Painting and Drawing as Inspiration
By Sherrie McGraw
Who said that painting and drawing isn’t for everyone? Well, this is a little girl, at age 4, said she wants to paint like David and me.
“We were getting ready for preschool with (our daughter) Eva, and she was doing some drawings with crayons, and for some strange reason we decided to ask her, “Who do you want to paint like?” And I was thinking that she’d say “I want to paint like Mommy.” But her response was, “I want to paint like David and Sherrie.” She said it with a very firm voice and a very serious face. I was amazed…I had to share this with you as you inspire us so much! Eva actually listens to SUNDAYS WITH DAVID LEFFEL on Facebook and many tutorials from the Artists Guild Library. She could recognize you on a video and by your voices.”
~ You Biggest Fans, Eva (age 4) & Her Mother Anastasiia M., CA
Like Eva, both David and I were taken by the magic of translating life into line or paint at about her age. It came as naturally to us as it seems to come to Eva, and to most children, for that matter. The beauty of this young child is the confidence she has in what she does. Her painting of flowers was done with the kind of authority that students often lose once they ‘grow up’ and want to really learn to draw and paint.
Eva didn’t second-guess herself. She didn’t look for her mother’s approval, and she put her visual interpretations down without hesitation. Painting along side Eva and witnessing her direct approach inspired her mother to do the same.
How do we lose that confidence? Why do we doubt ourselves?
Perhaps Edgar Degas said it best, “Painting is easy when you don’t know how and difficult when you do.”
He meant that the more you know and the more you want in your work, the more difficult painting becomes and the less you feel you know.
How can we elevate how we see and understand the visual world and yet maintain humility and still have confidence?
The trick is to first realize—as Eva has—what truly speaks to you visually. If you are lucky enough to find it in one teacher, stay with that teacher and trust that they will guide you. What you need is to understand how painting works for confidence to build.
David and I have taught hundreds, maybe thousands of students how painting works in our one hundred-plus years of combined teaching experience, not only in workshops nationwide, but also at the Art Students League of New York where students come from all over the world to study.
The first thing we do is let students know that drawing and painting are human endeavors and definitely learnable. As we both have always felt, if other humans learned to draw and paint, why couldn’t we? Surely we have at least the level of intelligence that some of these practitioners had. It is possible to regain some of that childhood trust if we put in the work to learn this logical discipline so we can gain the knowledge to draw and paint our visual ideas.
In our videos students ask common questions that plague all painters. The realization that we all have the same struggles and that learning to paint isn’t a competition but part of a life-long self-discovery is key in liberating confidence. If the end goal is learning, it will be both fulfilling and deeply satisfying as we challenge ourselves to develop. Within this frame of mind, learning happens naturally, as it did when we were children.”
And a final quote from Eva’a mother, who is an Artists Guild Member and artist, helps to let everyone know that painting and drawing is an inspiration no matter what age you are.
“We had a special evening last night. I picked Eva up from preschool and told her that I had a surprise. When we got home I told her there was a special note on our favorite site. I read each word out loud as she looked on with eyes wide open and the biggest smile. I told her we’d take a picture to send to David and Sherrie and without hesitation, she picked her favorite dress, necklace and a painting of flowers she did with me in my studio. Last night before falling asleep, she asked if she could go to one of your workshops. I think this day is one we’ll never forget!”