Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Big Draw

Drawing is a fundamental human activity--perhaps even a prehuman one. Drawing could easily predate speech in the evolution of human behavior. It's that basic. The old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words contains real truth. The best artists over the millennia have communicated with us what they saw, from the cave paintings in Europe to drawings and frescoes in antiquity and forward into the contemporary era. Besides being a communication tool, though, drawing helps those who practice it to expand their minds.

Drawing requires us to actually see what we're looking at. Drawing is about looking hard at the object before us, translating that looking into a mental image, and then transmitting that image into neural impulses that drive our muscles and reproduce an image. The connections in our minds and nervous system are complex and still being worked out. Nonetheless, it appears clear that drawing alters one's perception of space, objects, light and dark, and a myriad of other properties. 

In contemporary times Kandinsky, then an avalanche of others freed themselves from imaging the real object and began to produce abstractions in both drawing and painting. And our late 20th century and early 21st perceptions have changed as well. We've strayed from strict depiction of reality into individual interpretation. Regardless of how one parses the history of art, though, drawing has been the foundation. 

Drawing was once widely taught, and it makes sense as a skill since drawing a map or a tree or an animal would obviously make it much easier for others to understand. Before photography, drawing would have been almost a universal skill, at some level. Through much of the last century, art in various forms was taught in public schools. At least through the pre-high school level, art was a required portion of the American public school curriculum. But money concerns and changing priorities have produced reductions in art education, inevitably including drawing.

Given that this is an entry about drawing, here are a few of my recent ink drawings. These were done for practice or because the image caught my interest. The first is about 5x8 on bristol, done with a waterbrush charged with black ink. It gives a freer line and a chance to fill large dark areas quickly. The other was done using an old-fashioned dip pen and black ink. One was done from a snap I made of narcissi last spring, and the other is a quick drawing I made of an English painter's  plein-aire streetscape. Drawing provides the opportunity to better understand a subject, whether it's the cups of flowers or the curve and slope of a street.

One of the greatest things about the Internet is the opportunity to discover how wide and unknown the world of creating is. Just this week I learned that October is the month of The Big Draw. According to their website, The Big Draw is an international celebration of drawing  that began as a day of drawing in the UK at the beginning of this century and has turned into an annual month-long festival of drawing worldwide. The first Big Draw in 2000 attracted 180 partner organizations. This year the festival worldwide will involve at least 1800 events. And anyone can participate, either by making drawings or by running a drawing event. The links below give a much better explanation and history than I can.

How the big draw festival helped me see

The Big Draw

The Campaign for Drawing

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