Sunday, April 15, 2012

Leigh's Thoughts on Drawing

I’ve drawn for a long time. Not in the “I like to doodle in the margins of my notes” type of way (although I’ve done that since that first day my parents allowed me to use pointy things), but in the somewhat legitimate sense of the word. I took extra-curricular art classes in elementary school to ensure I could do what all the cool kids were doing, which was joining the art magnet program at the local middle school. I enjoyed it, probably because I was good at it (thanks Mom), and so in typical middle school fashion I followed my friends from the good middle school art program to the exceptional high school program. This particular high school preferred the “wear you out, tear you down, and let you pick up the pieces” method of teaching, and while I can’t argue with the results, it definitely made drawing, which had once been a simple pleasure in life, into something I just, well, did. It isn’t a love or passion of mine; although I guess that’s pretty obvious from my decision to go to university instead of art school. It doesn’t even give me that much enjoyment anymore. It does, however, evoke a sense of mindless peace when I’m in the middle of sketching. I know it sounds incredibly cheesy, and I assure you I’m flinching even as I sit here writing this, but it’s become a part of me. It’s just something I do. It’s on that list of identifiers that I rattle through whenever someone asks me about myself. I draw. I sketch. I don’t really create art anymore; I burned out of that a long time ago. But every once in a while I’ll see someone with a funky-looking face (ugly people are the best to draw, true story) and I’ll get the itch to put it on paper. It’s a challenge, and when I finish and I remember how awesome I was, it feels pretty damn good.
A random thought about drawing: drawing with ballpoint pen and charcoal is so much more entertaining than pencil. Pen takes some getting used to, especially if you’ve drawn with pencil for a long time, but you improve A LOT. It forces you to get it right the first time or became very good at covering up mistakes with shading (I’m pro at that). You also learn to hatch and cross-hatch like a boss, and you unconsciously become aware of the pressure you’re applying when you shade. The best part about pen is, unlike pencil, the crappier the pen, the better. No actually, we used to just get the big twenty or thirty pack of those terrible BIC pens that only decide to work thirty percent of the time. They’re so much better than the fancy-shmancy pens you find at Michaels or Utrecht. Charcoal is also better than pencil because you can make a very clean, tight drawing if you’re into that sort of thing, or, if you have situational ADD like me, you can make it loose and expressive and it will look great. It’s also far more interesting to look at than pencil drawings, because let’s face it, everyone’s inner emo child loves the color black.

I’ll finish up with some artists whose drawings I love.

Da Vinci:


Five Characters in a Comic Scene
He liked drawing ugly people too!

Study of the Angel from Madonna of the Rocks
This is hands-down my favorite drawing done by any artist. Da Vinci captured angelic beauty so simplistically and elegantly, and by only having wispy lines describe the vague details of her body our eye is drawn to her perfect facial features. The shading on her face is extremely smooth and makes the drawing incredibly life-like.


Pedophilia jokes aside(since Victorians rolled that way), Degas had the uncanny ability to capture movement with few lines, as shown by his series of drawings and paintings of ballerinas.

Three Studies of a Dancer

He could also represent human curvatures with descriptive lines and very little shading.


I've been a huge fan of Whistler since I saw his work in the Freer Gallery in Washington D.C. He uses localized areas of shading to great effect, which gives his drawings an expressionistic and stylized feel while retaining some tightness and exactness in his drawings.

Self Portrait


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