Breaking Away From What You Once Knew

We all start out the same way when it comes to drawing. We create symbols that represent the things we draw. When you are a toddler, a blob can represent a whole person, or just their body. Over time, lines are attached that represent  “arms”, then when those are more fleshed out, even more lines representing “hands”.


This is the mind inventing symbols to help it communicate. It is wonderful, pure creation. It’s where Pablo Picasso spent the latter part of his life trying to return to.


As we get older our symbols become more refined, often by watching friends draw and mimicking some new approach that they have, or maybe we attempt to copy some comic strip or piece of art that we like – the symbols become more sophisticated.


But then for many, they stop. Children become teenagers with less time or inclination to draw. Certain peers stand out as the “artists” in a group and rather than enjoy the process it becomes competitive.

The symbols get locked in. Later in life when you ask a person to draw something who stopped any serious drawing in childhood, they will draw something that reverts straight back to that time.

The symbols were locked in.

The problem with symbols is that it prevents you from growing quickly. You can refine the EYE that you made when you were 10, but that is not an actual eye. That’s just a representation of an eye. Real eyes are magical things that can be wildly different from person to person. Being able to break out of the cycle of sticking to those symbols will give you the power to draw them all, not just the one you decided on when you were younger.

Learning to draw what you see in front of you is the fastest way to grow as an artist. Endless reference right in front of you, as long as you are bothering to look. You won’t know how to draw that flower until you draw that flower.






The reason I know anyone can draw is because everyone still retains the symbols they gathered for themselves the first 10-15 years of their lives. They can pull from those symbols immediately, like riding a bike. In the same way you retained those symbols, you can also retain the ability to look at something and know the process for drawing it accurately on the page.

It’s not talent, I promise. It’s learned skill. Are there talented people? Absolutely. For the rest of us (myself included) it comes from breaking away from those symbols entirely and learning a new approach (not as hard as it sounds).

This course is going to rewire your brain a little bit, giving you a chance to learn how to truly draw what you see without backtracking into your old visual library.


Self Portrait! Let’s see where you are with your drawing as you begin the process. Look in a mirror, draw from a picture, whatever you are comfortable with. Don’t spend more than 30 minutes on it. Take a picture of it and shoot over to the Facebook Group to introduce yourself. We’re all in this together, regardless of your skill level.

Go “LIKE” the Urban Sketchers public page on Facebook and you will be flooded with wildly different and inspiring travel sketchbook pieces from both professionals and hobbyists. It will show you there are dozens of approaches to how to draw the world around you and is generally one of my favorite things ever.


drawings from 大原洋一郎Wahyu SPCoretanino


1Self Portrait
2Like the Urban Sketcher Facebook Group
3Introduce yourself in the Learning To Draw Facebook Group