There are some rare occasions when someone can literally forget how to draw, but they are rare. In general it is one of those skills, like riding a bicycle, where once you have learned how it is hard to forget.
Obviously practice will have an effect. If you haven’t practiced for a while it will probably take you a little time to reach the level you were at previously.
The rare times when people do forget are likely to be caused by trauma or a degenerative disease. Both Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers can literally forget how to draw. However, in recent years there has been a lot of scientific study about the benefits of art for Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers.
Brain trauma can cause an inability to remember the skills you had learned previously. In some cases these skills can be relearned but that does depend on the extent of the damage
Nerve damage that interrupts the nerve signals between the brain and hands can also result in a disconnection between the instructions sent by the brain and the drawing hand. Although not technically the same as forgetting it can have the same results.
This problem can get really frustrating, because the person can physically remember what to do but cannot turn those signals into any controllable motor function to control the hands.
Other degenerative nerve disorders like Huntingdon’s and Parkinson’s disease’s can also cause similar problems. With both, the sufferer may remember what to do, but not be able to turn that though into the sort of controlled motor functions needed to draw or paint. Some work has been done in the field of robotic orthotics to try and improve things but this is all at a very early stage of development.
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Can Drawing Skills Weaken Over Time?
Yes, drawing skills can weaken over time if they aren’t practiced. Any physical task relies a lot on muscle memory. If you aren’t practicing something regularly, that muscle memory will gradually decrease.
Having said that, once the initial skills have been learned it is easier to retain them and doesn’t take so much practice to improve them again.
Of course the sort of trauma or degenerative disease’s mentioned above can cause these skills to weaken, but they are very rare occurrences.
Something else that can make it appear as though your skills have weakened is the artists own version of the well known phenomenon of ‘writer’s block’. This is usually a temporary though very real and frustrating problem.
You will see on many forums people talking about loosing inspiration. This is usually temporary and short term, but to the artist concerned it can easily snowball into something that feels like a huge problem. Stress and anxiety can compound the issue, especially for professional artists who rely on their skills to earn a living.
Be patient with yourself and step away for a while. Do something completely different. When you return to the task it can be a whole lot easier.
Why Are My Drawing Skills Getting Worse?
If your drawing skills are getting worse then there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. Depending on your answers to these questions there can be several solutions.
Are you practicing as much as you used to?
Always remember to practice. Nothing will improve your drawing like practice does.
Are you distracted by something in your life that is making it difficult to focus?
If something is distracting you then try to deal with it. If you can’t and it is likely to take time then you will need to learn to block it out at times. Art can be a great way to do this but it will take practice to stop your thoughts returning to a subject that is troubling you.
Meditation might help you with this. Doing something very physical can too. We are all different people and there is no one solution for everyone. The more things you try the more likely you are to find the solution that works for you.
Are you seeing the drawings you do for what they are?
Perception is a very complex subject and like it or not, we do not always see things as they truly are. This can lead to you seeing things in a different way to other people who didn’t do the drawing. You may have had difficulty with a certain section of the drawing and had to repeat it several times.
This can distort the way you see the final piece. You may still be seeing the mistakes you made rather than what the final drawing really looks like.
Is there anything physical that is making drawing more difficult for you at the moment?
If there is something physical that is causing you problems see it for what it is. It may be a temporary injury. If so then rest and physiotherapy can help long term.
However, if you have developed other symptoms like uncontrolled shaking or poor hand eye coordination that are preventing you from drawing, then you should seek medical advice from a professional. Make sure that if it is serious, that it is dealt with as quickly as possible.
Why Do I Feel Like I Can’t Draw Anymore?
We are all our own worst critic. Feeling like you can’t draw anymore is different to actually not being able to draw anymore. Our perception of what we create is subjective.
Show people some of the work you are questioning and ask people for feedback. Asking strangers is usually more informative than asking friends, as your friends will likely want to improve your mood by simply telling you they look great without much thought.
If you are feeling confident then you are much more likely to see drawings and paintings you do as good. If you are feeling less confident or even depressed, you are less likely to see anything positive in your drawings.
Fortunately and unfortunately, both of these feelings can result in an exaggeration of the mental effects. If you are feeling confident that can show in your drawings. Bolder and more confident lines will often make for a better drawing. However the same can be true if your mood is low or your confidence has taken a knock. This can show in your drawings and paintings too.
If this is the case, try starting simply with a few basic sketches of something you love. It is always easier to draw something you care about and know well. Simple sketches will quickly turn into more detailed drawings and you will see that in no time a little practice can improve your drawing a lot.
How Can I Regain My Drawing Skills?
Practice is the best way to regain lost drawing skills. That practice doesn’t always have to be drawing though. Learning skills with a new medium or trying to improve on your knowledge base are both good ways to improve things when you are stuck with something.
Sometimes going off to do something completely different is also a great idea. Doing something different will use a different area of the brain allowing your left brain which is associated with drawing to turn off. When you go back to drawing the break can form a reset, allowing you to progress in ways you were struggling with.
Practicing basic skills can be tedious, but it works. Training your muscles to repeat skills and patterns will improve the muscle memory and improve your results.
Taking a class of some sort can help some people but equally, doing something really physical to literally tire all your muscles out can help others to reset.
Why not try and draw a mandala as a way of meditating? Try and focus all your attention of doing the drawing. Don’t let your mind wander back to any of the things you were thinking of. Especially the things you were trying to draw. Being able to step away and reset is one of the best skills I have ever learned.
One of the things I have mentioned in different articles is to turn the picture you are painting upside down. This will help you see things in a different way and can help you see parts of the drawing differently. It can help you get past a mental block.
There can be many reasons that you might have difficulty with drawing. Not all are as real as others and it can come down to perception. Even with the biggest hurdles there is usually a way to improve your drawing.
Whether the block is mental or physical, you can improve things. As understanding of art therapy increases there is obviously much more for us all to learn. We are all different too, so even if we have the same difficulties the same solution may not always work.
Try different solutions until you find what works for you. Once you start to understand what works for you, you can try to understand why it works for you too. Understanding why something happens can be the best weapon to help you stop it affecting you and your drawing long term.
Practice doesnt have to mean practicing the same things over and over again. Practice new styles or using different materials. Try drawing with charcoal, or do some painting for a change.
Working with other people on a collaborative piece can work really well for people who thrive on feedback. It is less likely to work with people who desire calm and quiet to work. Learning how to focus in any environmment is a real skill. Practicing that can help your art as well as your general mental health.
Remember, we all get stuck sometimes. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t be afraid to take a break. A coffee with friends can be the best solution for many things.