December 6th, 2016
Reflection on Drawing
Leonardo Da Vinci allegedly commented that “a painting is never finished but merely abandoned.” The meaning of this statement is that the only when perfect could a painting be finished. In this sense, if perfection is unattainable so is completion. I think the same is all too often thought to be true of a drawing. I do not mean that it is perfection for which one strives or should expect to find in a finished work, but rather that there is some end in mind and that end is seldom the drawing.
Perhaps it is the way museums categorize and push aside “works on paper” that lends some spectre to drawing, photography, and even prints as somehow being distinct from sculpture and painting, but I think it is something more. Although an architect delivers blueprints and although they are a finished product they represent a mere plan, an idea to be put forth in the finished form of a building.
When I mention my passion for drawing, it is hard for me to separate a doodle on a sticky note, scribbled idea on a napkin, and a finished product to be framed and wrapped as a gift for a friend. In short, while I may find joy, beauty, and completion in a drawing I always feel that drawing is viewed by those around me as the product of a hobby, a plan for a project, or as a rough draft for something grander… larger ...nobler.
I took this class for the simple reason that I hoped to learn how to draw and shade with a pencil and to gain confidence in composing an image larger than the dozen or so black three by five inch notebooks in which I have sketched for the past few years. In short, I took this class because I hoped to take a hobby I enjoy and transform it into an art I could practice. From a partially severed finger to a strange fever which kindly bestowed oozing red, brown, and yellow pustules on my hands and face, this semester was the strangest and most trying of my time at Duke.
The fact that I had to draw for this class is perhaps the thing which kept me sane. Were I not in this course, I would have viewed doodling for an hour or two as procrastination, sating a personal desire instead of doing the work I had been assigned. The requirement to complete four pages each week meant that anytime I was particularly stressed or facing a seemingly insurmountable mountain of work I would reach into my bag for a fountain pen and my sketchbook and averaged just over nine pages a week.
Throughout this class I felt like a failure. It seemed I was not improving in my drawing as each piece was barely any different that the last. It was not until yesterday that as I thumbed through my sketchbook that I realized what a shocking change my drawing had undergone both stylistically and technically.
At the start of this semester I could only draw lines and preferably straight ones that intersected at right angles. I am by no means a great draughtsman but I am now comfortable with shading forms, weighting lines, and portraying curving natural shapes in space with perspective. Today I feel that I accomplished my mission in this class. I am no longer scared of drawing with pencils or intimidated by a large blank sheet of paper. When I look back on where I started this semester and where I finished I cannot help but feel some small tinge of pride. More than this, I learned to create a finished drawing and while I have not yet reached the point of being an artist but I have found the path I can follow for the that leads away from dabbling and scribbling and toward the peak that is artistry and mastery. Perhaps, over the rest of my life I can slowly climb this mountain.