Posy Simmonds: The secrets of learning to draw

From the Royal Society of Arts talk, given by the cartoonist at the Sheffield Galleries
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The Independent Online

Small children draw wonderfully. They're very spontaneous. I think drawing is something that you can learn to do rather like you can learn the piano. If you're really musical, you're going to play the piano beautifully and if you have a gift for drawing you're going to draw well. But you can be taught. That's why I think life drawing is terribly important. You can be taught to look at things and to look at the spaces between things. You might not ever make a terrific drawing but you'll please yourself.

Small children draw wonderfully. They're very spontaneous. I think drawing is something that you can learn to do rather like you can learn the piano. If you're really musical, you're going to play the piano beautifully and if you have a gift for drawing you're going to draw well. But you can be taught. That's why I think life drawing is terribly important. You can be taught to look at things and to look at the spaces between things. You might not ever make a terrific drawing but you'll please yourself.

The Campaign for Drawing - "The Big Draw"- has certainly started something. I've been involved for the past three years in the events it has in London.

At art school, life drawing and drawing in an ordinary, traditional way is coming back because it was actually something that went out of fashion.

For me, life drawing is like learning a language. When I first did life drawing as a student, it was academic and boring. We drew plaster casts of athletes' feet. We drew from flayed arms and things. I can remember actually drawing a nude man when I was 17 - this was in Paris - and writing to my parents about it. They were horrified because in England the men weren't nude, the women were.

I can remember having wonderful teachers who were actually bonkers, but one of them would say, looking at some massive bottom of a recumbent woman: "Now class, imagine you're a fly," and you had to imagine yourself making a journey over these big gluteus muscles.

I draw every day. If I haven't drawn for several days, it's like being out of practice. When I began to draw, I would pinch elements of people's drawings that I liked. I liked Ronald Searle's dogs and his shoes and Steinberg's cats. My earlier drawings were full of bits that weren't really my drawings. But after a bit, they became mine. It becomes like handwriting.

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