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Why We Should Draw More (and Photograph Less)

Why We Should Draw More (and Photograph Less)

Whenever something looks interesting, beautiful there’s a natural impulse to want to capture and preserve it, which means in this day and age that we will likely to reach for our phones and take picture. Though this might seem like an ideal solution, there is a big problem associated with it. We’re likely to be so busy taking the pictures we forget to look at the world whose beauty and interest prompted us to take a photograph in the first place. These problems seem to be very much of today a consequence of the tiny phones in our pockets. But, they would notice right in at beginning of the history of photography when the average camera was the size of a grandfather clock. The first person to notice them was the english art critic John Ruskin He was very impressed by cameras at first, but gradually he grew very suspicious of them believing they blinded us of our surroundings To try to correct this blindness Ruskin recommended that all of us take up drawing not with the view to becoming great artists but simply because through the act of trying to recreate on paper what we see in the world we studied it in a way we never do when we simply take a photograph Summing up what he attempted to do in four years of teaching and writing manuals on drawing Ruskin wrote: “Let two persons go out for a walk;” “the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind.” “Let them go down a green lane.” “There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals.” “The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green,” “though he will think nothing about it;” “he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect,” “and that’s all.” “But what will the sketcher see?” “His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty,” “and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness.” “He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine” “comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead,” “till the air is filled with an emerald light,” “he would see here and there a bough is seen emerging from the veil of leaves,” “he would see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss,” “and the variegated and fantastic lichens, ” “white and blue, purple and red, ” “all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty.” “Then come the cavernous trunks, and the twisted roots” “that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, ” “whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes.” “Is not this worth seeing?” “Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane,” “and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it,” “but that you went down such and such a lane.”

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100 thoughts on “Why We Should Draw More (and Photograph Less)

  1. Well I fully agree with your statement. Many a professional (or highly skilled amateur) photographer does painstaking "location scouting", fully admiring lighting, shapes, colors, textures, feel….. just like great painters – and lately a younger generation of professional photographers are going back to film and a (now) inexpensive old camera for artistic reasons. No "fighting" with the digital camera and its almost endless number of "settings" – they just watch and admire, then carefully frame, focus, click – and forget the camera (no display to check the pictures) – and look around and admire again. No "take 1000 random snapshots and chose the best one later" – approach. None of these will be any good anyway. Great (art) photographers focus on the subject first, not the photo (even if it is later "enhanced" with image processing software – good enhancement is meant to bring out what was there to begin with – the rest is commercial stuff which is fake by definition). BTW: I was a lot into drawing and painting (oil and watercolor) until some years ago. I need to catch up on this again. Great video! Thanks a lot!

  2. Someone who takes photography seriously can enjoy the same details, no? I have been interested in photography–more specifically cinematography–for years now. You can enjoy the beauty of film if you knows that every detail of the camera, the staging, the movement, the angle, the lighting, are conscious decisions made with great care. Same with photography, if you look at the world through an imaginary lens, you can quickly absorb all the details of a "picture:" the way the light reflects, the shadows, the colors, the texture, you can imagine elegant framing; all of these are absorbed in the artists eyes, perhaps on a deeper level, yes, but the photographer sees them as well.

  3. It's true I'm a sketcher and painter also, And the good thing is that, I want to appreciate All of the colors In my surroundings.

  4. I don't take tons of photos but I do write down what I do everyday on a calendar. I've found that writing down what I'm doing that day is the best way to preserve memories. I can look back and remember that on that week I visited a vacation house my friends family rented, played uno with his little brother, read on the beach as the sunset, and had a great time. No photos needed.

  5. My boyfriend and I have carried sketch books around almost anytime we go somewhere (even before we were a couple) and always sketch our surroundings. It's very true that as an artist/sketcher taking time to study an image really makes you grasp that memory and experience in a totally different way. Also, I trained as an architect, and I can't help but want to make floor plans anytime I walk into a room that I am fond of. This part of my brain can get quite annoying though!

  6. I don't share the 'anti-camera' sentiment; even while I understand & appreciate it's origin.
    There is an abhorrence to the swaths of humans waving their digital Thneed, as though it were sucking up the world for them to succle. Makes me think the native were correct in their fear that cameras were stealing their souls. Digital devices ARE stealing souls… just, it's the ones of the people who refuse to set them down.

  7. The video compares the modes of observational analysis behind 'drawing' or 'taking a picture'. Were it to compare Photography and Drawing as art forms, it would be completely incorrect. But yes, we do need to slow down and observe rather than watch our surroundings through a screen.

  8. Let the record reflect that the 'drawrings' used as examples — the branches, lichen, moss — are actually photographs processed using a computer program such as Painter or the like. And you should say so.
    Some of us DO draw from nature, but it's not an either/or problem. Take photos and draw, use what's available for your purpose. It's all fine.

  9. Not really. The aesthetic of an object or scene can be experienced differently by differently people and/or different methods.

    Drawing a tree MAY give more notice to its particularities more so than photographing it. But photographing MAY give more notice to other aspects of that tree's aesthetic. Such as relation to its surroundings. Or filming the tree across time MAY give notice to the tree with respect to passing of time.

    All in all, different strokes for different folks. Quite literally.

  10. Hmmmmm… my Faulty Walnut is conflicted about this one… though I agree in theory, for me, personally, I think the key is to see like an artist, and then photograph that vision. Phone pic snapping can certainly be done in a mindless way, but photography has actually helped train me to mindfully seek out — emphasis on SEE — fresh perspectives, to train myself to tease out, or focus-in on, details that will assist in enhancing and/or illuminating the entirety of a scene… exactly the same skills of attentive vision attributed to sketch artists in this vid.

  11. Very beautifully put! And no, there is no elitism in the video. I'm sick and tired of people who think that only scientists are valuable to the world and really smart etc. They are the ones who make their children choose engineering and physics or other such classes for the sake of money and so they could brag about how smart their child is and ignore that the things that truly make us happy are not heart cold science or understanding, although they are incredible things, but the way we manage to see the beauty in the world and how close we are to beauty and people around us. How much we let those influence and transform us into kinder, gentler beings.

  12. I disagree with this one. As someone who has done extensive amounts of both, I tend to notice more smaller details in the woods/hiking trail with a camera more than I do with a sketchpad, or when walking alone.

  13. longterm immersive interpretation vs short term visceral gratification. Seems many in the comment section have missed the point.

  14. While I agree that drawing may change the way one perceives the world, to belittle the experience of another solely because he doesn't draw is plain stupid.

  15. I love photography and cinematography. And yet I admit I often feel like I missed the very same moments I captured. I've learned to sometimes leave my camera in the bag when the moment's too good.

  16. I disagree strongly. To put on piedestal perception of specific aspects of reality, and dismissing countless others, is narrowminded point of view of bigot sketcher.

  17. why do you sometimes quote statistics, and other times quote oponions? i am intrigued by your diatribes, but i am confused by your source of ultimate truth. how do you derive truath? from poetry or statistics?

  18. Through enough understanding of light, aesthetic composition, one's emotional state and the technical aspects of the photographic process, one can "see" in very mindful and present ways. Light and color contrast, textures, movement, symmetry and asymmetry are only some of the many things a photographer keeps in mind when looking at the world.
    Photography is so trivialized these days that many of us think of photographing as a mindless act. Snapping pictures is far from being the same as photographing.

  19. Real artists absorb the scenery and remember to store away details for a later day. Collecting the tools to express their thoughts.

  20. Sketching as mindfulness! I have occasionally given this idea a go on holidays and really enjoyed it. I also have a film camera, and plan very carefully how I will expose my one roll of 24 shots… BTW the hands of the person in the film were quite beautiful!

  21. While we could all sing kumbaya around a fire and say that all our perceptions deserve a pat on the back, I personally feel that someone who draws is doing something unique when they put pen/pencil to paper. You really can't compare it to photography. Or to biology or anything really. That's not to say that photography is not worth pursuing. Or that photographers do not perceive the world delicately. Photography is also an art. And biology is also wonderful. But photography and biology just aren't drawing.

    The point here is that when you draw something your brain has to navigate light, form and gesture and then somehow make your hand move in such a way so as to recreate what you've observed. If you think about it for a second, this process is super complex and difficult, but forces us to scrutinize and understand what we see unlike anything else. Sure, photographers and biologists may appreciate a stroll through the woods. They might even remember more. But it is the drawer who is forced to really grapple with what he/she experiences if they are to achieve their goals and recreate the world around them with nothing but lines and dots.

    Remember, this isn't about creativity, it's about the act of observation which we take for granted. Drawing is simply a powerful way of enhancing it.

  22. It was common practice years ago for anyone learning the sciences to have a basic ability to draw. In High School, I was upset at having to draw my observations from a microscope or petri dish when a photo would have ten times the accuracy and not require any labor on my part. (This was a school that took the sciences very seriously and clung to the old ways.) I realized later that understanding comes not from observing, but from observing, processing, and duplicating. A photo of a paramecium will show all it's structures, but drawing all of those structures cycles the information through my brain. It is the same as taking notes. Anyone can record a lecture and have a complete, accurate record of what was said, but have no knowledge of the topic discussed. To understand we must process the data through our minds and recreate it in some way to check the accuracy of our memory. Having data is not the same as having knowledge.

  23. love these videos usually but as someone who finds peace through photography I like many other see the tiny details that only happen for a fraction of time. We see things that even our eyes cannot see like the clouds of the milky way or all the hidden colours of an aurora. Sure many just snap snap snap and never look at them again but no need to paint everyone with the same brush 😉

  24. It's true, but as an art student I must add something. Simply drawing isn't good enough. When we draw living, naked people in class many proceeds to almost only look at what they're working on, and very little on the model. They end up creating a piece only resembling the model built out of parts they "learned how to draw" beforehand. They defend themselves by saying they already know how to draw legs, and that looking at the model might confuse them and make the drawing ugly. Making pretty drawings is useless when you don't bother to study your object/subject.
    (Of course only relevant to this kind of analytical sketching, and not all art)

  25. I am no sketcher, I can't draw to save my life. I understand the sentiment of not being able to describe every minute of my life with photographic detail though if you asked me about a time in my life or a specific feeling I had from the places I grew up in as a child then I would be able to articulate them very well. I don't consider myself to be an observant person but when I can remember a moment from my life that was important to me then I would certainly be able to sketch it in as great a detail if I had the skill to draw.

  26. This is bullshit. A biologist/ecologist would see not only the beauty but also the complex interactions between each element in the green lane. Art doesn't have a monopoly on appreciation.

  27. And what is so wrong with seeing the path as nothing more than just a path? After all it is just a path. Fixation on small insignificant details is pointless and doesn't get you any further in life

  28. as someone who used to be an avid photographer, and is now more of a digital artist, I completely agree. I would always just take the shot because it looked nice, while admiring a few details here and there. but when I started drawing, I started looking at everything, from shadows ro the veins of leaves. mostly because I wanted to permanently install a little template of how I imagine I could draw each thing that I see lol

  29. Yeah…this might apply to a casual person who only takes photos with their phone and then rarely looks at them…but I'm skeptical that the same analogy would apply to an actual photographer who does pretty much the same thing as someone who draws. The process is very similar in that both are deeply connected to the subject matter (especially when you consider the entire workflow of a dedicated photographer, including post-work), it's just one doesn't take as long as the other. I agree that drawing has inherent benefits that photography can never capture, but I don't agree that that makes it more of a worthwhile process than photography itself.

  30. I really disagree with this, as a photographer i'm almost offended. Not only that drawing is not the only form of art, a musician may feel inspired by the scene, a author too. Every form of art can take a little from what they see.

  31. With this one I have to somewhat disagree, I have good memories of what made a place beautiful even though I took photos, I took the photo's of what i saw as beautiful and what was causing it, For example the emerald and shiny moss on a fallen tree over a small stream which I had climbed my way up, I remember lots about that day and place, I took it all in, if I was trying to draw I'd of been frustrated at not being able to capture how beautiful it was due to my drawing skills, the camera let me capture it though I rarely look at the photos but they are ingrained in my memory due to what i was looking for and trying to get that shot that will remind me of the small and sometimes bigger details 🙂

  32. Well, you can train yourself to become a Shutter-Chance Hunter. All you need a good camera though that is ready on the quick, so you can take the pictures swiftly without getting distracted by the act.

  33. I feel like amateur photography is being described here and not the art of it. In its early days, photography was used rather scientifically and commercially than for artistic pursuits.

  34. Just remember most professional photographers cares just as much for light and shape as the sketcher. But if we are discussing amateurs, sure I agree with this video.

  35. This is assuming that ALL photography is Iphone photography. I would argue that a trained photographer, considering exposure, lens length, aperture, ISO, and colour balance sees the world with the same level of vivid beauty as the sketcher…

    All photography is Iphone photography the same way that all drawings are stickfigures.

  36. Mindlessly snapping your phone is NOT photography! When you really do photography you are very much involved with the scene.

  37. capture the world through every medium you can is my philosophy. photo, drawing, music, words, anything. existence itself is an art.

  38. I'n sorry but this is wrong. there is a difference between taking stupid pics with an iphone and being a professional photographer. photography rocks.

  39. I have to disagree with this. As someone who has a hobby as a nature photographer, when I have my camera in hand, i'm often picking out the beautiful minute details that are all around me. I'll take my time and set up the perfect angle of a simple flower so it shows the stark contrast of its violet colour against and varied brown texture of the forest.

    When one is just looking through a cell to post about 'omg i'm doing this' yeah… you have a point. But <_____< you're throwing all photographers in there, when that's literally not true.

  40. All of what the sketcher sees, is what draws my camera to my eye. To capture the scene as a sketch, is to anthropomorphize it and to anthropomorphize it is to change its essence. When I go to art shows, the art the captures my eye is typically the art that most closely approximates reality.

  41. This was so beautiful. I recommend reading Pilgrimage on Tinker Creek by Anne Dillard, she also talks about simply observing.

  42. As someone who's double majoring (one of which majors is art), I've noticed people tend to believe that there is a dichotomy of those who are naturally talented at art, and those who aren't.
    I highly encourage everyone to at least try to create art whether they're "good" at it or not.
    I believe people become discouraged because they see the difference between their skill level now and their potential, but as they practice, that gap decreases.

  43. Become a photographer that walks around in search of unseen beauty, then spend 2 hours in Lightroom trying to enchance the photo.

  44. Not to sound silly but I am not very artistic and I want to draw something but I don't know what? Any ideas?

  45. Omg this hits hard 😀 Im so impressed by this video coz im the only one among my friends that loveeees flowers and could watch them all day long but no1 understands the beauty in its colors and shapes… They just ignore or not seeing it at all, i dont know… Amazing video 🙂

  46. It was this video, along with the corresponding article on, that set me on the path of drawing 4 months ago. And so far I've produced several dozen decent (I think) drawings, with a lot more to come. Thank you!

  47. The biggest mistake is believing the lie that the sketch a precious thing. Your experience immediately becomes a commodity for judgement. Experience is robbed. The experience is replaced with self-consciousness. Erase the sketch. Burn the sketch. Tear it into shreds. Only then will you begin to understand the experience.

  48. You know what I don’t like? When I have to draw a photo in class. Why can’t I draw what I want?

  49. I wanted to draw some of my crazy dreams, they are full litlte stories with good structure and everything, but I don't enjoy myself drawing.

  50. Great video. You definitely convinced me. I want to start sketching now. I've always been more musically inclined, but drawing has always interested me too.

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