So many adults wish they could draw, but most never attempt to learn, why is that? Can adults learn to draw or must you learn at a young age? Is there an age when it’s too late?
Adults can learn to draw if they have enough time, practice on a daily basis, and have plenty of patience. There are countless videos, courses, and books, that teach the basics of drawing.
Anyone can become a better artist and improve their level of skill with the right work ethic. Basic drawing principles are easy to understand.
So anyone can learn to draw at any age, right? Er…no, there are limitations and no one talks about them. I will, because now I’m in my 60’s, and it’s relevant.
Let me explain.
(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)
Can You Learn How to Draw at Any Age?
As long as you have your faculties, you are fine, but as everyone over 45 will know, your body lets you down.
It happens suddenly, you wake up one day and realize you can’t read without squinting. It comes as a shock I can tell you, especially if like me, you’re an illustrator.
But I had shock a few years before
I was looking at a blank sheet of white paper and those annoying eye-floaters started to get in the way. They didn’t disappear, EVER. In fact, they get worse. It was, and is, like looking through a spider’s web.
I was so freaked out that I went to the doctor, I thought I was going blind. Nope, I was just getting old!
The point I’m making is simple. Old age will determine what you can and can’t do.
If you have high expectations of drawing super-realistic picture-perfect artworks when your eyes are bad and your hand trembles, you’re going to be disappointed.
Expectations are the key factor. There’s no age limit on the learning process, given good health. The theory side is straightforward and everyone learns how to draw using the same methods. It’s a new skill and you can learn it.
You can progress and get better at drawing. With hard work, you can excel. What you can’t do is go beyond your capacity.
We all have limits, if we didn’t then we would all reach the same level in life and there’d be no winners and losers. We all have an aptitude for different things in life and consequently, some people will have an inherent ability to draw better than others.
I remember drawing at high school and a friend, who could draw very well, came over and asked me how I see so much detail. I was mystified at the time. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see the same as me.
It was only later in life that I realized that my perception was probably very different. I’m colorblind, and I read that a colorblind person has a greater tonal range. I had a built-in advantage for drawing. It had less to do with natural talent, and more to do with the ability to see more.
In other words, there are no guarantees that anyone taking up drawing later in life will achieve what they dream about. Everyone has a plateau. By the same token, there are no rules to say that you won’t discover a hidden for drawing.
Do you lack confidence? Take a class and get into the habit of drawing. I found this class on Udemy, 115,028 students can’t be wrong!
Read this related post: Is Udemy Worth it? Pros and Cons For Artists and Designers
In all honesty, most people will know, deep down, how good they were at drawing when they were young. Whatever artistic talent you had can be improved upon. You can turn those basic skills, with regular practice, into an enjoyable hobby and creative outlet.
Indeed, some people go further: How to Find Your Drawing Style: 8 Ways to Develop Your Skills
It all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. You must experiment until you find a medium that clicks. That’s the reality for all artists. Very few artists can master everything, and that includes professional artists. They settle for what they can do well.
I didn’t pick up a pencil for 5 years after leaving school. The skill level was still there. It was like riding a bike. I could draw at school and I could draw as an adult factory hand. I was a little rusty but I soon picked it up again.
I gave myself a year to learn how to paint. Being colorblind, I had to learn color without being able to see it properly. I couldn’t reliably mix paint, so I used soft pastels instead.
I had to learn certain tricks. For example, I learned that those fantastic evening skies, which I saw (and see) as warm greys, often contained pink. When I added pink it delighted my viewers, even though I couldn’t see it myself.
When I stopped painting and switched back to drawing, I didn’t draw realism the way I do today. I saw drawing as the preliminary stage of a painting.
As far as I was concerned, a drawing was the structure or scaffold.
I learned to add detail and form, to make the drawing a finished piece in its own right. Those skills slowly evolved in my 30s. By the time I was in my 40s, I could draw hyperrealism. It took years of practice.
I wrote this related post: Hyperrealism: What’s the Point? Do You Love or Loathe it?
Now I’m in my 60s and I’m backtracking. My eyes are not so good and my patience is getting shorter. I don’t want to spend weeks on one drawing. I prefer a quicker, sketchier style. I want to go back to the way I used to draw, in the beginning.
Degas, one of my favorite artists, was forced to change his style as he grew older. His early work was more classical and his style changed as his eyes failed. Those amazing late impressionist paintings of ballerinas were the result of his inability to see much more than form and color.
The problem I have is retraining my brain to loosen up. It’s insanely hard for me to leave the detail out, now that I know how to put it in. I’m still learning to draw well.
How Long Does it Take to Learn to Draw?
To be fair when good artists are asked to explain how they learned to draw, most will say they were always drawing as young children.
I read somewhere that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. I don’t know the truth of it, I’m skeptical, but it figures that repeating a process over and over again until you get it right, is going to prove fairly effective.
Your natural talent, attention span, and ability to absorb the creative process are not things that can be taught. You are stuck with your temperament and personality type.
The only way I know how to progress and get things done is to draw little and often. I think you learn more in short bursts than you do in a long slog.
I draw in roughly 20-minute spurts. I concentrate intensely and then stop to examine my progress. I find that it helps to stay focused. I don’t pressure myself to reach any major goal.
If you haven’t heard of Domestika you should check them out. This guy Mattias is very popular.
Find a Drawing Course that suits you.
If things go well I will often capitalize on that success and go with the flow. I might draw for many hours because something clicked in my head and time flies.
The reverse is also true. I might hit a brick wall and after an hour or two, I’ll have to stop. I can always return to the task later when I have fresh eyes.
If you need some inspiration: Drawing Ideas for Adults: 120 Cool and Easy Things to Draw
As a professional artist, I can’t afford to be so relaxed that I draw only when I feel like it. Life doesn’t work that way, but it is true that some days everything seems to work, while other days I can hardly draw a straight line. All artists experience the same hiccups.
Dedicate yourself to certain tasks. If you want to draw eyes, just draw an eye. Watch a tutorial and follow along. Draw it over and over until it looks right. Don’t give up when things go wrong, because they will. Learn from your mistakes and try again.
Use references, books, magazines, and screenshots. It doesn’t matter where you get the images when you are learning.
I wouldn’t learn from life in the initial stages. I would use photo references for confidence.
This will interest you: Is Drawing From Reference Photos Bad? Are You Cheating?
Choose a subject matter that interests you and you’ll apply your best efforts. If you think drawing an egg or an apple is going to excite your interest, then you’re very different from me. That nonsense put me off at school. What a waste of time
I draw wildlife because I’m interested in the natural world. It’s the best way to sustain my interest. I can do other things, and sometimes do, but I always return to my first love.
Do what you love doing. It’s supposed to be fun.
Check out this post: How Do Wildlife Artists Make a Living? Copy This and Get Started
Can I Learn to How Draw Without Talent?
I am a believer in talent. I am also a believer in learned skills, and skills can be taught.
Younger people have plenty of time to develop their craft and see true progress. Older people have less time and that’s the cruel truth. Time runs out.
If you are well into retirement and want to learn to draw and paint like a professional who’s been painting all their life, you’ll be frustrated.
Let’s get real, some talented people are born with a unique ability to draw well. Some kind of wiring in their brains seems to make them far better than their peers.
Practice will improve your skills, but I doubt if practice alone is enough to make you a great artist. Mozart could play the harpsichord at the age of four and compose at five years old. Of course, innate talent exists.
On a more prosaic level, there are kids who can kick a ball and go on to become great footballers. Other kids could practice for a lifetime and never be any good. They both play football, but at different levels.
I believe that some kids have a natural ability that can be nurtured into something special. Discovering that hidden talent later on in life is rare, but it’s not impossible.
There will be a few people who find talent in old age, but I suspect that most of them secretly knew it was there in the first place.
And then again, what is talent? Is Art Subjective? Is There Good and Bad Art? Do We Need Critics?
My idea of talent can be far removed from yours. I look at other people’s work and often feel slightly crushed by the mountains I must climb to be so good.
Yet others may look at the same artist and be left underwhelmed.
I can draw realistically. and for me, that’s a technical skill. I’m in awe of simplicity. I envy artists who know when to stop. I look up to artists who have a painterly style. That is real talent in my eyes.
Read this if you like the way I draw: How to Draw Realistically: 11 Realistic Drawing Tips
I feel like an imposter most of the time. I can’t help feeling that I have a skill masquerading as a talent.
You can learn to draw, at least in a basic way, and if that basic skill resonates with the public there is a lot of satisfaction to be had in pleasing those people.
Think of Beryl Cook. She created naive cartoon-like figures in everyday life and became famous for them. It was folk art. She wasn’t conventionally talented, she didn’t have to be. She created a world that people recognized as their own, and they loved her work as a result.
Her talent expressed itself in its own way. It was the only way she knew how to paint and it was more than good enough. Different artists might be regarded as having more conventional talent, but her work was much loved and who’s to say it’s not as valid?
In other words, ‘talent’ is not an absolute requirement to draw. It doesn’t matter if your lines are not straight, or your perspective is wonky. The results can be as pleasing as any other style.
It’s a cliche, but if you get enjoyment out of what you do, nothing else really matters.
Can Adults Learn to Draw? Final Thoughts
With the help of modern technology, anyone can learn to draw. There are so many options open to you. There are affordable online art classes on Udemy and Domestika, cheap memberships on Patreon, or you can find free drawing lessons on Youtube.
And let’s not forget drawing books. There are plenty of useful books for beginner artists:
- Keys to Drawing
- Art Fundamentals
- The Sketch Encyclopedia
- Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
- The Natural Way To Draw
- Drawing from Line to Life
And now there’s a new art form to play with, namely digital drawing. The old school might resist it but it’s second nature to the young. Most of the excitement is around the Procreate app. You’ll need a newish iPad, an Apple or Logitech stylus, and the app will cost you $9.99 as a one-off purchase.
It’s a different skill set but it’s very forgiving. You can undo any error and play to your heart’s content.
As for the rest of us, who want to sit down with a pencil and sketch pad, drawing has to be the most accessible and cheapest medium out there. Not only are the art supplies affordable, but they’re also readily available in most places, and portable too.
You can be as creative as you like, from the simplest thumbnail sketches to fine art, it’s all possible.
Learning to draw will teach you how to see the world. You’ll see light in new ways and compositions will pop up everywhere. You’ll look at objects and wonder how you would go about drawing them.
It’s never too late to learn how to draw if you have the mindset. All you need is a sketchbook and a pencil. What’s stopping you?
Udemy courses are affordable. This class is just one of many by Brent Eviston with 11,590 students!
If you want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit:
- Pentel Mechanical Pencils 0.3mm
- Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils
- Daler-Rowney Heavyweight Cartridge Paper
- Jakar Battery Eraser
- Tombo Mono Eraser Pen
- Faber Castell Putty Eraser
- Blu Tack
- French Box Easel
But you are never too old to sell!
These posts may also interest you too:
- How to Plan and Compose Your Art: A Guide for Beginners With Examples
- How to Scale Up a Drawing in 4 Easy Ways and Save Time
- Is Domestika Worth It? The Pros and Cons for Artists and Designers
- Are Online Drawing Courses Worth it? I Chose 5 of The Best For You!
- Tracing Art – Is It Good or Bad? When Is Tracing Cheating and Is It Ever OK?
- How Do Artists Get Their Ideas? (It Might Surprise You)
- Can You Copy Art and Sell a Painting of a Painting? I Found Out
- How Do You Learn To Draw? 5 Tips To Get You Started
Plus find an ONLINE COURSE that suits you.
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