Do you consider yourself good at drawing? According to recent research, it is often self-imposed limitations that prevent practice and success!

In his article ‘Have you fallen for the myth of ‘I can’t draw’? Do it anyway – and reap the rewards’, Lecturer in Animation at Swinburne University of Technology Darren Fisher describes how this ‘I can’t do it’ feeling is common amongst his students. He also extols the many health benefits of drawing, as when practiced on a regular basis it can improve mood and promote general creativity.

Fisher promotes the drawing style ‘Automatic Drawing’ developed by the Surrealists, as one way to get started. In this style, the student draws with no clear end goal. The hand can go anywhere on the page to create drawings without conscious control. Another method in learning to draw is deliberate practice. Fisher claims that letting go also of the biases against learning by copying is an essential stepping stone in learning to draw. Copying to learn is often frowned upon in some schools of thought, however Fisher’s article goes on to describe how young students in Japan of Manga style art are encouraged to do just this. These children build their skill through exposure and practice.

Anytime someone is learning a new skill, be it a swim stroke or a new language, it can be a struggle, but this is not a bad thing. Productive struggle (Livy et al., 2018) is where students engage in effortful practice to build their skills and move them beyond passive learning. Barker students are encouraged to work through productive struggle where a new skill is confusing and uncomfortable to them. Learning activities are differentiated such that students are appropriately challenged to develop their skills.

When speaking to Barker Middle School students, teaching staff and to the School Community at a Barker Institute Forum in 2021, Dr Jared Cooney Horvath, Educational Neuroscientist, claimed that we have the option to decide whether to try and learn. When you encounter confusion, the choice to flip on a switch in the prefrontal cortex, (the controller and coding area of the brain), to work through what he coined the ‘crunch sensation’, is the best choice anyone can make when learning something new. The more this happens, the more the decoder will predict patterns in situations to make sense of something; in other words, learn.

Why not cultivate a new skill, such as drawing and use your ‘crunch sensation’ for the better, to learn.


The Conversation, Fisher D, 2021 Have you fallen for the myth of ‘I can’t draw’? Do it anyway – and reap the rewards, weblog post, viewed 5 February 2022

Livy et al., 2018, Challenging tasks lead to productive struggle.

TEDxYouth@ReddamHouse.,2018, Your Brain, Your Life, Jared Cooney Horvath,  viewed 5 February 2022,

Susan Layton

Susan Layton is a Research Administration Assistant with the Barker Institute. After completing a double degree in Arts and Business from Deakin University, she studied Mandarin in Taiwan under a graduate scholarship awarded by the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee. She has worked for Government and private business in Asia, the UK and Australia. Susan is excited about the opportunity to approach current and future issues facing education from a research perspective.