends solely upon your dedication, discipline and ability to use right effort. Not only to be practising, but to be constantly analysing your process, to be learning from day to day, to be able to see you’re on the right path, regardless of how you compare to others, what’s important is that you see your own road, not anyone else’s.

I hope to be able to save all of you a lot of time and a lot of frustration, to point you in the right direction as much as I can and to share my learning and experience with whoever is sharing the same road. Good luck šŸ™‚


  1. emermeyetea says:

    That’s so cool to see a progress blog like this. I can’t help but laugh at all the human truths you’ve said – especially the ‘wanting to do what you can’t do’ thing. I can’t say I was as disconnected from art as you were – as I did take the compulsory art classes during primary school and once in high school as part of the modular rotation (along with the likes of music, pe, and … something rather). And I did have friends who were (and still are) naturally talented artists (I guess they were probably the reason I got into the whole drawing thing – them and anime/cartoons ;P). But like you, I struggled with the stick figures. It was really only at the end of high school, when I actually had to choose a degree to undertake, that I considered to draw seriously (I was initially going to go with either engineering or commerce as those were what the folks wanted but … I was going through a rebellious streak so, I ended up applying to get into Design, haha).

    For years I was relatively content with my childish doodles, but upon entering first year of university, I realised just how deep in shit I got myself into – I had a tutor who once asked me if what I was drawing was a hedgehog’s pelvis (and no it wasn’t, it was a walnut) and another, who asked in a grave and cautious tone whether I was ‘colourblind’ *facepalm*. I guess comments like that just fueled both my frustrations and determination – masochistic indeed.

    Kudos to you for undertaking this journey. Starting a little later in life makes it tough – but as you said, art is just another skill. And I agree with you. And though there are many naturally talented artists out there, with a little bit more hard work and perseverance, anything is possible. All the best.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story šŸ™‚ I knew there had to be others out there. There are definitely benefits to being self-taught too, I get to pick my own tutors and I can draw as many walnuts as I like and have them critiqued only when I’m ready for them to be critiqued and not when they’re at the stage of the drawing when they look like hedgehog pelvises… some people just don’t understand šŸ™‚ This reminds of `The little Prince`.
      It is tough, but to be honest, if it wasn’t – it probably wouldn’t be as interesting. I have so much to gain if I keep working and nothing to lose so there’s no reason to not push as hard as possible. Thanks again for your kind words and I hope to see you around again – I saw that you’re doing a lot of manga, something I’ll have to try some day šŸ™‚
      All the best to you too.

  2. Sofiasay says:

    i’m pretty much on the same path as you šŸ™‚ wish you the best!

  3. Sofiasay says:

    i take that back! just saw your paintings. i’m a hundred step behind you!

  4. Nico says:

    Truly an inspiration, friend. Keep going.

    • Volen says:

      Thank you Nico, I’ve no intention of stopping any time soon šŸ™‚ Thank you very much for the kind words, all the best to you.

  5. Love it šŸ˜ƒ I’m starting the art journey now and am 43! Freaking nuts.

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