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Ah Cannae Draw

This is one of the most common phrases I hear from students. “Ah cannae draw”, which translates from Scots to English as “I cannot draw”.

My immediate response is “Of course you can, you can use a pencil or a pen or whatever and you can make a mark on some paper. What you really mean is that you don’t LIKE what you draw”.

And therein lies a big problem. Many people CAN draw, but with the skills of a 5 year old, and they see their drawings with the perception of an adult.

Creativity, so we’re told, is an essential skill sought by employers and it’s also a fundamental element of Curriculum for Excellence. Drawing is a highly creative skill, essential (in my opinion) to planning, designing and communicating. Yet, despite its importance, it is poorly taught at school, or worse still, is actively discouraged.

The truth is that we start to draw from an early age, from the first time we are given crayons and find, much to our parents’ horror, that it makes marks on the wallpaper. At Nursery and Primary School drawing is a common activity, at least until around half way through Primary, when writing, maths and other activities begin to take precedence. Then at High School pupils probably attend one Art lesson per week, and by fourth year the majority do no artwork at all.

In this time artistic skills are slowly eroded, skills that we learn in our early years are forgotten and left unpractised, until suddenly we’re grown up and “cannae draw”.

Universities and employers have long decried the writing and communication skills of current students and young employees, even though these skills are taught continuously through Primary and Secondary education. So, imagine what their drawing skills are like, having been pushed aside for many years in favour of these other ‘important’ skills.

So, dear teacher, please don’t discourage drawing. Use it in all your subjects. Illustrate a passage from Shakespeare, make maps in geography, paint portraits of historical figures, create pictures for nouns in French. Keep this skill alive, encourage creativity, meet important criteria for Curriculum for Excellence, and save your students a lot of heartache when they go to college or university or employment.

Finally, remember, man was able to draw long before he could speak or write.

Cave Painting, we don't know who made it. They couldn't tell us or write their name back then.

Categories: teaching
  1. November 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Brilliantly said.

    I always say to the pupils in my classes, that it is not about the drawing. It is about communicating.

    Practice. Practice. Practice. Style and confidence will develop.

    And if you can, draw it rather than write it. Much easier to understand for designers.

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