Drawing is often considered a gift you either have or – as many a frustrated artist will testify – don’t have.
In fact, say scientists, while some are born with natural talent, anyone can learn to draw well.
The only catch is that ‘like all difficult skills, one probably needs 10,000 hours of practice to become really proficient’.
Don't worry if you can't match Michelangelo - practice makes perfect, say researchers
They say our preconceptions often cloud the way we perceive objects, leading us to distort them when we put pencil to paper.
Good drawers have a more refined way of perceiving objects and putting them on the page.
Rebecca Chamberlain, a psychologist who led the research, said: ‘Most people probably don’t become proficient because they don’t practise enough, and also they are put off by early failure – “It doesn’t look anything like it”.’
Miss Chamberlain and her colleagues conducted experiments investigating the role of visual memory in drawing.
They believe skill results in part from an ability to remember simple relationships in an object such as an angle between two lines.
Good visual memory is key to producing a masterpiece, like this painting by Benjamin Williams Leader, on show at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
And those who were able to ignore their preconceptions and view objects with a fresh eye also created better sketches.
Miss Chamberlain said: ‘Surprisingly, it might be harder to draw something very familiar, such as a face, than something very novel, about which one has no preconceptions.’
Those taking part in the experiment found their skills improved with time.
The findings were presented to a US conference in a paper written by Miss Chamberlain and her colleague Chris McManus.