Why do we draw?

scriberia drawing hand close up

Our ears pricked up when we heard that the latest episode of Radio 4’s excellent series, The Why Factor’, explores why we draw, how we can learn to draw, and what we reveal through our drawings.

Presenter Lucy Ash interviews three very different artists: Stephen Wiltshire, David Hockney, and Lizzie Ellis.

Each has a unique relationship to drawing, and uses illustration for different purposes. Wiltshire, who is autistic and famed for his spectacularly detailed cityscapes, used drawing to communicate what he couldn’t manage with words. Ellis, an Australian Aboriginal artist, uses sand storytelling to keep alive the cultural traditions of Aboriginal Australia. And Hockney embraces both the traditions of draughtsmanship and cutting edge technology to document the world as he sees it.

But can anyone have this powerful relationship with pen and paper? Or are some inherently more visual than others? Psychologist Rebecca Chamberlain explains how those with drawing expertise have larger amounts of grey matter in their brain. This particular type of matter is associated with transferring vision to action, and with the fine motor planning that's essential for drawing.

But, just because you don't draw, doesn't mean you can't. Chamberlain explains how everyone can improve their drawing skills through practice. (Hey, haven't we said that before?) Examining art students as part of her study, she reports that ‘the more they spend time drawing, the better they are... The benefit comes from finding new techniques for seeing the world in different ways.’

If you're looking for way to build your own drawing technique, you can start with our quick and easy How to Draw tutorials, complete with elves, elephants and Easter bunnies.

Sarah Pickstone, teacher at the Royal Society of Drawing, sums up both the show and our attitude to drawing perfectly. 'Drawing', she says, 'makes life a lot less boring'.