“Drawing is the foundation of painting,” goes the traditional spiel. I’ve always loved drawing and I am the type of artist that keeps the drawing part of a painting going for a long time, often drawing back into paintings as I go.
During the three decades I’ve been an artist, my style has varied, but every style is marked with drawing. Drawing is present in my current Woodland series: Incised marks run through the paint or on the layers of resin. My Paint Happy series is alternating layers of acrylic painting with gestural lines of hard pastel. The oil painted passages of my Madonna Retablos series are also incised with drawing.
Across the years and styles I’ve developed, drawing has been a consistent presence in my work. I used to draw constantly, carrying a little notebook everywhere I went. That habit has ebbed as I’ve focused on the craft of writing. So now the little notebook I still carry with me is crowded with notes and not much in the way of drawings.
When I first noticed the trend from graphic to words in my notebook I took note. The drawings became less and less and most of the lines I made twisted into the shapes of letters. It’s been like this for few years.
Just this summer it started to shift back a little when I started focusing on painting again. Drawing as a process is my bellwether. It shows me my shifts in focus and interests often before those shifts have reached my conscious mind.
Drawing weekly from life is my artistic touchstone. I love working in a peaceful room with other artists. Our figure drawing group, run by artist Dawn Emerson at C.O.C.C, is a happy one. Mostly it’s quiet, with Dawn’s eclectic music playing as background music. But sometimes there’s cheerful banter between artists and the model.
During each session we start out with 2 minute drawings and end up with poses that are about 30 minutes long at most.
Today I glanced to my right and noticed that the artist sitting next to me had a beautiful profile. So, while he concentrated on the model, I took a break from drawing the model and drew him. His name is Tripp. The drawing is ballpoint pen ink on paper.
Ask most anyone (who is not an artist) to draw you a map to their favorite store. Give them a pen and paper and you’ll get a map with all sorts of streets and landmarks. Ask them to doodle while talking or listening and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll see.
Give that same person a pencil, tell them you’re an artist, then ask if they can draw. They’ll usually say no. (That’s been my experience.) It’s time to get over the mind-set.
The truth is that anyone who can write, can draw. The eye-hand coordination necessary to shape letters and the understanding of symbols (the letters and their combination) is a form of drawing (ask any calligrapher). Making that drawing beautiful or up to whatever standard you have for yourself is a different subject. Even if you’re drawing “ugly” drawings, you’re still drawing.
And — even if the drawing is a very realistic looking rendering, it is still a map of the artist’s thoughts. That is what I love so much about looking at drawings — they are very clear representations of the artist’s thought process as they looked either with their eyes, or in their mind’s eye.
So own up to the drawing you do, no matter what it looks like. Do more drawings, and when you look at them rather than assessing whether they are “good” or “bad”, notice how your mind traveled and what you placed your attention upon (the reason one part of a figurative (realistic) drawing may be out of proportion compared to another part of the same drawing).
Note: Both of my drawings shown here are very different because they are conveying different things. I made the drawing of the Caring Hands to illustrate a poster for the play “Of Mice and Men”. The goal for the piece was to look realistic, rustic and a little foreboding. The drawing of the Marching Man was created to illustrate a design concept related to shapes. Both of my original pencil drawings exhibit different intellectual and emotional goals.