Take out your number 2 pencil. You are about to be amazed.
Yes, I’m talking to you people who can’t draw a recognizable stick figure. I used to be just like you – I wouldn’t even doodle because I was so ashamed of my pathetic renderings. When I received Mark Kistler’s You Can Draw in 30 Days for review, I considered it a dare that I would certainly win. I distinctly recall saying, “We’ll just see about that.”
I was not impressed by the press release that claims Kistler’s students have gone on to design the International Space Station and work on animated films such as Shrek and The Incredibles. Those people obviously had natural artistic talent. So what if they took a course from this author? I am drawing-impaired from the word ‘go,’ and there is no way I’ll ever produce more than a lumpy, misshapen circle.
Kistler’s friendly writing style lured me in, however. I reluctantly drew the Before pictures – a house, a plane, a bagel —then turned the page to see what Lesson 1 involved. It was so clearly beyond my ability that I almost stopped there, but pure stubbornness drove me to give it a go.
It wasn’t easy. I couldn’t figure out how to hold the pencil, even though I constantly have some sort of writing implement in my hand and have been capable of using one for writing words for many years now. The paper felt funny. I broke into a sweat. Despite all that, I managed to produce some very nice spheres in only a few minutes.
Kistler’s lessons build upon each other, and explain in simple terms how to use size, placement, and overlapping to create realistic-looking objects; how to use foreshortening to create illusion; and how to use a simple horizontal line to give depth to a drawing. You can probably skip all that and just follow the simple step-by-step visual instructions, but honestly – the terms aren’t that hard to understand.
Each of the 30 lessons has a bonus challenge, too, and I wound up doing them all with a fair amount of competence. Kistler is surely aware of just how embarrassing art lessons are for the majority of us, because he has wisely included work done by his students with each lesson, including some of their Before attempts, making me feel more comfortable about my own efforts.
By Day 5, I was looking forward to my daily lesson. By Day 7, I’d started sketching coffee cups and bowls, tables and desks, and just about anything else that caught my eye. What’s more, I was able to look at those things and identify what I was seeing: foreshortened view, two point perspective, and textures.
Am I serious competition for Van Gogh? Nope, not yet. Can I draw one heck of a waving banner or delicate lily? You’re darned right I can. And I’m convinced that You Can Draw in 30 Days, too.