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How To Get Over Your Drawing Insecurities So You Can Make Art With Your Family

What’s every art teacher’s pet peeve? Adults who insist that they can’t draw.

Erica Silverstein · about 1 month ago

  • art

What’s every art teacher’s pet peeve? Adults who insist that they can’t draw – especially when they make these claims in front of children. If your kid is begging you to draw them a puppy, don’t say no because yours will end up looking like a table wearing an upside-down sock with ears. Instead, try these eight ways to get over your drawing insecurity so you can make art with your family.

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Change your mindset

You’ve likely heard the story that if you ask a roomful of preschoolers who is an artist, they will all raise their hands, but if you ask a roomful of teens, hardly any will identify that way. What happens to change their mind as they grow up? Society teaches us to focus on what we’re good at, and that only those who have the innate talent and proper training can be artists — or baseball players, musicians, or actors.

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And while this is true about doctors and lawyers (you don’t want untrained professionals removing your kidney or representing you in court), it’s not true about the arts. In the same way that every parent can kick a ball around a yard with their kids without being a gold medal athlete, every parent can draw pictures with their children without owning an Etsy shop or having their art displayed for sale at a gallery.

Why is it important to get that artistic chip off your shoulder? Parents who are self conscious about their art end up teaching their kids that there is “bad art” and “good art,” and that bad art has no value and should not be seen. If you say, “Don’t look at my picture — it’s so awful,” your kids will learn that only perfect art has worth. They, too, will start to feel bad about their own attempts at art that don’t match the image in their head and stop trying. And then you have prevented them from accessing the sensory, developmental, creative, and therapeutic benefits of making art.

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Instead, embrace the truths of the modern art museum and internalize that there’s no right or wrong way to draw an object. Your version might look different, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Drawing with your kids proves to them that all art has worth — whether for its aesthetic qualities or for what the process teaches — and that the most important thing is doing an activity together as a family.

Use imperfection to teach perseverance

Just because you don’t know how to draw a tyrannosaurus doesn’t mean you should not try. Instead of saying, “I can’t do that,” tell your kids that you’ve never drawn one before but you’re happy to try.

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As you work, ask your family members what you could add to improve your sketch. Laugh together afterward if your dinosaur looks more like a giraffe on steroids, and discuss what you should do differently next time to make the T-Rex more to your liking. Encourage your family to show you their interpretations of a dinosaur, and comment on the different styles everyone used.

With this approach, you’re teaching your family that no one expects them to be good at something the first time they attempt it. The goal is to learn from our mistakes and first efforts and improve. That knowledge will come in handy the rest of their lives — in algebra class, on the ski slope, in the dance studio, even in their first jobs.

Slow down

If you’re not experienced at drawing, don’t feel you need to whip out a perfect sketch in 15 seconds flat. Take your time. Art teachers recommend starting with the basic shapes of the object you’re trying to draw, and then move on to the details. Use a pencil and erase a section if you want a do-over. If your kids start whining, tell them that art takes time and you’re enjoying getting the picture the way you want it. If they’re bored, then they should take out a piece of paper and draw their own version next to you.

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Use erasable media

They say art is ephemeral, but my kids hoard old drawings like they’re competing on a reality show. If you’re worried that your less-than-perfect art will return to haunt you, you might have more confidence doing your drawing on easily erasable surfaces, such as water doodle or magnetic drawing pads. No one will be showing your mother-in-law your “is it a bird or a bunny?” picture, because it will disappear minutes after you create it.

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Use a model

You think da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa without using a real woman as a model? Of course not — so why are you different? If you want to draw the Paw Patrol gang, pull up an image to copy from the internet. Need to depict a train? Find a picture in a book or coloring page to trace. Or look for an online tutorial about how to draw animals, characters, or holiday icons. More artists than just Mo Willems have how-to YouTube channels.

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Try alternative art forms

Pen-and-paper is not the preferred style of every artist, yourself included. Perhaps you feel more confident working with the tactile medium of clay, the messiness of finger paint, or the serendipity of collage. Drawing does not have to be the only art you do with your family. What’s important is that you find ways to explore art together, at home.

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Look up a recipe for making paper or carve stamps out of the potatoes no one is eating. Make art by driving Hot Wheels cars through paint then around a piece of paper. Go outside and do splatter art like Jackson Pollock. If you’re hurting for creative art ideas, you can find more than you ever wanted online.

Take a class

If you really want to build confidence in your drawing abilities, take a class. Perhaps there’s an art tutorial your whole family can do together online, or an art class at the local community center. Find a book at your library about the basics of drawing. Get a friend to teach you. If you feel like you’ve developed some skills, you’ll be more willing to step out of your comfort zone and try drawing something new the next time your kid asks.

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Remember that your kid will love whatever you draw

Just like babies love your off-key singing voice, and your kids think you’re beautiful without makeup, they will love whatever you draw because you created it for them. You can do no wrong in your kids’ eyes; don’t give them a reason to doubt that! Have confidence that they will love your person whose arms are too long for her short torso and rave about the race car that’s merely a blob with wheels.

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Remember, Picasso became famous drawing people whose body parts were not in conventional places. Your style is your unique artistic expression, and it does not need to be realistic to be adored.