Decline of drawing skills

I don’t know about you but with the ubiquitousness of computing, my handwriting is in the toilet. Evidently it’s not just me and it’s not just handwriting. From a C-NET story (via Slashdot), it would appear that art students have become more comfortable drawing by computer than with paper and ink. According to university art professors:

Students are more comfortable manipulating computer graphics than doodling, drafting and drawing with pen on paper, and this has created a sharp decline in drawing skills in recent years, teachers say. Additionally, tech-savvy students simply lack the initiative and persistence developed by drawing, resulting in uninspired work–at least work on paper. “I see an increasing passivity on the part of students,” says Marc Treib, a University of California, Berkeley architecture professor.

Unfortunately, it would seem that commercial interests may be partially to blame:

John Woodbridge, director of the San Francisco-based university’s School of Computer Arts-New Media, says traditional art skills are important but students aspiring to become commercial artists must be conversant with software because employers say they want artists and “production people” capable of working with an increasing number of programs.

This paragraph would explain why I choose to make patterns by hand:

Computer graphics allow artists to move briskly. By contrast, drawing on paper can be frustrating, forcing concentration, introspection and revision as an idea or vision takes shape. The process hones essential skills and sensitivity and personality that make artwork unique, instructors say.

Before I read this, I didn’t realize how fundamental the ongoing thought process for the duration of the work was necessary to render a quality result because it’s not just drawing. I imagine the same process would be true of designing. And it explains the necessity of solid blocks of uninterrupted time in which to do it. There’s no way to multi-task pattern making.

Back to my original point, the reduced quality of my handwriting is not relational to the issues of art students. Bad handwriting does not affect my ability to string words together -only to read them- making computing an easy substitute in most circumstances. My spouse may kindly defer from commenting.

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11 comments

  1. Another point about drawing (or writing)
    using a computer is that it’s so much
    easier to “multitask” and jump from task
    to task on the computer. This spreading
    of one’s attention and concentration is,
    as you point out, one contributor to a
    deterioration of quality.

  2. LeAnna says:

    From my own perspective- I can see how it it effects artwork. I used to do all my sketches completely by hand, and then color them by hand. Not just fashion sketches but my comics too. But over the past few years I’ve been relying on photoshop, and illustrator to get things done. Sketching a rough then using the alpha channels to clean it up makes it much faster- and easier to play around with color.
    I started out doing it because it was cheaper for me to do my artwork in illustrator for screenprinting, than to pay an artwork fee for something I’d already drawn. Now I use it all the time. I still sketch- but then it gets scanned in and cleaned up. I’m really out of practice with alot of the hand drawing techniques.

  3. Esther says:

    The tools may have changed, but the principles of art and design have not, IMO. I have used the same thought processes in my creations whether it was pen and paper or mouse and screen. The technique is different and I am admittedly weaker with pen and paper. But with the mouse and screen I can create professional looks in half the time. Nothing wrong witht that.

  4. Danielle says:

    I much prefer to draw by hand. There’s a liveliness that is almost impossible to achieve even with the tablet. I like to use the computer for colouring and layouts (so much easier to try things out and change your mind) but I really think that there is nothing quite like a fast, hand-drawn illustration to show a real knack. In these days where anyone can get good effects on a computer I’m very proud of being able to sketch figures and technicals freehand and quick, it’s not that common. Now that I’m finishing school I want to practice more life drawing and observation to develop my hand techniques further.

  5. Beverly says:

    I saw a news article on TV the other day, where pre-teen students were being taught calligraphy, in in order to improve their penmanship. One of the students (11 years old) was interviewed and was asked why this was important. Her answer…”handwriting is part of our heritage, and we shouldn’t let it become a lost art”. I was shocked, to say the least. A lost art? Handwriting? Isn’t writing still one of the three R’s or am I a dinosuar already?
    As for me, I draft by hand and grade by computer; technical drawings are drawn by computer but sketches by hand. But by golly, no matter how computerized the world becomes, I will sign my Visa slips by hand!!!

  6. Big Irv says:

    When I first read this post, my first reaction was to ask a colleague whether they still taught penmanship in her daughter’s 3rd grade class.
    Apparently, they still place an emphasis on proper printing, but not writing at this stage.
    I hope penmanship is still taught, but frankly I think keyboard communication is how a majority of people put their words on paper to communicate. It will only grow larger. My own handwriting is so atrocious, I tend to print when I have to.
    My mother is a gifted portrait artist. I grew up surrounded with all types of art influences. I so totally respect anyone who still sketches or attempts to sketch by hand. I know how difficult is is to put pencil to paper and create legible work. God gives each of us a gift. Unfortunately I wasn’t given any artistic skills.

  7. Liana says:

    I think the problem may be that doing artwork on the computer rather than with pen and paper can allow those with good computer skills and less-than-stellar art skills to look better than they would otherwise. But, where the pen meets the paper, there is, as usual, no substitute for talent, and practice.

  8. Computer graphics allow artists to move briskly. By contrast, drawing on paper can be frustrating, forcing concentration, introspection and revision as an idea or vision takes shape.

    That is only true in specific instances. If one merely wants to draw or use primative objects (ovals, rectangles, straight lines) or utilize
    “clip art” the computer *may* be quicker. Within the design world – at least my 10 years of professional involvement in it – I’ve experienced
    and heard many a discussion on how it’s actually far quicker to sketch out ideas when first conceptualizing an image than it is to try to do
    it on the computer.

    If one wants to draw a complex scene or object one still has to work through the process of creating and placing all the elements/components. That can be just as frustrating and require just as much concentration, introspection and revision when using a computer as drawing it by hand. Furthermore, many computer artists use a pen and tablet -the equivalent of a pencil and paper -to draw directly into the computer.

    One of the difficulties faced by professional artists now is that the computer allows so many more options and choices that it takes longer to
    do something. With a pencil and paper you have the physical qualities of the pencil lead, the physical ability to make the shapes, the
    pressure applied by the drawing hand, and the characteristics of the paper itself that determine the outcome. The computer adds to that many many filters, effects, and other choices that can be tried and considered. That adds a complexity that isn’t found in pencil sketching.

    I know professional artists/designers who enjoy the tactile sense of drawing on paper. That isn’t immoral, illegal, or fattening and I’m not
    at all against it. However, that is a personal value. That by itself doesn’t make their end result -what their audience sees- any better or
    worse. “The journey may be it’s own reward” for the artist but it’s the destination -the final result of the artistry- that matters to the
    audience.

    Continuing with the destination metaphor, the Japanese have a saying, “There are many paths to the top of Mt. Fuji.” Individuals such as the
    instructors quoted in the article may prefer one path or another and lament the fact that the popularity of their favorite path is waning, but
    what’s actually more important is that you made the journey and somehow got to the top.

  9. alex bower says:

    what about the fact that in the animation and graphics industry, time is limited. hand drawing and scanning in could be seen as a longer process. is this still practiced in todays industry?
    or does everything have to be churned out in rapid time that drawing with a tablet is the only choice.
    i cannot use the tablet, it is completely alien to me. does this mean i will not get a job?

  10. Oxanna says:

    Reminds me of the story of Giotto, who was asked by a messenger to send the pope examples of his work, in order to be considered for a job (I forget the name of the cathedral/church/location). Giotto took a sheet of paper, dipped his brush in paint, and drew a circle. The messenger was rather offended, but finally took the drawing to the pope, who was amazed by Giotto’s ability to draw a perfect freehand circle in one “swish”. Photoshop and Illustrator now allow us to make a perfect circle with one click & drag of the mouse, but it’s not the same.

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