I Still Can’t Draw

I can’t draw very well. I admit it. When I was taking figure drawing classes in art school, I had regular practice and I actually got pretty good at drawing realistic portraits. But now, well, let’s just say my skills are sketchy at best. The question is, does my limited ability to draw realistically limit me as an artist and by extension, an art therapist?

I would say that it frustrates me at times, but ultimately does not limit me as an artist or art therapist. I find that when people say that they are not artists or are not creative, what they usually mean is that they cannot draw realistically. This self-excludes a large portion of the population from the creative realm! Drawing realistically is only one of many creative outlets. It is a skill subset, not the definitive criteria for being an artist. Because of my training as an artist, I understand the elements and principles of design, color theory, art history and everything else that goes into formulating my creative ideas and work. I do not have to master every skill to call myself an artist, and neither do you and neither do our clients.

I tried to teach a client to draw a portrait this week. I showed her the correct proportions and talked about line quality and shading. However, my drawing came out looking pretty goofy even though it was “following the rules.” We laughed about it and it actually sparked a really great conversation. She thought I knew how to do everything and it was eye-opening for her to see that I can’t do everything and that I was comfortable admitting that. I was willing and able to expose myself as human, not just as “all-knowing therapist.” I believe that there are times in the therapeutic relationship when it benefits the alliance to reveal our own foibles and let the client see that we therapists have the same challenges and struggles of life as they do. Revealing my weaknesses as an artist does just that.

So go and create in whatever way and form your heart feels called. And let’s all work on letting go of our artistic insecurities. They don’t serve us well as artists and art therapists.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Leo Rex
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 08:47:08

    ” let’s all work on letting go of our artistic insecurities. They don’t serve us well as artists and art therapists.” as a poet i agree


  2. Susan Danton
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 11:16:10

    “This self-excludes a large portion of the population from the creative realm!”

    Brings memories of art classes as a young ‘un. If you can’t draw, you’re not artistic and shouldn’t even try. From that point on, so many throw the baby out with the bath water. How tragic. Wise commentary, Jenny, and invaluable whenever defining creative processes.


  3. Natalie Binder
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 15:34:33

    I love this post Jenny! I also cannot draw (I had initially typed “very well”) but honestly I just can’t draw and I actually don’t enjoy drawing. I know that I often limit my artistic identity by my inability to draw. It makes me insecure calling my Self an artist and an expressive art therapist. I often talk my Self off the creative ledge in order to maintain my creative self. I agree with Susan that your insights on this matter are so wise. I always feel so lucky to have had you as a mentor while I was at Lesley. Your creative (and clinical) wisdom was such a critical piece to my growth as an expressive arts therapist.


  4. Mary
    Jan 28, 2012 @ 17:17:40

    i can’t draw either – makes me insecure – but i’m an ‘out of the box’ thinker and i love the name of your blog!


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