(Additional Pet Peeves at left)
The "I can't Draw" syndrome
"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college- that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?" ~ Howard Ikemoto
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." ~ Pablo Picasso
You've probably heard it from students many times....."I can't
draw!" It's my biggest pet peeve. It's a self-defeating
attitude that prevents the student from experimenting and
improving with practice. If the
drawing isn't perfect, a student will give up in disgust. When asked
why they aren't finishing their picture, they say "I can't draw!"
Art teacher Mikel Lee has a good idea about this syndrome:
"I had an "I Can't Funeral." I
had [the students] all write what they couldn't do from
art to every other topic and then they folded their lists
and we stuck
them in a coffin...they didn't know what we were doing
at this point. Then I gathered them all and said that
we were all gathered for the funeral of our dear friend, " I
had been a good partner and has given us many years of security.
He had many aliases: 'It's too hard,' 'I don't know how,'
etc. (make it up as you go)... He is survived by his brothers
and sister "I can", "I will", and "I
am going to try my best." In
the future when we feel like we need "I can't" we
will turn to his brothers and sisters for strength and we
will make it through our tough times..... Then we had a moment
of silence and put the top on the box. I think that the teacher
I borrowed from even buried the box outside.. I just put
a tombstone on the wall and wrote R.I.P "I Can't" and
the date. It was cool because even though it was corny everytime
someone said I can't someone said "I can't is dead" and
pointed to the wall."
What to Do?
So what do you tell them? By sharing with them some of
the people featured on this page, you should get through to them. These
people had every excuse in the world for not drawing. These people
never said those nasty words, "I can't draw."
The first person I would like to introduce you to is Brett Eastburn, alias "The Stub." Brett was a fourth grader where I taught him art at North Liberty School in North Liberty,
Indiana awhile back. He used either a wheel chair or a skateboard to
get around. He would lay on his stomache on top of the skateboard and
propel himself with the stubs of his arms. He could move much faster
than his wheelchair this way. When it was time for him to draw or
paint, I would sit him on top of the table and he would use his teeth,
his stubs, and his shoulder to cut, glue, and draw. Nothing could stop
Still not convinced that saying, "I can't draw" is
foolish? Well then, let's look at another person, Joni Eareckson.
A Step Further
"In July 1967, when she was seventeen, Joni (pronounced
Johnnie) Eareckson dove into Chesapeake Bay and broke her neck; since
then she has been a quadriplegic, confined to life in a wheelchair. In
her first book, Joni, she told the story of her accident and her subsequent struggle to accept her handicap.
As a result of that first book, Joni received
thousands of letters from readers who identified with her bouts of
depression, despair, and loneliness - letters from hurting people all
over the world." (copyright 1978 by Joni Eareckson and Steve Estes)
Joni puts a pencil in her mouth to draw. As you
can see in the picture at right, her picture of the kittens is quite
good. She drew it all with her mouth! Joni doesn't believe in the "I
can't draw" syndrome either. She says her faith in God has helped her
to overcome her paralysis.
Information about Joni's artwork is available by writing: Joni and Friends, P.O. Box 3333, Agoura Hills, CA. 91376. You can find her books and prints sold on the internet. Joni still speaks across the nation and gives inspiration to many people.
Do you still say you can't draw? Boy, you're a hard case.
That means I'll have to introduce to you yet another person who never
said that they couldn't draw.
Disabled Woman Paints
Queenie Archer was 11 when her mother put her in a place for the
mentally handicapped. She wasn't really handicapped, her arms and legs
were crippled by cerebral palsy, a disease that slowly eats away your
muscles. She had no visitors and wasn't even allowed to decorate her
room. Instead of saying she couldn't do anything, she decided to make
the best of her situation. She is now a 46-year-old woman.
"Look at me," Queenie says. "I'm an artist. I'm in one of
the best group homes in the area. I always got something to eat. I got my own
room. I got all my earrings and my hair bows. I got my mom and my sister. Some
people out there, they don't have anybody."
Queenie now lives in Davie, Florida, in a cerebral
palsy group home. After a lifetime of injustices, she still sees enough
beauty in the world to paint pictures that sell for as much as $1,000
apiece. She paints with a brush sticking out of a contraption on her
"I'm a survivor," she says, and grins. "A wild
woman." Today she daydreamed that she would be working on her picture
of cats in a field of irises.
Each petal, each leaf, takes hours. A whole painting can
take six or seven months. "It doesn't matter," Queenie says. "It could take me
years. I never give up."
You can see some art done by Queenie as well as other handicapped
artists by visiting Amazing
Artwork, a site by a company in Fort Lauderdale that employs handicapped
Are you satisfied yet? Don't tell me you're still complaining about
your drawing abilities! OK. Then I have another one for you. The next
person I'm going to tell you about is Henri Matisse.
Matisse Does Art From His Wheelchair and Bed
Henri Matisse was born on December 31, 1869 in France. He became
a famous artist by the year 1900. By the age of 78, he became a cripple
and had to remain in a wheel chair. He could barely move his fingers
due to arthritis. That didn't stop him. As you see in the picture,
Matisse began to cut out shapes from colored construction paper and had
others glue them down for him to make a collage. He did this all from
his wheelchair. Soon he became so lame that he was stuck in a bed. That
didn't stop him either. When he painted one of his last paintings, he
was rolled on his bed in the church.
"I consider it my best piece of work. I hope that the future
will justify this opinion by a growing interest," Matisse said before he died
in 1954 at the age of 84. Even though he was old and crippled, he decided that
nothing was going to stop him. Will anything stop you?
Here's someone who uses her feet to paint:
According to the AMFPA,
Maria del Pilar Benitez Velozo (at right) was born without her lower
arms. One of her legs was also irreversibly damaged. From childhood on
she has learned how to use her feet to be more independent. At the age
of five she learned how to sew and knit, later she also learned how to
weave and make small craft objects. Her love for the arts became
obvious at a very young age and she was further motivated by the
lessons she received in sixth grade. After that she took up a
correspondence course in drawing and oil painting.
She wishes to tell people how they can develop to
their full potential, and so she visits schools, talks to students and
teachers and demonstrates to them how she paints or knits. She has had
numerous exhibitions both in Argentina and internationally, where she
received several awards and distinctions for her works.
OK guys, if you still say "I can't," then you are
hopeless. You are doomed to a life of boredom because you don't want to
risk anything to improve yourself. We've seen several people who didn't
let anything keep them from their art. There are many more like them.
It's quite simple. You are able to draw and if you say, "I can't," you are too lazy or have no confidence in yourself.
Disabled Artists Links
- Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of the World, which also features many handicapped artists and their work.
- Ben Glenn's Living Art, which features art from someone with ADD and Dyslexia.
- Careers in the Arts for the disabled
- The Coincidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Creativity, an interesting page which addresses the connection between ADD and creativity.
- dizABLED Cartoons, a collection of disabled art cartoons.
- Fine Arts and Disabilities, with programs, galleries, and equipment for artists with disabilities.
- Google's links to Disabled Arts
- National Arts and Disability Center- With articles and a gallery.
- Hajautettu Multimedia, a research project using multimedia for the deaf.
- Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, the USA version of the AMFPA.
- Special Education Art Lessons, a very good resource from Kodak for those who have students with special needs.
- Very Special Arts, the national organization. Also see their USA and international affiliates.
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