I recently unearthed my (real world) drawing pencils and purchased a pixel point stylus to add more illustration to my public works.
If you’ve worked with me, you know that drawing — on a whiteboard, legal pad, printer paper, using Visio, wherever — is a huge part of my process. Drawing helps me understand new ideas, think through problems, invite collaboration and communicate.
And while I’ve drawn some lovely Visio diagrams, my pencil-based drawing skills sit squarely in the fair range. A very long time ago, they were better. Because I worked at it, daily.
Now, I can either quietly, privately rebuild those skills, or throw caution and doodles (as it were) to the winds. I’m leaning towards the latter, because it’s not about artistry, but thinking and communication.
Before the invention of photography, people used to draw far more than they do today. It was an active necessity. But in the mid-19th century, photography killed drawing. It became something only ‘artists’ would ever do, so Ruskin – passionate promoter of drawing and enemy of the camera – spent four years on a campaign to get people sketching again. He wrote books, gave speeches and funded art schools, but he saw no paradox in stressing that his campaign had nothing to do with getting people to draw well: ‘A man is born an artist as a hippopotamus is born a hippopotamus; and you can no more make yourself one than you can make yourself a giraffe.’
So if drawing had value even when it was practised by people with no talent, it was for Ruskin because drawing can teach us to see: to notice properly rather than gaze absentmindedly. In the process of recreating with our own hand what lies before our eyes, we naturally move from a position of observing beauty in a loose way to one where we acquire a deep understanding of its parts.
[Bold is mine.]