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Home » Why People Believe They Can’t Draw – And How To Prove They Can by Graham Shaw (Transcript)

Why People Believe They Can’t Draw – And How To Prove They Can by Graham Shaw (Transcript)

Graham Shaw at TEDxHull

Full Text of Why People Believe They Can’t Draw – And How To Prove They Can by Graham Shaw @ TEDxHull conference.


Hi, I’ve got a question for you. How many people here would say they can’t draw?

Well, I think we’ve got about 1% or 2% of the hands going up and it’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s a little bit like, can’t people think of spelling or singing. I think well you can either do it or you can’t. And — but I think you can.

Because 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. And today I’d like to prove that to you.

And when I say draw, I’m not saying we’re all going to draw like Michelangelo. We’re not going to be painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But would you be happy if by the end of the session you could draw pictures, a little bit like this, or even little bit like this.

Well, actually there’s only two things you need to do to be able to achieve this. One is have an open mind. You up for and? And two, just be prepared to have a go. So grab a pen and a piece of paper.

Okay. So here’s how it’s going to work. I’ll show you the first cartoon we’re going to do. So just watch to begin with. Here we go. Just watching. That’s going to be our first cartoon. It’s a character called spike, so I’d like you to draw along with me. So I will draw the first line, you draw – and when you’ve done that, look up and I know you’re ready for the next line. Okay, here we go.

Start with the nose. Now the eyes, they’re like 66 it’s all, speech marks, that’s it.

Next, the mouth, nice big smile. Now over here the ear. Next some spiky hair, next put the pens the left of the mouth, that line like that. Paint under the ear, drop a line like that and left of the neck, top of the T-shirt, line to the left, line to the right. Just hold your drawings up and show everyone. 3:11here

Okay, fantastic. So it looks like you’ve just learned to draw one cartoon. But you’ve actually learned more than that. You’ve learned a sequence that would enable you to draw hundreds and thousands of different cartoons because we’re just going to do little variations on that sequence. Draw along with me, nose, eyes, smile, that’s it, now some hair. Paint the left of the mouth, under the hair, little V shape for the top, line to the left, line to the right.

So we’ve got another character, let’s call her Thelma. So we got Spike and Thelma. Let’s draw another one.

Here we go. Another little variation, getting the idea starting with the nose but this time we’ll change the eyes slightly look two circles together like that, that’s it. Then two little dots into the eyes and this time we’ll change the mouth side, you watch, little circle colored in there.

Next, the ear, now we’ll have some fun with the hair, watch. Nice curly hair and same thing, pen to the left of the mouth with line like that. Under the ear drop a line, top of the T shirt, line to the left, line to the right. I think we’ll call him Jeff. We’ll do one more. One more go, here we go. You’re getting the idea, so we’ll start with a nose again, notice we’re doing little variations. Now we will change the eyes, so we’ve got them apart, we will put some little dots in like that.

Next, the mouth slightly different, let’s put a little B shape like that, triangle and a little line across, we just color this little bit in. Now watch this, carefully some hair, watch, here we go, little line like that.

Next, bit more there, and watch a couple of triangles to make little both, triangle at the bottom, rest of the hair, pen to the left of the mouth again, you get the idea, drop a line to the neck. Now the V-shape, line to the left, line to the right. Here we go. Let’s call her Pam. So you’ve done four cartoons. You have a little rest now, take a rest. You’re getting the idea, all we’re doing is little variations we could go on, I’ll just demonstrate a couple to you, we could go on all day, couldn’t we? You could do someone looking unhappy, bit like that, so you can experiment perhaps someone who’s, you know just draw a straight line, someone looking a bit fed up or perhaps you could do anything you like really just trying — look at this, little squiggle. There we are. So all sorts of things we can do.

Actually one more that you do, one more idea. This is a great little technique. Have a go at this, people with glasses on. Just draw a nose a bit like Spike’s. Next draw some frames, two circles like that with a little bit in between. Now just put some dots inside for the eyes like that. Next the ear, so it’s little bit like we did before. This time we join up the frames, that’s it. And this – are really like watch. And then little bit there, pencil in the moustache, line down, top of the shirt, left and right. So there we have it. We could carry on, couldn’t we? Hopefully we’ve done enough to convince you that in fact, we can all draw and not just people here I’ve worked with — I’m going to give you three examples of other people who’ve learned to draw and they actually surprised them too. And I’m going to save what I think is my favorite most surprising example until last.

The first example is I’ve worked a lot with children and students in schools. And actually the little ones they just draw fine but when they get about 15 or 16, most of them think they can’t draw. But I’ve worked with them, I worked this week in a school where I was coaching them on using pictures for memory. And a girl was trying to remember what red blood cells do. And she drew this little picture of a red blood cell carrying a handbag with O2 on it to remind her that the red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. That was a great one.

The other people I have worked with these many adults in all walks of life and particularly in business and they often will want to make presentations memorable. So again a quick cartoon or sketch could be really good for that. And then most people think they can’t draw but take this example. The wavy lines, little boat, could represent — could be a metaphor to represent we’re all in this together. So that is that we’ve just drawn in a presentation would really stay in the memory, wouldn’t it? Yes.

But the third example is you should not favorites really, should you? This is my favorite. You’ve ever been at the party when someone asks you what you do. We get a bit skeptical when people ask me to – and this lady said to me, well, I said well I do a bit of training and I do teach people to draw, and she said, would you come along and do some of our group. She said I work with some people who is a volunteer, a group of people who’ve suffered strokes. So I said, well I am sure I could spend some time for that. So I said I would and I booked the time in. You ever done that, you get near the time, you think why did I let myself in for here, will I be able to do it? I thought what could I possibly — what could I do with it?

So I know I’ll do my cartoon drawing unlike that. But then as I got near the time I got more and more apprehensive because then I was thinking, well I have worked with children, I’ve worked with all sort of adults. I’ve never worked with a group like this. And it turns out it was all part of a charity called TALK and this TALK charity is a wonderful charity that helps people who have suffered strokes but have a particular condition known as aphasia. You might have heard aphasia, sometimes called dysphasia. And the key thing is it affects their ability to communicate. So for example, they might have trouble reading, writing, speaking or understanding. And it can be a quite an isolating condition, it can be very very frustrating and can lead to a loss of confidence.

Anyway, so I prepared a list of what to do this session for a couple of hours, tea break in the middle and I got more apprehensive. But actually I didn’t worry. Because I am going to show you now the work that they did and it was one of the best things that I have ever done. I am going to show you the first slide. I taught them Spike just like I did for you. And I want you to see the reaction on their faces when they did this. What you can see here are two of the stroke recoverers on the left and right, and one of the volunteer helpers in the center and each stroke recoverer, they were about 36 in the room with volunteers as well as one to one helpers. And you can just see the delight in their faces, can’t you?

Let’s look at another picture. This is a gentleman called David. And he’s holding up his picture and you can tell it was the picture of Spike, can’t you? In fact, I think he’s drawn Spike even better there. But what I didn’t realize until even after the session was that a number of the people in this session, including David, were drawing with their wrong hand. David stroke meant that it affected the right side of his body and he draw with his left hand, as many did, nobody mentioned it to me. Nobody complained. They just got on with it. And it was an inspirational session for me. It was quite a humbling session, one of the best things I felt have ever done.

And at the end of it, I had a lovely email from Dr. Mike Jordan and he’s the chair of the TALK group, happens to be a medical doctor, the chair of the group and he wrote to me and I’m quoting, he said, “Our recoverers learned today that they can draw”. It’s a bit more than that. This sort of activity really builds their confidence. So I was happy, he was happy, everyone was happy. They invited me back again, and I go in there now about every three or four months. So it’s great, so I thought that was a lovely example to share.

I can see one more drawing. Here we go. Grab your pens, here we go. I’m going to get you draw someone that you would recognize. So start with a big nose, bit like Spike’s. Next, we’ll do some eyes and you might be thinking, this is also a bit like Spike. Watch the next bit, you’re getting more. There you go. Little line down there, down here, little V shape, line to the left, line to the right. Now you got Albert Einstein.

So you’ve got the pens with you, you’ve proved that you can draw. You’re very welcome to take the pens with you and have a practice at home, even show somebody else.

But actually I’d like to leave you with a final thought. When you walked in here today, many of you didn’t believe you could draw. And I’ve got a question for you about that. How many other beliefs and limiting thoughts do we all carry around with us every day? Beliefs that we could perhaps potentially challenge and think differently about?

And if we did challenge those beliefs and think differently about them, apart from drawing, what else would be possible for us all? Thank you very much.


Listen to the MP3 Audio here: MP3 – Why people believe they can’t draw – and how to prove they can by Graham Shaw @ TEDxHull

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