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Why people believe they can’t draw - and how to prove they can | Graham Shaw | TEDxHull
Quiz #: 31607
Hi. I've got a question for you: how many people here would
say they can draw? (Laughter) I think we've got about one
or two percent of the hands going up, and it's interesting,
isn't it? It's a little bit like people think of spelling or singing.
They think,"You can either do it, or you can't." 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.
When I say "draw", I'm not saying we're all going to draw like
Michelangelo. We are not going to be painting the Sistine
Chapel's ceiling. But would you be happy if, by the end of
this session, you could draw pictures a little bit like this?
(Audience murmuring) Oh, yes! (Laughter) Or even a little
bit like this? (Laughter)
Actually, there are only two things you need to do to be able
to achieve this. One is have an open mind. Are you up for
that? (Audience) Yes! And two, just be prepared to have a
go. So grab a pen and a piece of paper. OK, 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.
I'd like you to draw along with me. I'll draw the first line, you
draw, and when you've done that, look up, and I'll know
you're ready for the next line. Okay, here we go. Start with
the nose. Now the eyes. They're like 66s or speech marks.
That's it. Next, the mouth. Nice, big smile. Now, over here,
the ear. Next, some spiky hair. Next, put the pen to the left
to the mouth, little line like that. Pen under the ear, drop a
line like that. Pen to the 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. (Laughter)
How are we all doing? (Laughter) OK. OK, 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.
Have a go at this. Draw along with me. Nose. Eyes. Smile.
That's it. Now some hair. Pen to 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.
(Laughter) So, we've got Spike and Thelma. Let's try
another one. Here we go. Another little variation. You're
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 in for the eyes. And this
time we'll change the mouth slightly. Watch. Little circle
colored in there. Have a go at that. Next, the ear. Now, we'll
have some fun with the hair, watch. Nice curly hair. Then
same thing: pen to the left to the mouth, little 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. (Laughter)
We'll do one more. One more go. Here we go. You're getting
the idea. (Laughter) So we'll start with a nose again. Notice
we're doing little variations. Now we'll change the eyes, so
we've got them apart. We'll put some little dots in like that.
Next, the mouth slightly different. Let's put a little V-shape
like that. Triangle. And a little line across, and we'll just
color this a little bit in. Now, watch this bit carefully; some
hair, watch. Here we go, little line like that. Next, a bit more
there. And watch, a couple of triangles to make a little bow.
Triangle at the bottom, rest of the hair. Pen to the left of the
mouth again. You get the idea. Drop a line for the neck. Now
the V-shape. Line to the left, line to the right. There we go.
Let's call her Pam. (Laughter)
So you've done... (Laughter) So you've done four cartoons.
You can have a little rest now. (Laughter) Take a rest. You're
getting the idea. All we're doing is little variations. I'll just
demonstrate a couple to you. We could go on all day,
couldn't we? You could do someone looking unhappy, a bit
like that, or you could experiment with, perhaps, someone
who is… just draw a straight line, someone looking a bit fed
up. Or perhaps, you could do anything you like, really, just
try things out. Look at this. Little squiggle. There we are.
So, all sorts of things we could do.
Actually, one more I'll let 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, so 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, but this time we'll
join up the frames. That's it. Watch this bit. (Laughter) And
this bit I really like. Watch. (Laughter) And then, little bit
there. Pencil under the mustache, line down, top of the
shirt, left and right. So there we have it. We could carry on,
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 that actually surprised them, too. 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. Actually the little ones, they just draw
fine, but when they get to about 15 or 16, most of them
think they can't draw. But I worked with them. I worked this
week in a school where I was coaching them on using
pictures for memory. 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 worked with are 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 again,
most people think they can't draw, but take this example.
Couple of wavy lines, little boat could be a metaphor to
represent we're all in this together. So that, if that was just
drawn in the presentation, would really stay in the memory,
wouldn't it? Yeah.
But the third example is - you shouldn't have favorites,
should you? This is my favorite. Have you ever been at the
party when someone asks you what you do? It gets a little
bit skeptical when people ask me that. This lady said to me,
well - I said, "I do a little bit of training, and I teach people
to draw," and she said, "Would you come along and do some
for our group?" She said, "I work with some people" - she
was a volunteer - a group of people who have suffered
strokes. So I said, "Sure, I could spare some time for that."
So I said I would, and I booked the time in. Have you ever
done that? You get near of that time and you think, "What
have I let myself in for here?" "Will I be able to do it?" I
thought, "What could I do with them?" you see. "I know. I'll
do my cartoon drawing. They'll like that." But then, as I got
near of the time, I got more apprehensive, because then I
was thinking, "I've worked with children, with all sorts of
adults; I've never worked with a group like this."
It turns out it was all part of a charity called TALK. This
TALK charity is a wonderful charity that helps people
who've suffered strokes, but have a particular condition
known as aphasia. You might have heard of aphasia,
sometimes called dysphasia. The key thing is it affects their
ability to communicate. So, for example, they might have
trouble reading, writing, speaking, or understanding. It can
be quite an isolating condition; it can be very, very
frustrating and can lead to a loss of confidence.
Anyway, so I prepared all this stuff, what to do for this
session - for a couple of hours, tea break in the middle -
and I got more apprehensive. But actually, I needn't have
worried, because I'm going to show you now the work that
they did. It was one of the best things I've ever done. I'm
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. (Audience) Oh.
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. Each stroke recoverer, there are about 36 in the
room with volunteers as well, there's one-to-one helpers.
You can just see the delight on 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 the number of the people in this
session, including David, were drawing with their wrong
hand. David's stroke meant that it affected the right side of
his body, and he drew with his left hand, as many did.
Nobody mentioned it to me, nobody complained. They just
got on with it. It was an inspirational session for me. It was
quite a humbling session, one of the best things I felt I've
At the end of it, I had a lovely email from doctor Mike
Jordan, and he's the chair of the TALK group; happens to be
a medical doctor, but he's the chair of the group. 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've invited me back
again, and I go in there now about every three or four
months. So it's great. I thought that was a lovely example to
Fancy one more drawing? (Audience) Yes. Here we go. Grab
your pens. Here we go. Right. I'm going to get you to draw
someone that you would recognize. So start with a big
nose, a 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 warm. There you go. Little line down
there. Down here. Little V-shape, line to the left, line to the
right. And you've got Albert Einstein. (Laughter)
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. 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. 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. (Applause)
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