Friday, January 29, 2016

More Drawing Practice

A while ago I wrote that drawing practice is fundamental to the work of artists. The importance of drawing was known as far back as Greek Antiquity, if Pliny the Elder, writing several hundred years later was right. "Never a day without a line," (nulla dies sine linea) was how he quoted Apelles, the most famous painter of Antiquity. Leonardo recommended always carrying a sketchbook, as does probably every art teacher today. Drawing is so important to me that I could never paint without drawing. Drawing is in some ways a manner of thought, a nonverbal process of ideas coalescing into images or maybe into patterns of values or colors. From there, ideas begin to grow, take shape. Most of the time my drawings are images of something real and tangible that I've seen--whether it's a person or a vase or a city street--and it's important to show the viewer exactly what I see.

You could say that drawings of that kind should be very accurate and certainly for realistic representation that's true. But drawings are commonly exaggerated into cartoons or caricatures. Some artists distort figures or faces to make a point or to reinforce emotion. So I'm not saying that all drawing should be rigidly representative and be absolutely realist. On the other hand, being able to draw a face, or figure, or an object, giving it not only a recognizable appearance but also providing the illusion of weight and the appearance of occupying three dimensions is an exceptionally useful set of skills.

Most mornings I begin studio work with a few graphite drawings, usually on toned paper. Sometimes while surfing the net for morning news I pause a story or a video and sketch one of the faces or some of the figures in the story. But more often I draw from memory or from other materials, or life. Lately, I've been drawing both in the mornings as my warm up and later in the day as a learning tool. Off and on I've been copying drawings by the great Al Dorne as well as others that were published in the Famous Artists School course from the mid-20th century. Here are a couple of pages from my sketchbook.
After Dorne, Two Figues

Seven Heads
These heads were drawn using principles in the text of the FAS course. I copied these drawings from the book, about the same size as they were printed. The seated man in the top drawing was originally one of a series of studies Al Dorne did in the 1950s in preparation for an illustration. What I've done as I've gone through the Famous Artists School book is review the text, sometimes in detail, sometimes not, and then copy as many of the drawings as I can. As one way to continue drawing and potentially hone my skills, it's been exceptionally useful.

Drawing Practice
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