My first time taking art classes dates back to elementary school, and my teacher was (and still is) a faithful believer in free will. Every Sunday we used to go to his house and casually set around chairs and easels, carrying different art tools from his porch and waiting for that call, “Go pick what you like and start your work today”.
I was always going for the tubes and brushes. For me colors added to the excitement of the creation of something unknown. I tried painting on woodblocks, canvases, paper and even ceramic tile.
“Tell me when you want to try something new,” some days he would whip a bunch of pencils with different labels from one of his huge boxes and put them down in front of me, “maybe.” I kept smiling back at him and heard the voice inside me saying “well no thanks”, just because as a lazy little kid I had watched people drawing still life and the shading just seemed to be taking forever. For similar reasons I almost only took out pencils and erasers when he brought the sculptures out of his study: to me they looked serious, but cool.
I kept building my fantasies about life in the palette-dominated Neverland until it vanished at the beginning of this semester. I had to step out of my circle to learn to deal with only black, white and various shades of gray. As time wore on I became more comfortable working with those colors and gained more thoughts on drawing.
I gradually became one of those people who would sit with a drawing pad and pencils for several hours without even standing up, and I came to know where this captivating power is coming from. While painting uses the juxtaposition of different colors to describe the shapes of individual objects and the relationship in between them, drawing, uses lines as the major means of expression and shows light and shadow through the differentiated values given to the objects. One particular technique I developed through the drawing class this semester is the use of charcoal and eraser; I have learned to darken the site, use the erasers to bring out the sense of light and go back to add more details. Over time I picked up the tolerance for the charcoal powder smeared on my elbow, arm, wrist and fingers from time to time.Sometimes going back and making changes to the drawings can be a challenge to my patience. Drawing, as all kinds of arts, requires great dedication, yet with something that speaks to your heart it is not so easy to get tired.
Although I spend a lot of time with black and white, I never quit using colors when I am out of class, and I now understand the interrelationship between drawing and painting. Drawing is not only a vital step in the creation of a successful piece of work with paints, but it also stands out as a unique art form itself. On one hand, for paintings, drawings exist as the preview in some sense in that they provide information about the composition and the relationship between light and shades. On the other hand, in a pure drawing the lines, despite their differences in directions and textures, reach a unification to capture the momentum and dynamic of the scene and achieve a consistency as a whole.
Practice does not necessarily make perfect, but skills do build up during the process and could be applied to other aspects.
These days when I was working on a mini-portfolio of watercolor I found myself working at a much faster pace when doing the line sketch. The lines give me a more concrete idea about the positions and relative sizes of the objects; I gain certain confidence from the drawings before I start laying the paints on, because I know where I am going from there.
If I could travel back in time to eight years ago I would probably still choose to fill my work with colors, but if my teacher offered again… I should be mostly prepared to grab those pencils and start the lines :)