A couple of weeks ago I picked up "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards at the Free-Library's second-hand book store. I've been thinking about the importance of drawing skills a lot lately. "If you can learn to write you can learn to draw" was the rational for having drawing lessons in public schools back in the 1870's. Unfortunately, most people stop learning to draw in elementary school and never surpass a 10-year-old stage of drawing development. It's a great book for helping anyone get past the "I can't draw a straight line" freeze. One of the exercises is to copy a drawing of Igor Stravinsky by Picasso UPSIDEDOWN. The flipped orientation helps your brain get past the naming tendency of "eyes, hands, glasses" which forces us into symbolic representations so that you can focus on lines, forms, comparisons, proportions, etc required for truly realistic drawing.
I love drawing. It's been a long time since I actively drew just for pleasure or practice. For the past few years I felt that idle sketching time was time better spent working on more complex studio projects. I would still sketch to plan out compositions or jot down ideas, but I wouldn't sit and draw from observation for extended periods of time.