Can you draw? I didn’t think I could – but then I was surprised

I can’t draw. This is how I premise any attempt at putting a pencil on paper, or even a piece of chalk on the pavement. I may be able to write or have a good sense of how to combine colours, but I’ve always thought that sketching a shape is really beyond me. I’ve caught myself saying “I can’t draw” to my son Lorenzo many times when he asked me to draw a pig, an excavator, or a wolf.

But what’s really behind that sentence, “I can’t draw”, and is it the best way to engage with a child – and with ourselves? Clearly, I’m not one of those talented people that win a round of Pictionary after drawing a couple of lines. On the contrary, I feel so ashamed of my apparent incapability to find the right proportions in a face that I used to dread my turn at drawing in the board game. And I’m not suggesting that I’m deep down a visual artist who has repressed her inner calling. But I do think that by questioning this sentence, “I can’t draw”, I’ve learnt a lot.

It turns out that many people think they can’t draw. Graham Shaw is a British communication coach who has given many talks explaining why most people feel that drawing is either something you’re good at or something you cannot do – like singing or learning languages. “When people say they can’t draw, I think it’s more to do with beliefs rather than talent and ability. So I think when you say you can’t draw, that’s just an illusion,” says Shaw in this TED Talk. To prove his point, he goes on to teach people how to sketch a few cartoons.

I tried it myself, and I was delighted.

It’s pretty cool for something I learnt in 10 minutes and have now been able to reproduce over and over again. In his talk, Shaw uses several examples to prove that everyone can draw. One of them is particularly touching: he gave a lecture to people recovering from strokes, and they…

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