If you begin to draw when you are over twenty-five, as I did, it is very hard to please yourself, even if you make fair progress. Probably your critical faculty has been refined by hours in museums and a lot of looking and thinking. You have seen the best drawing and painting men have ever done and taken that as a standard. You forget or anyway ignore the work of the ninety-nine per cent who tried—the ninety-nine per cent which includes the second-best masters. Those men too had exceptional talent and worked just as hard and with as much love for their craft as the best.
So those first hours when you start to copy anything and you see with your learned eyes the false turns your pencil takes on the page, the misjudgments in proportion, and the complete absence of grace and artistic personality, the temptation is to quit right then.
And this discouragement is even greater if you begin to draw beside men and women who have been at it for years. They are unbelievably fast and accurate, plus each has a style. After a forty-five minute session you haven’t even had enough time to get the outlines of your figure right and many of your classmates have finished their drawings, complete with shadows.
At break-time, while all those masters proudly or indifferently leave their notebooks wide open on their desks, you close yours out of decency—well, shame. You walk around between the desks while your classmates are out for a smoke and nonchalantly peek at their drawings. Astonishment. Despair. Most are in perfect proportion, with shadowing that gives them a wonderful three-dimension look. One boy has drawn three versions of the model in ink, without an important correction. Another has painted hers with oils. One girl has been working at a large easel and made her version of the model in charcoal, nearly half the real size of the model.
But hang on. You will certainly improve if you keep drawing, and the improvement will come fast. You just have to remember to look back sometimes and not always ahead. You will soon begin to see the defects in those spectacular drawings around you; you will start to see character defects in those developed artistic personalities.