Thursday, January 04, 2007

Learning to draw/ learning a language

Check out this brilliant blogpost by Danny Gregory on drawing.

I love Danny's book 'The creative license'.

A couple of years ago I tried to teach myself to draw from two standard texts on drawing. They covered the major aspects of drawing. The authors had drawn pictures to illustrate the points they were making about perspective, proportion and tone. But I gave up fairly soon.

I believe that for an adult, learning from a text book often doesn't work. The strength of text books is that they are comprehensive, and explain all the complexities of something. This is necessary for students, who will have to defend themselves against exam questions. But it is a weakness for adults, who tend to be more prone to giving up. If you are put off starting to draw by a concern that drawing might be a very complex skill, then a book that explains all the complexities is just going to feed that concern.

The challenges facing the author of a book for adult learners are:
  • how do you help the learner find the inspiration they need to keep learning, and to keep enjoying it?
  • how do you help them to keep in mind the real reason that they wanted to learn the skill in the place?
  • how do you help them to suspend judgement on themselves long enough so that the thought 'I can't learn a language/draw/cook' doesn't prompt them to give up?
This autumn I stumbled across 'The Creative License' by Danny Gregory. It looks different from the standard books about drawing. For a start there isn't a type written word in the whole book. He has drawn and lettered the whole thing, even the copyright details in the front page (everything except the barcode and his publishers logo). Everypage has drawings on it, simple drawings of things in his life: bagels, meetings in an office, motorbikes, bookshelves, a homeless guy he met, spoke to and drew. They are not there to illustrate technical points. They are there to show you what you can do with drawing. The book is bursting with life (Danny's life).

Gregory isn't interested in telling us all there is to know about drawing. He isn't interested in getting us to any particular standard. He is interested in getting us to pick up a pen and paper and draw. Just draw the outlines of things, he says. Maybe after a few months you'll want to start to concern yourself with colour and the effect of light, or maybe never. But for the moment just draw the outlines.

I'd love to write a book on learning languages that persuades people first of all to find something that they want to do with that language (say, read a particular novel in the original) and then to get hold of that novel and spend a bit of time each day reading it. (Reading is easy, it just involves scanning your eye over a page of words. Comprehension comes a bit later). I'd ask readers to spend as much time with that novel as they do with their language text book.

They would be staying close to their reason for starting to learn. If they give up after three months they will still have read that novel in the original. And the novel will provide them with a means of gauging their progress, and a means of seeing what aspects of the language text book are useful to them and what aspects they don't need to bother their head about.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

That sounds like a brilliant way to learn a language. When I started to learn Spanish I wanted to be able to read Isabel Allende novels but I spent the first year learning how to book rooms in a hotel and how to ask for directions. I suppose the only problem would be preventing people from feeling discouraged at the start when they couldn't understand a word of their chosen book.