Why You’ve Got To Stop With The Stick People

“Don’t worry about it, I can only draw stickmen.”

This common sentiment from parents and teachers is driving me NUTS. It’s also sometimes said as, “I can’t even draw a stick man!”

Seriously?! Enough already.

There are a few things going on here, so let’s get deep down into it, because I am sick and tired of this bogus sentiment shutting down creativity and limiting possibility.

The reason you either can’t draw a stick man, or can “only” draw is stick man, is because you’re lazy and you have no confidence. You aren’t willing to take a risk, you aren’t willing to build a skill and you are more than happy to limit the kids you live or work with as they find comfort in your chorus of ONLY drawing stick men or NOT EVEN bothering.

Guess what? I can’t really draw stick men. In fact, I couldn’t really draw PEOPLE until a year or so ago. There was a reason I stuck to monsters. 

But guess what else? As I practiced, copied characters I liked and pushed myself to learn, I found myself more comfortable with it. I experimented, tried different things and made a lot of REALLY UGLY PEOPLE DRAWINGS. But every now and then, I can draw one I like.

It’s about time and it’s about grit and it’s about effort and it’s about not having to perform on freaking command.

What are we teaching our kids when we tell them not to worry about it, because we too cannot or can only draw a stick figure? We are teaching them:

  1. Effort doesn’t matter. Just stick to the simple forms.
  2. You don’t need to push yourself. I didn’t, and so what? So you probably don’t need to try hard in math or on the field or with your reading and writing, either. If it doesn’t apply to you, don’t bother!
  3. Art is for artistes. Only the uniquely gifted may create openly and without fear. (Guess what? The “uniquely gifted” have worked their asses off and create with massive amounts of fear, most of the time. But they actually push and try.)
  4. Art doesn’t matter. Just get something on your page. You don’t need to try to find your voice or communicate anything beyond a stick with a head.
  5. You can be like me. I don’t want you to be better.

I’m not saying that you have to draw well. I’m not saying that everyone must be creative and artistic. I am, however, saying that you’ve GOT to stop limiting the imagination, exploration and fascination that kids can have with the world around them by tipping the first art-domino with one well-intended line: “I can’t even draw a stick man!”

2 thoughts on “Why You’ve Got To Stop With The Stick People

  1. I agree stick man is a lame excuse. I couldn’t’ until forced to take a “How to Draw” cass as an undergraduate in social work.Everyone had to take this at my liberal arts university. But I think calling people lazy takes your rant a little too far. I don’t think those who excuse themselves out of art are lazy. I would say they are scared. Scared they can’t draw and will scared they will embarrass themselves. Fear is a big factor.

    A lack of confidence is true, but how do you gain confidence except by doing? The “Stickman people” need encouragement, not a rant. I know you are a good artist. I love your art and I adore the way you embrace your child and his creativity (learned and uniquely his), but not all of us had such artistically inclined parents. Encourage, don’t rant (though I get your perspective and frustration).

    But you are in the best position to encourage all ages to pick up a crayon or pencil and draw that stickman and then fill that skinny guy out with more features. It’s a starting point and we all must start somewhere.


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