I’m always curious, when I see artist’s drawings or paintings as to WHY they choose to draw that particular way or paint in that manner. I wonder if they draw a certain way because it’s what’s most natural to them? Or is it because it gives them “the look” they want? Or is it simply because that’s how they were taught to draw? Or is it because they think or have found that “it sells”? Have they sought after “perfection” in drawing? Or have they sought to express their personality or likes/dislikes in the way they draw? Are these two necessarily separate from each other? Have they arrived at how they currently draw due to an evolution of sorts? Do they even think about it?
It is fascinating to me, looking at famous artists’ books, to look at the drawings. To me, drawings say much more than the finished pieces. I see more of the artist’s personality, their first-blush thoughts on what captivated them, the raw, un-touched flourishes of creativity shooting out their fingers. One of my favorite artists is Milton Avery. In one of my books of his artwork, there’s a drawing he did in art school: a beautifully rendered figure drawing containing all the shadows and proportions “just right”. Yet, his sketches and fabulous paintings do not reflect his ability to draw in this manner. WHY? Did he need to learn how to draw technically well in order to create the wonderfully simple lines and shapes of his paintings? Did he merely jump through the hoops of academic art rigors in order to get on with how he wanted to draw and paint?
Van Gogh is another artist whose books often contain the drawings he grappled to achieve in the brief amount of time he spent in art school. They are quite good. Yet he eschewed the strictures of academia and the box they tried to squash him into. We are all so glad he drew and painted the way he did, because of the wonderful legacy of his art we enjoy.
Yet it isn’t a matter of rebelling against technically astute, classically realistic drawing. For Sue Lyon, an amazing artist from whom I have taken a drawing class, her passion lies in rendering the human face and figure in a highly classical manner. This is BOTH how she was trained AND what she loves! Listening to her talk about the beauty of the curve of a cheekbone or the shadow that eyelashes cast just under the eye…you can see why she draws the way she draws. I ought to interview her for a blog post some day.
Anyway, my point is, that each and every artist does have a unique “handwriting” in the way he/she draws. My own “handwriting” seems to change a lot. Looking at how I was drawing just one year ago (above drawing), I see I was taken with values. Line was there, but subservient to the value structure of a scene or a face.
When I’ve got charcoal in my hands, I enjoy a more realistic attempt to capture a likeness of a face or a place (above drawing). Lately, I’m into continuous line drawing…caught up in the process more-so than the final result. Here are just a few of the reasons I love that particular approach to drawing:
1. Continuous line drawing allows me to become thoroughly absorbed in observing the contours of what’s around me. I have needed, for many years, to feel a connection between being an artist and the life I live as wife, mom, friend, resident of small town USA. Somehow, line drawings do that for me. Not only drawing the subject matter of my everyday life, but the actual process of continuous line drawing provides this connection…a way to see, to celebrate, to recognize the beauty of my little life. Other ways of drawing, where you’re picking up your pen or pencil a gazillion times in one drawing, do not give me a feeling of continuity. I’m desperate for continuity.
2. Continuous line drawings reveal to me the connections BETWEEN the things/objects/people I’m observing. As I’m drawing a particular contour, let’s say of the window pane, my eye then sees where my child’s hair is and I begin drawing the hair. They are connected shapes, not separate entities. Without continuous line drawing, I tend to chop up everything in my view without connecting them, resulting in a confusing mishmash of isolated elements.
3. Continuous line drawings teach me to slow down and compare relationships. As I’m drawing the roofline, I pause to observe (and possibly even sight measure with my pen) the length of the pier in relationship to the length of the roofline. I’m not after exact proportions at all, just an observation of the relationship in size and shape to each other.
4. Continuous line drawings result in a heightened sense of abstraction. This, for me, makes for the most exciting drawings! Line is by its own virtue, a highly abstracted way of rendering the world around us. Line is not real. If I draw a line to denote the outer edge of the tractor tire, and you go up to the tire to look for that line, it will not be there! Lines do not exist in nature…where everything is three dimensional. Yet lines can be used to show us depth and space, and can even be used to render shadow shapes, and value passages. But in continuous line drawings, with all the connections and lines left UNdrawn, you get something wonky and slightly off-kilter…which I LOVE!
I’ll stop there…I could go on and on about this favorite way to draw, as well as why I choose pen over pencil (that will be another post:). But I want to hear from you! I think it would be oh-so-cool for EDM artists and any others who’d like, to blog about WHY they draw the WAY they draw. Make it short and sweet or long and wordy like mine. Describe for us the journey you’ve been on with drawing approaches. Maybe you’re just beginning to draw, and you’re trying to use some of Danny Gregory‘s helpful tips from his books on ways to draw. Maybe you bounce around from style to style to try to discover something from each of them and then incorporate them into a way you really enjoy. Maybe you draw the way you were taught in art school. Maybe you haven’t ever thought about it and don’t want to. Tell us that too and why. WHATEVER it is, I’d love to read about it (and see accompanying drawings:) Your post could be titled the very same as this one, and then we will all recognize the subject and read each others posts. Could be really fun and revealing, don’t ya think?
The one thing I do know about all this business of HOW I draw…is that my approach to drawing WILL change! It certainly has over the 12 years I’ve been pursuing art, and it will continue to change and evolve…just like my handwriting.