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Drawing, an introduction to the language of art


I've loved drawing since I was a kid. And it introduced me to the language of art. I became a Graphic Designer, and then an art teacher. And everything I taught was about getting people to understand another language, the language of art. I gotta admit, a lot of people never got it, and it made them angry, as if it were all some sort of trick.

If art puzzles you, because people can't explain it, it's because it's an entirely different language. I had a painting teacher who used to say that if you could describe it, you wouldn't need to paint it. And once you've made that leap, you've got it. As long as you try to translate it back into another language, it will make no sense.

I encourage people to draw. That's where we all start. For me, it was, and is, a way to help me to understand the world around me, to grasp it. Drawing things just made me understand in a way that words could never do. I often tell people that you knew how to do it when you were a little kid, and as you learned a different language (for me it was English), it fades away. I refused to give up my second language, and I did a lot of drawing. If you're interested in learning this language, here is how to start:

• Copy something. Find a photo, look at it, and copy it. You can cheat if you want to - you can trace, or you can just bring an image into a Photoshop filter. Don't worry about originality at first, that will come later. Begin by copying, which will do the first step in teaching you the new language - looking. When you copy it, you take ownership of an image. No, not legally, I'm not suggesting that you copy something and sell it on the internet, that's wrong. Don't do that. You can stay at this level if you want to, it's pretty basic, but at least you're using the language.

• Combine. Combining things is the first step towards understanding design. You can call it juxtaposition if you want, but really, trying to do a translation like that just sounds silly. This takes you into the world of creativity, and believe me, there are no words for that.

As an art teacher, many people asked me explain art to them, in words. And if they asked that, I knew that they had a long way to go. If I could get them to draw, then we would have a common language. And I saw it happen whenever one of my students said, "wait, let me sketch out that idea for you..."