I Wouldn’t Shoot if I Knew How to Draw

… perhaps not as much as I do now, anyway. Had I been gifted with the talent to sketch with finesse, I would spend my free time re-creating the still life that surrounded me. Like this one, for example…

However, the genetic material responsible for making a person sketch so effortlessly has been passed over only to my younger sister, Sophia. And the genes that make one look good and younger than one’s actual age. And the genes that make one’s brain function like a calculator. I think that’s unfair, considering how I was the first born and all.

We didn’t have many toys when we were growing up and our mother has always encouraged us to be creative. During summer holidays, Sophia would—besides spending the afternoons in the garden digging up creepy bugs and insects—stay in a room and draw. She made it look so easy that I would peer over her work and wonder in awe.  Then I’d thought to myself, “You can do this, self! If she can draw, well so can you!” Encouraged by my own self, filled with so much determination, I’d pick up a pencil and pour my entire creative being onto the canvas.  Thirty minutes and a thousand frustrated sighs later, I’d look at the funny-looking, child-like sketch in front of me, and give up. It took me sometime to accept that the only thing I can draw with acute precision is an amoeba.

And I had to acknowledge that my baby sister had a special talent.

So I’m compensating for my lack of drawing skills with writing and photography; I find myself immensely enjoying both.

Take a look at this pencil sketch by Sophia, drawn about three years ago. What now appears like a broken, unkempt place was once a neat and well-maintained garage that belongs to an uncle.  The place has remained unattended ever since his wife passed away.

Sophia was sitting in a small balcony right across that gate and sketched the scene in front of her. If you look closely you’ll notice several things:  broken gate, half of the roof is gone, bicycle wheels hanging on the right, a water drum with “Annie” written on it (that’s the name of the aunt), a man standing on the other side of the gate, and a cat playing on the floor.  Sophia did a brilliant job in re-creating this scene.  MashaAllah.

Oh, and I’d also asked her to paint a desert scene for me to hang in my home. I’ll have it framed in a lovely wooden frame. She hasn’t started on the painting yet. So I’m signing off now to call her.


  1. I believe drawing/sketching/painting talent is controlled by a switch in the brain. Mine is “off” and has been all my life.

    But I compensate in other ways, through my writing, which is my art. It’s just not as pretty.

    Your sister is truly talented! And I look forward to digging through your blog to discover more of your writing talents…


    1. Agreed; I’ve tried sketching (and failed). Writing IS an art.. and, it’s not always AS pretty as drawing/ painting, but really, it can be — and it can be prettier. Why? Because sometimes – words can convey much more perfectly (and completely) to the mind what “beauty” and “perfection” and “happiness” and “peace” is than any “created,” physical, solid and unbudging work/ “masterpiece.”

      Loved the drawings, and loved the way you described your childhood/ re-directed creative outlet.

    2. I really dont think it’s a ‘switch’ if you can pic up a pencil and make a mark – its a drawing, it might not be good but if you do more and more it gets better, thats how I started…

  2. So,
    She’s got the looks, the brains, the talent, and the ambition – and you got squat out of the deal?
    The post was well written i have to say, but you and me will have a nice talk with the guy who delves out the talents in Families with multiple children at the end of the quarter. I need to speak with him about my lack of siblings AND talent… as this seems unfair, and wasteful.
    Thanks for the laugh,

  3. wow! your sister is really talented. The garage drawing is magnificent. . I suddenly felt jealous of her. Anyways, I’m sure God has given us talents some are also wishing for them to have. 🙂

  4. What beautiful drawings Sophia you have a talent they are very good very good indeed give up playing CA and concentrate on your drawing

  5. It’s fascinating – and yet mystifying – how we each have our own talents, and naturally hone them ourselves. The time I spent sitting and drawing during my childhood amounted to the five minutes I tried to sketch the legs of a runner, unsuccessfully. The rest of my time I just ran. But that is also what my older siblings did, so how much was I influenced by their choices, it’s hard to say.
    If Sophia had been my sibling, perhaps I would be able to draw a better stick figure than I can currently muster. Her drawings are beautiful, no wonder you were inspired to try.

  6. I was brought up at a time when you were classified into can/cannot draw groups. I was firmly in the latter. About 7 years ago, a friend dragged me (kicking and screaming, I’ll admit) to a life drawing class, as he knew I’d always wanted to draw. I was instantly hooked. I, like yourself, love the everyday stuff: I live in Italy but spend my time drawing wine glasses rather than landscapes, bars rather than churches ( you can probably detect a clue to one of my other pastimes in there somewhere . . ) Everybody and anybody can draw: when we’re 5 years old, we can all draw, and we do . . . until we get told otherwise. Can I suggest having a look at Danny Gregory’s ‘Every Day Matters’ it’s wonderful? Just grab a pen; stuff a notebook in your pocket and do it….. forget what you’ve been told and always believed . . . . Have fun, my friend!!

  7. I loved your post. I have always thought sketchers, painters and photographers had something magical going for themselves. You definitely are a wonderful writer.

  8. What can i say Nadia, the whole text is fascinating, you really know how to catch peoples attention. I didnt know about this hidden talent on your sis, she should grab her pencils again. She is so evil with us, did you know that? :'(

  9. Hi, It’s lovely of you to include your sisters artwork on your blog, she has talent for drawing. But I think writing is just as, if not more beautiful. Turning your inspiration in to words is a wonderful talent! 🙂

  10. While it is true that inborn talent can make a world of difference with regard to both how fast we pick something up and what heights we ultimately achieve, we should bear in mind that it takes a lot of hard work even for the talented to truly excel—and that anyone else who puts in the same effort can achieve a considerable improvements. Indeed, even child-prodigies (e.g. Mozart) do not just magically master their art, but need considerable training.

    In other words: By comparing your half hour with your sister’s summer holidays, you are unfair towards your own talent. (And, possibly, her training.)

  11. I got the drawing genes from my parents, though I always thought my brother seriously underestimated his own talent and despite my better attempts to encourage him not to abandon it entirely, he gave up on it in favor of other things like film and photography. Sophia’s obviously got skill, but maybe you’re not as bad as you give yourself credit for?

  12. You can easily stick with the writing and photography, but if you really wish you could draw, check out MildlyCreative (Ken Roberts). I have watched my online friend greatly expand his drawing skills over time by working at it every day. Some people have a special gift, but I do believe most people can develop skill over time, with practice.

  13. Great story! Nadia I would not worry about not being able to draw because you have a real talent for writing! I feel like I am chatting with a friend reading your articles, and Sophia’s artwork is fantastic. Time to put down the mouse and pick up the brush Soph!

  14. Sophia, I didn’t know you could draw that well! And I didn’t know that Nadia was a skilled writer! Talent runs in the family in abundance. Now that I know, I’ d love to see more drawings and paintings from Sophia and more samples of Nadia’s art, both writing and photography. Thank you both for sharing with us!

  15. I can’t get pass B in Arts when I was in school but I love drawings and begin to appreciate them lately. Maybe I’ll just start painting something abstract and get famous.

    Or I’m just dreaming.

    Not a bad dream….

    Thanks for the photos!

  16. There are so many ways for one to express themselves creatively! Indeed I too wish I could draw (or sing!) but since I cannot do either I find other ways to be creative. Great blog!

  17. We are not all allowed to get the same talents. I purposedly had my kids try a bunch of different things to see what they like the best. Funnily enough, the one who wants to be an actor never speaks up loud enough for others to hear him when presenting at 4-H meetings. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  18. Lovely article, beautiful story, amazing drawings and talent!

    I will pay for a copy of that desert scene when the artist in question starts drawing again.

    So impressed with both the writer and the artist – 2011 is going to be a year of discovery for all of us!

    Thank you Nadia

  19. It seems to me that you are able to capture beautifully with words what your sister does with the pencil. And clearly your creative mind sees–and points out–what others might miss.

  20. I always wished I could sing well, and I do sing when I’m alone at the top of my lungs with abandon because I love to and it makes me happy. I thought I had some artistic ability but I am way too critical of myself and too much of a perfectionist to just enjoy the finished product…it is NEVER done…never good enough…but I enjoy writing…Cheers. Good post, congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  21. I lived in my sisters art talent shadow for years. I never touched art because she was the best. She really had a gift. Later in life I drew with her and just did my thing while she drew. We did water color together. When she died I inherited some of her art supplies. I have been painting since and the first years I too lessons. I still have the same talent I had, not as much, but I was comforted by the painting. Soon my paintings had more bright colors and were happier. Smile.

  22. Hi, nice post. It reminded me very much of my sister and I.
    –Talents and creative abilities come in many forms. We are all blessed with something!

  23. Her drawings are great!

    Maybe art isn’t your talent, but something else is! I’m not an artist, but I am a ballerina, photographer, and pianist, which is considered a form of art to me.

    My sister is also the artsy type. 😀

  24. i loved the drawing of the shed too!
    but i also enjoyed reading what you wrote. We tend to compare as human beings eh, yet the truth is we all have our gifts and talents and i really enjoyed reading your words as much as looking at the drawings. Well done!

  25. I stumbled across this post at the WordPress site… and it caught my eye because of the word “drawing.”

    I am a drawing “teacher” and I just want to add that sometimes it’s our PERCEPTION of what make a drawing “good” that trips us up. Your sister has a lovely hand and an “eye” for realistic renderings; but I’m willing to bet that your more childlike amoeba would delight me just as much!!

  26. being artistic is a gift…may it be a computer hacker, pianist, guitarist, sketching, etc…was picasso a great pianist? did eiffel painted the sistene chapel? did frank lloyd wright travelled to space? we all have our individual gift/s that need to be discovered and nurtured…it so happens yours is photography 😀

  27. After looking through your blog, I for one, am glad you’re shooting and writing. What a wonderful bit of insight you provide. Thanks for sharing your sister’s work. I like to draw, too, but I’m not that good at it. I just do it anyway. Everyone has a drawing style, just like a handwriting style. I made peace with mine after 40 years. I think my drawing and making art is an extension of my compulsion to tell and write stories. Sometimes you can tell a story better visually. I like that your photography tells many stories.

  28. I’ve always wished I had the ability to draw. I think creativity like that is what brings true beauty in the world. Art may imitate life, but if it wasn’t for art then life wouldn’t be beautiful at all.

  29. hi nadia,
    u have a very nice blog, wonderful stories and beautiful pictures!
    congratulations on being freshly pressed.
    i enjoy your posts very much.
    am definitely a follower now…cheers 🙂

  30. Ahh the tallent others in our family possess that we wish we did. My mom is an amazing artist. Many of the paintings in my home are done by her. And I love her talent but I don’t posses it. I’ve taken many art classes over the years and the best thing I ever managed was a pear and an apple. Thank goodness for words. I use them to let loose my creativity. I’m so glad there’s not one art form. Here’s to all the writers!


  31. Yes, your sister is quite talented. But you are so kind and supportive of her that it must be a great thing for her to have your support. You don’t seem a bit jealous, but instead very proud of her. I think that is wonderful. We should all have that kind of support from our sibblings.
    I am now very interested to look at the rest of your site. I hope I will find some examples of your photography. Thank you for sharing your sister’s talent, as well as your obvious love for her.

  32. I remain envious that my younger sister could capture comedy in her art….she got quite a bit of practice during long Sunday sermons when we were kids! 🙂 It is obvious that you and your sister are both extremely talented. Thanks for sharing!

  33. So know where you’re coming from. I drew as a child, but was better about making up stories about the drawings. In college, I figured out as a frustrated artist, majoring in art history would suit well–the land of frustrated artists. Congrats on FP!

  34. Well, I must admit your sister’s drawings are amazing. That sure dosn’t mean that photography-a form of art as we all know- and writing-also definately art- definatly requires quite the amount of talent too. Tell your sister she has great pictures…(if you havn’t already) =)

  35. Hello. I have been blessed with this gene also. I love to draw, paint, and do anything that is art. I can say Sophia sure has some talent. Keep it up!!!

  36. Masyallah! Your sis is really talented! And definitely got an eye for details! 🙂 Wish more of my students can focus and draw or at least try to draw/sketch like your sis when she was younger… Cause I do believe that one can still learn to draw and sketch 🙂 Takes lots of practice… hehe.. (well I have to speak from an art teacher point of view…)

  37. I’ve tried my hand and sketching and painting and it didn’t work out for me either. And like you, I’ve turned to writing and photography and love doing both. It stills bugs me though, that I cannot sketch. It looks so simple, putting pencil to paper… but for some reason the image I have (either in front of me or in my head) just never survives the journey from pencil to paper, and ends up a mangled mess.

  38. Wow, just wow! Your sister is really talented. I must say, she can make some amazing paintings. I think you feel the same way as my sister does, because according to her, all of the good genes were passed onto me, and she was left with nothing. I always say that’s not true, and I always tell her that each person has their own talent, it just takes a little digging around to find it. Your’s seems to be writing and photography.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    Ashley, aka TheEverydayMuser

  39. That last pic of Sophie’s drawing was exquisite. And hey, even u draw pretty well. Not as bad as you make it seem to be;-)

    Would love to see some photographs that you’ve taken.

  40. You sister can draw really good. I can draw and paint, but once I tried to teach my sister in law to draw a simple leaf. I would draw a line and tell her to draw it just like mine. She couldn’t. I got her to draw something that kind of looked like a leaf. So I guess it is hard for some people to even draw a line. You write really good stories. I like your blog. I draw pictures and put them on my blog.

  41. How blessed you are to have Sophia, talented artist, for a sister, and how wondrously blessed she is to have you as sister, an equally talented writer. Congratulations!

  42. Those drawings are fantastic. Are some of them with crayon? I am jealous of your sister’s talent too. I did a GCSE and A level in art, I was always the one struggling in class. It’s so encouraging to hear someone has the same trouble with me. Like you I’ve turned to photography and writing! x
    P.s. Love the name of your blog.

  43. I completely can identify with you. My younger sister is also the artist in the family – not to mention she got blessed in the looks and singing/ playing piano department too. Me, on the other hand, my craft is writing. I also turned to photography and found it more suited to my style. In addition, I am a dancer so even if our talents were not quite as evenly distributed, I have my pursuits and she has hers.

    We used to take art lessons together. My art was clearly a copy of teacher’s work but my sister’s had a distinct imprint of her own. But I know where my skills are and try to put some art into it when I get into creative writing. Writing is a versatile art and we have many elements of style at our disposal.

    Team up the writing and the art and then you have a winning combination!

  44. I like what I see, I like even more the way you write. Your header is divine (I use the word advisedly, not because I am given to gushing). Let’s leave aside that I don’t like the noise of shooting and that doing my own drawing only appeals to me twice a year (max), and that the words I cobble together are not in my native tongue which – by now – I am no longer top dog of anyway: Thus living in a type of linguistic orphanage. At this last, and most poetic, make that ‘pathetic’, imagery of my life I can feel tears rising. Before you pass me you handkerchief or a tissue: I am perfectly happy living in England. Which doesn’t mean a thing since I’d be happy to live on the moon as long as I am alive enough to appreciate that I am around at all.

    I wish you luck in your endeavours. Let me know if you need anything.


  45. All of the creative arts are of such value. Don’t sell yourself short. Just like drawing and painting, writing and photography have a profound influence on the way we see ourselves and our world. Both you and your sister have the gift.

  46. wow I wish I can draw like that! I can draw a mean stick figure though! Hey, you have talent too! Just because you can’t draw doesn’t mean you can’t write or do anything else. Maybe, she see’s what you do and say she wish she could do what you do!

  47. I sincerely disagree with you in regards to ‘genetically and talent-wise my sister is just better than me at drawing’. How she fairs to you, in regards to what you believe is physically attractive and desirable, is an entirely different subject- but one what I think you should change your viewpoint on as well.

    I’ll tell you why.

    Practice really does make perfect.

    How much practice does it take to train your muscles to play a sport well? How much practice does it require for you to memorize your multiplication tables?

    You sincerely must conciously gather the patience to become an artist. Cutting time out of your day, daily, continuously, without being discouraged, is crucial to most artists’s successes (artist’s success’s? grammar…oye..). Some people have more time than others and can become more masterful at their skill with precision and speed.



    seriously tho.

    🙂 great blog, love the pics.

  48. Your sister is your sister and you are you-neither is comparable to the other.No one is superior or inferior. Maybe she is thinking ‘i wish I could write like my older sister or have a photographers eye like hers’ Comparison rarely works; because it utterly skewed and biased- we tend to compare to those we are going to come off worse compared with. where are your photographs? These are great sketches for a child- what kind of artist is she now?

  49. You have indeed compensated by becoming a talented writer. I have tried to do the same.
    As a child I was fascinated by the pictures I could create within the confines of my imagination and constantly frustrated when I had no means to pass those scenes on to the world, despite a couple of years of personalized art classes and a good bit of effort. As I got older people started telling me I could write well, so I pursued that avenue. Photography came along as a hobby, though I must admit I use a camera to catch interesting things for my own pleasure and just happen to share them with the world. I have been fortunate to make a little money for my writing and photographing efforts, though I hope to one day publish the novel I know is rattling around in my brain.
    Thanks for giving me some perspective on some things that have been hiding in my subconscious.

  50. I wouldn’t say sketching is innate at all. It requires just as much hard work and dedication, if not more, than most other things to become skilled at it. From an artist’s point of view, I’d advise more people to be careful when using the word “talent.” Don’t mistake all of our hard work for biology or fate!

  51. If I could take pictures of still life things flawlessly, I wouldn’t spend my entire time sketching and drawing useless images that in the end i hate and throw away. I’m not bad at art. i’ve been doing it since I was 3 years old. I just wish that after 18 years, I’d be better. So you’re not alone.

    At least you didnt practice FOREVER just to be disappointed in what was going to be your life’s work.

  52. Wow, this post really made me me feel really nostalgic but trully happy…lots of flashbacks came to my mind. I have two sisters and three brothers, and my dad was a cartoonist. When we were kids my dad used to sit down with all of us and gave us drawing lessons, my mom says that he was really amazed of each one because of the creativity and the facility to draw almost anything. That’s why I totally think it’s a gene…because all of us can draw really cool. Now I am a graphic designer and I specialize in illustration…and I love my job!!…Thanks DAD your genes ROCK!! and Sophia you go GIRL…love your art and maybe sometime we can work together!!

  53. This sounds like the story of my sister and I except that I am the drawer. If you really want to do it, you can develop it- but it takes a long time and a lot of practice. I believe the number is 5000 hours. That’s how many hours it supposedly takes to get good at something. You can practice for many hours every day, or for just a few hours a day.

  54. The pics are amazing!mA! And both you sisters are real cooool! 🙂 So artistic talent runs in the family..now I wonder what runs in mine!lol! Thank you for sharing,Nadia.And Amoeba is gooodd 😀

  55. Siblings who do stuff better than you is always rubbish.

    You have to grab onto to that one thing that you do better, belittle their achievements and make your achievement sound like the best thing in the world.

  56. A huge thank you to everyone who visited the blog, read, “Liked”, and commented. I read each comment more than once; absolutely loved what each one of you had to say. You guys made my day!

    For those of you who have a link back to your blog, I’ll be coming over for a visit 🙂

    Again, thank you so much. Have a fabulous week, everyone!

  57. hi. you made good on your “threat” to visit. thanks for dropping by. 😀

    my site means – where i come from- and it talks about life in the small village. hope to read more of your posts. have a good week ahead. :]

  58. I’m with you. I swear both my sisters can draw without blinking an eye. Oh and my Dad can too. I’m just the stick-figure guy. Writing is an art too though. That is what I am trying to get better at, and I hope you do to.

    Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
    -Robert Francis Kennedy

  59. “It took me sometime to accept that the only thing I can draw with acute precision is an amoeba.” Hahaha, Priceless. We all are given our own gifts to share with the world and I want to thank you for sharing yours with me.

  60. hello, nadia…

    ahaha, this is the post that introduced me to your creative world. hmmmn… isang araw, maipagkalat nga ito, lols!

    sophia is so gifted. my younger sister used to draw well also. now, she rarely does. she has set for herself the task of being an amateur videographer. she plans to visit your city next year, by feb. to attend the music festival there… ah, isa siguro sya sa pagpo-forward-an ko nitong post mo (baka mai-inspire pa, ahaha).

    i hope you and your loved ones are well. 🙂
    doon po sa amin recently posted..Get Instant Feedback When You Publish

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