Why can't you draw?

To make significant progress in drawing, it is important to be aware of your strengths and challenges. Don’t just say, “I’m not good at drawing faces.” Try to learn specifically why you find it challenging to draw faces? Is it getting the proportions right? Shading? Anatomy? Break down challenges into small steps and tackle them one at a time. The clearer you are, the better prepared you will be for devising a solution.

This is another gem from Pen and ink drawing: a simple guide.

I don't really think much of my drawing skills. That's why I like the word "scribble". I am always getting better, though.

So many don't even get past the first step. I regularly ask others to join me. But my invitations and provocations are usually, immediately, shut down with "I can't draw".

They're apparently so bad it's not worth bothering at all. Maybe I should start asking why and how.

What do we value?

All art is an artist’s attempt to share their consciousness with others...

Is it, though? Or, rather, is that why we consume and value art? This quote is from a brilliant Medium piece I've been thinking about the last few days.

Is the reason we consume art because we value the intention behind it? Put another way, is it about the agency of the creator? Is it about the viewers? Or, once let out into the world, does art take on something separate from either?

Consider how recently European art broke free from dogmatic classicism and realism. And how many such works are still counted among the masterpieces. I think it's a bit problematic to be so definitive about subjective perspective.

From the same piece:

The Mona Lisa has become the Mona Lisa because of the legendary stories that have accumulated around that rather “unremarkable” little portrait. The Mona Lisa cannot be assessed as a painting anymore. It is inextricably linked to value, by the international idolisation of Leonardo Da Vinci to the status of a demigod, by Napoleon’s secretion of the painting into his bedroom, by the infamous thefts which transformed her into an icon of France, by its successful concealment through the resistance from the Nazis during the Second World War, by its transatlantic journey from Paris to New York in an hermetically sealed box...

I don't think I've ever had a conversation about the Mona Lisa that touched on its artistic qualities. Or even the feeling it conjures. Rather, it seems like a binary. An event. A necessary pilgrimage. Have you seen it or not? Rather than whether you love it and why. The painting has taken on so much more than the conscious of its creator. The brushstrokes themselves almost irrelevant.

I'm also reminded of seeing Starry Night a few years ago in MoMA. The room was absolutely packed. People lined up to take selfies with an image they'd seen plastered on bags and postcards. But how many know Vincent van Gogh painted it while in an asylum? That he painted it in between breakdowns, through the bars in the window?

Is it the wonderful exaggerations, the possible product of visions, that we are grasping at? Is it the galaxy or the cypress trees? Or is it all the context that has built up in the intervening years?

Vincent van Gogh seems to be particularly suited to a world where textual analysis rules. The hundreds of surviving letters between the van Gogh brothers and others are a peerless treasure for those wishing to grasp the consciousness of the creator. But how many have read them? I didn't. I haven't.

This all may seem academic, but it would necessarily shape the kind of art being produced even now. Some artists, famously, evolve significantly throughout their careers, picking up new styles and mediums. But if the value of art is something outside the artists then many are likely to be trapped by expectation. Their work only valued if they embrace the context that has surrounded their work.

(My emphasis)

Power of marketing

The detox phenomenon is interesting because it represents one of the most grandiose innovations of marketers, lifestyle gurus, and alternative therapists: the invention of a whole new physiological process. In terms of basic human biochemistry, detox is a meaningless concept. It doesn’t cleave nature at the joints. There is nothing on the ‘detox system’ in a medical textbook. That burgers and beer can have negative effects on your body is certainly true, for a number of reasons; but the notion that they leave a specific residue, which can be extruded by a specific process, a physiological system called detox, is a marketing invention.

From Bad Science. That marketing shapes our world and created affairs, like Mother's Day, isn't new. But something feels a bit different about "toxins".

It isn't just a bit of mindless consumerism. It goes beyond that. It plays on fears and disconnection. And it has profound impact on many. People have changed entire lifestyles to escape toxins.

Rethinking institutions

...more clues can be found in the extensive literature on irrationality. People tend, for example, to rate longer explanations as being more similar to ‘experts’ explanations’. There is also the ‘seductive details’ effect: if you present related (but logically irrelevant) details to people as part of an argument, this seems to make it more difficult for them to encode, and later recall, the main argument of a text, because their attention is diverted.

Another from Bad Science.

I often wonder how our world, our institutions would differ if we had a better understanding of our own foibles and deficiencies a few hundred years ago.

For instance, would the modern press conference exist if we understood how easy it is to derail critical thinking and shape narratives? Would they be similarly designed - with the stages, lecturns, flags and other signalling of authority or group dynamics?