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Monday, February 13, 2017

Drawing Better (Part 1)

This is not a Pipe, 1948, Rene Magritte
There are basically three ways to draw--from life, from memory, and from photos. None of those mention art supplies, drawing techniques, content, or most of the other details students, and their instructors get hung up on in teaching the drawing skills key to most (if not all) art. All three involve sources. As the Surrealist painter, Rene Magritte reminded us in his famous painting, Ceci n'est pas une pipe (above, French for "This is not a Pipe"), when we draw virtually anything, we are not drawing people, places, or things, but images of people, places, or things (or pipes). That may seem so obvious as to go without saying (and usually does), but quite frankly, that means the source of creative inspiration, that one, simple factor, employed by every artist, is largely unimportant.

To learn. To express. To sell.
As with the sources of inspiration, mankind creates art for one or more of three simple reasons: to learn, to express, or to sell. Learning to draw and paint, as well as selling art are the two main driving forces in the creation of art--they're where the money is. The joys of self-expression...ehh...that's only important to the artist. From online art lessons to college-level courses, those of us who know art have a HUGE self-interest in making art as difficult to learn as possible. Yet we make every effort to appear to do just the opposite. We praise; we facilitate improvement, and always...always, heap the more difficult stuff atop the simple until our learning tower of artist wannabes becomes top-heavy, tumbling into the realization that "enough is enough," that the whole "learn to paint and draw" art education hierarchy is mostly a racket to soak the naïve idealistic art student for every dollar possible.

Marketing? What the hell's marketing got to do with art?
Likewise, once the artist realizes the money-grubbing nature of art instruction and moves from the learning motive to one of producing art, there comes a second realization--that art is now as much about marketing as about creativity. Moreover, none of their art instructors has ever even mentioned that word. If they encounter any success at all, especially in the beginning, they come to realize that those selling their work are the only ones making much of a profit. That's not to say dealers and gallery owners have no right to profit from an artist's work. They do. promoting an unknown artist cost money. The young artist quickly learns that the whole art world is stacked against them from their first art course to the meager check from their first sale. Everyone gets their cut first. Moreover, if there's no profit at the bottom line, then they are summarily dropped like yesterday's Wall Street Journal into art history's trash bin.

A whole new meaning to drawing with an overhead projector. The artist is Ben Heine from Belgium.
If all I've written sounds cynical, it is. Let me get back to my original premise, that an artist's source of inspiration is quite unimportant in the larger scheme of things. Therefore, why not learn to use the best, most practical source, in the best, most creative manner, in creating your best work by the most rapid means possible? In so doing, the artist stands to improve the quantity and quality with the aim of improving the profitability factor for all concerned--artist, dealer, and buyer. If an artist's time and inspiration are used in a most efficient manner the joy of self-expression, not to mention his or her bank account, improves remarkably.

Obsolete, cumbersome, error-prone, and time-consuming. This is NOT what I mean by using photos as source material.
If you haven't already guessed by now, I'm talking about drawing from photos. Thanks to the Internet, the scope and quantity of photos as a source material is virtually unlimited. Certainly there are problem with quality and the esoteric legal complications of copyrights, etc. However both those factors can be mitigated as part of the technical processes in learning how to use photos, just as an artist learns how to pose a model in drawing from life or how best to observe and draw a landscape en plein air. Moreover, in drawing from three-dimensional sources, the artist is limited to his own world...her own means of acquiring actual objects. When you think about it, as compared to digital sources, that's a huge disadvantage.

I must admit, the final photo in this set makes me a bit nervous.
Children should be exposed to all aspects of art. Projected drawing is an adult drawing method. Used by children, it could be seen as a crutch, especially if used ineptly and without supervision. At the same time, eye-hand coordination may be the most difficult skill an artist has to learn, full of thousands of opportunities for errors. Projected drawing is far less so. Likewise, we do young people a disservice if we insist that exceptional drawing ability is an absolute necessity for every art student. It may have been at one time, but no longer, provided the same concerted effort is made in teaching the pitfalls to be avoided and the necessary skills for using modern digital drawing aids as we do in teaching traditional drawing skills. As with all teaching, instruction must be age-appropriate.

Tomorrow (the item above) I'll delve more deeply into the use photos and projectors.

Don't ever do this. Projectors are a drawing
aid, never intended for use during the
application of color. The darkened room and
projected colored light will RUIN the artist's color
judgment as to pigments.


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