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“I Can’t Even Draw a Stick Figure,” and Why That Doesn’t Matter

By Abby St. Jean

“I can’t even draw a stick figure!” — the most common words muttered out of someone’s mouth following my admission to being a Studio Art minor. A statement that I, frankly, do not believe.

I think that our art curriculums do a lot wrong, but the biggest shortfall is assigning a grade based on benchmarks meant to assess the creativity of young children. Before our worlds are shattered by a 3 out of 5 on an elementary school progress report from a grumpy, older woman dictating that our art did not meet the expectations she held — we are all artists.

Beginning from the first grasp of a red Crayola marker followed by the journey our hand takes from the table right up to a fresh white wall, there is a sense of freedom we all possess. A freedom that can only be described as artistry. A desire to create something from nothing. I think this experience, or ones similar, can be fondly remembered by most of us. Yet, our years of creativity often halt at age 9, unless we are encouraged to pursue art.

In a world with increasingly less original thought, why are we not encouraging every single child to pursue the arts, why is it only the ones who excel in the eyes of that grumpy old woman who get to continue? When we tell our younger generations what they can’t do, they believe it. So when someone regurgitates the words “I can’t even draw a stick figure,” really what they are hearing is some external voice saying “you can’t even draw a stick figure.”

My advice? Return to the urges you had as a child to draw on your mother’s white couch. Maybe not literally, but doodle, make gifts for people, draw for fun — not for a progress report, and seek out creative outlets. And maybe, one day soon, you will create something beautiful, and someone will come up to you and say, “Wow! I can’t even draw a stick figure!”

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