03/20/2013 11:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is Drawing a Natural Talent?

This question originally appeared on Quora.
Answer by Deniz Ates, Gym Manager

No. I have gone from drawing stick men to drawing photographic portraits, and I have progressed more in the last few months than I had in the previous several years because I conscientiously studied many books on drawing, perception, and other "unrelated" subjects, such as mathematics or the philosophy of science.

It's all about finding and piecing together different techniques and looking at objects in a different way. It's about adjusting the tools to suit you rather than trying to adjust yourself to the tools. A lot of beginners think that artistic skill is developed through blind repetition, as if it were like building muscle through weight-lifting at the gym.

Read a few books on drawing (some are better than others), such as Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Read some classical texts on art, like Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks. Each book you read will provide a new piece of the puzzle and eventually you will piece together all the techniques (and frames of mind) into a "talent."

You will find that much of art is mathematical, which makes drawing so easy that you will have more problems deciding on what to draw, or on what is worth drawing, than with how to draw at all.

Do not give up!

Here are some tips to consider:

1) Do not draw what you "know" is there. For example, if you are drawing an image of a face, turn the image upside down and draw what you see. Most people fail to draw realistically because they are drawing their assumptions rather than the object in front of them.

2) You must get your proportions right, using rulers, compasses, and other mathematical instruments. This is something no artist can escape (at least if they want to draw realistically).

3) Use metaphors. Imagine drawing as sculpture. You are "carving" darkness into the image (assuming you are using a dark pencil on light paper). Imagine art were science, that your drawing were a "theory" that you have to test with "evidence."

4) Print out several copies of the image you want to draw (say five or six), each going from brightest to darkest, so that you can see the order in which you can bring your shading into the image.

5) Be aware of relativity. What is "dark" will appear "light" as soon as you draw with an even darker pencil.

Artistic skill is not measured by how easy or difficult it is to draw an image. You can develop your skills until drawing anything, literally anything, will be easy. To me, artistic skill is measured by what the artist believes is worth drawing.

What do you want to draw? This is probably the most important piece of the puzzle.

Perhaps this can be an additional tip:

6) Draw what you find beautiful, what fascinates you, what captures you, what absorbs you.

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