Life Lessons From A Drawing Class

by | Sep 4, 2020 | Art, Essays

I recently took a beginner drawing class online on Udemy, and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in drawing.  It’s called “The Art & Science of Drawing / BASIC SKILLS” by Brent Eviston.  It was affordable and well worth the time.  There were a lot of great drawing lessons in the class, but there were two drawing principles that I believe apply not only to drawing but to all aspects of life.

Life Lesson #1: The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the conversation in your mind.

This idea comes from the drawing principle that the quality of the conversation in your mind determines the quality of your drawing In drawing, this means continually evaluating basic shapes in terms of size, axis, and location.  Asking the right questions allows the drawer to make informed decisions, which results in better shapes.  Which results in a better drawing. Distracted thought and excellent drawing cannot coexist.

Distracted thought includes negative self-talk, limiting beliefs, unconstructive self-criticism, and unfocused questions.  There have been books written about the importance of self-talk in musical and athletic performance (The Inner Game of Music, The Inner Game of Tennis).  It turns out that drawing is no different.

Decision-making is no different, either.  The quality of the conversation in your mind determines the quality of your decision-makingIt’s about asking the right questions at the right times.  A drawer translating a complex shape onto paper must ask the right questions.  What is the biggest shape?  What’s its axis?  How big is it?  Where does it go?  What changes can I make?  Keeping the thoughts focused on the answers to these questions will result in a good drawing.

We run into problems in drawing and in life when we focus our thoughts and energy in the wrong places – when we ask the wrong questions.  This is what causes us to make bad decisions.

Going On Tilt

In poker, there is a term called going ”on tilt.”  It comes from the idea that when a slot machine goes “on tilt,” it hemorrhages money.  The poker player who goes “on tilt” starts making bad decisions and thereby hemorrhages money – just like the slot machine.

A poker player “on tilt” gets angry, such as after being bluffed by an opponent or losing a big hand.  He loses focus.  He begins making bad decisions.  He gets overaggressive.  He takes unnecessary risks and falls into traps.  He loses sight of the forest (making money in the long run) because he’s only focused on the trees (the bluff or bad beat he just took).

Being “on tilt” doesn’t just apply to poker.  You can go “on tilt” anywhere.  People go “on tilt” so often when driving that there’s even another name for it: “road rage.”  Little kids go ”on tilt” all the time.  Anyone throwing a temper tantrum can be considered “on tilt.”

Being “on tilt” and being focused on what’s important cannot coexist.  If you’re angry, you’re not focused on what’s important.  You won’t be angry if you’re focused on what’s most important.  There’s never a reason to be angry if you ask yourself the right questions and focus on what’s important, even if you’re stuck in a traffic jam.  Even if you’re stuck in jail, you can still focus on something that gives you hope.  Viktor Frankl survived Nazi concentration camps by focusing on the dream of seeing his wife again and returning to work.  He focused on what he loved most.  It’s always an option, even in the most hopeless circumstances.

It may take extraordinary self-awareness and emotional maturity to recognize when you’re “on tilt” and quickly get off, but it is a skill that can be learned with practice.  Getting off tilt fast is probably the most valuable skill you can learn because it enables you to make good decisions.  The quality of your life is determined greatly, if not wholly, by the quality of your decision-making.  Successful people make good decisions.  Happy people make good decisions.  Good people make good decisions.  Successful or not.  Content, or sad.  Good or bad.  All are determined by the quality of your choices. By the quality of the conversation in your mind. By asking the right questions at the right times.  By focusing on what’s most important.  By releasing negative thoughts and energy.

How This Applies to Leadership

The quality of the conversation in your mind determines the quality of your entire life.  This is why strong leadership is so crucial to a business, organization, or country.  The words and actions of the leadership have a major impact on people’s conversations.  If the conversations are paranoid, scared, confused, and mean, then the people’s actions will be paranoid, scared, confused, and mean.  Right now, we have a U.S. public that is paranoid, scared, confused, and mean because: 1) we have a President that is paranoid, scared, confused, and mean, and 2) the President is having a paranoid, scared, confused and mean conversation with the public.  The quality of a country is determined by the quality of the conversations in the minds of its people.

Life Lesson #2: Masters never get tired of drilling the fundamentals.

This applies to learning any skill, period.  Sports, martial arts, language, music, drawing, painting, you name it.  Any skill you can think of.  Masters never get tired of drilling the basics.

Master martial artists repeat the same basic offensive and defensive moves thousands of times.  The basic moves’ timing, rhythm, and technique can be perfected endlessly.

Master draughtsman draw the same basic shapes thousands of times.  They can create hyper-realistic and lifelike drawings because they have practiced seeing and drawing basic shapes thousands of times.

Master gymnasts can perform spectacular movements because they have drilled the basic movements thousands of times and perfected them.

Master linguists read and write millions of lines of basic sentences and phrases.

Master guitarists can play complex pieces because they’ve mastered basic notes, chords, and patterns.  They’ve practiced these thousands, if not millions, of times.

All art forms, and all skills, can be broken down into basic components (movements, shapes, notes, chords, patterns, letters, words, and phrases).  It’s not magic.  It’s mastery of basics.  Masters never get tired of drilling the fundamentals.

Read more essays by Eddie.
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