“Tweaking Is Essential to the Drawing Process (If Steve Jobs Did It, Why Won’t You?)
A form of “analysis paralysis” I see my adult drawing students commonly put themselves through is the idea that they have to get something drawn correctly the first time they draw it. This drive for perfection straight out of the gate is horrible for our self esteem, especially when we’re faced with a task we have not yet mastered! I often remind students that they don’t know how to imagine the perfect drawing in their head because they have to use their fine motor skills to actually execute the drawing. Fine motor skills are a factor within their control, but more often than not those skills are underdeveloped in adulthood. Because of that, the moving of the hand is a game changer- you can’t just “picture it” and be done! And if you’re like most of us, you need to be prepared for making adjustments. Enter the tweak. Tweaking is essential to the drawing process. How about giving yourself permission to try and try again?
In art school, students learn to become comfortable with the process of visual editing and refinement- the tweak. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes it is hard on the ego, but critiquing is a vital part of the process of becoming an artist. In early years, a project is assigned, time is given in class to work independently and with the instructor, and upon the due date, a critique happens. Everyone displays the results of their project and each piece is discussed as a group for its individual merits and deficits and in comparison to the other results. It is the space where the most learning happens, because you see successes and failures side by side. It can be devastating or elating if your identity is enmeshed with your project. But if you can separate yourself from your work, you can grow rapidly in this setting. “In-progress critiques” often happen so that major rerouting can take place before the final critique, when necessary. Refining your work in this way is the best way to master your craft. Enter Steve Jobs.
While Jobs was renowned for being temperamental and difficult to please, he was masterful at the refinement process. We all appreciate the attention to detail and design he gifted to the world. I promise you, never was a first attempt at an Apple product introduced to the world. He’s quoted as saying “Can you imagine looking at that every day? It’s not just a little thing. It’s something we have to do right.”. So why do we think we should be above this process at the onset of drawing?
In the New Yorker article, The Tweaker, distinguished writer and thinker Malcolm Gladwell explains how “This sort of tweaking is essential to progress.” One of the phrases I use is “the Goldilocks Rule of Drawing”. First the line is too big. Usually we overcorrect and make a line that is then too small. Sometimes it is the 3rd or 18th line that eventually ends up in the correct place. But without permission and expectation of the “tweak”, we are instead left with a not so hot looking drawing. I personally would rather allow the tweak to just quitting when it looks bad. How about you?