Requiring and Rewarding Attention (Part II)


I love teaching people to draw. I’ve done so for many years in lots of different contexts with students young and old. The thing I love most about teaching drawing is the moment when a student just gets it. This happens almost invariably and immediately.

There are tons of techniques and skills and approaches to teaching drawing. It can be tedious and take a lot of time, but I have found a key that is profoundly simple.  When students get it, it just makes sense.

You wanna know what the key is? Take a deep breath… this could change everything for you…


Draw what you see.


Drawing, in my very humble opinion, is 128% seeing. If a person can see what is actually there, a person can draw it. I wish you could trust me here. It’s not so much about technique or skills (although you need those) it’s all about seeing. If you can teach a student to see, they will draw beautifully and immediately. But that’s not so easy.

I use this really simple illustration where I draw a shape like this on the board:


And I ask students, “What did I just draw?” Invariably they will respond, “It’s a nose.”

But let’s be honest, that’s not what a nose looks like. It’s what they think a nose looks like. BUT If you really look closely, there’s so much more detail and intricacy. A real nose looks WAY more interesting than that drawing. 

You guys see where I’m going with this?

We have to be taught to see. We have to learn to look. We have to learn to look past what we think is there to what is really there.

There is so much out there in the world, that requires our attention, that asks us to stop and behold, to investigate, to unfold, to contemplate BUT in doing that, those very things reward us in some way. They speak to us, they help us see something we hadn’t, they give us understanding or wisdom or enjoyment or insight.

I’m asking myself these very questions today, especially in this Advent season. Am I truly seeing? Is there something that is obscuring my sight? Is there beauty right in front of me? I’m praying this for myself and for you: God, help us to behold, give us sight that we might see the beauty that is before us.