As a Gallery Guide for the Nasher Museum of Art, I always ask students to look more closely at works of art. I encourage both elementary and middle schoolers to focus on the small details in a painting or sculpture in order to better understand the artist’s process and discover previously unseen details.
As an Art History major at Duke, I encourage myself to do the same thing. By pushing myself to look more closely whenever I'm viewing a new work of art, I'm able to learn much more about the composition, coloration, focal point, etc. I’ve discovered that the best way to prompt myself to see these things is by visually describing every detail through drawing. I love to draw because it pushes me to constantly look back and forth between the object in front of me and the sketchbook. I must spend time observing each object in order to create an accurate picture in my sketchbook or drawing pad.
This technique of creating sketches of the sculptures, paintings, and prints I’ve seen in class has enhanced my art history knowledge (because I’m taking more time to really observe every detail of the object). In addition, I’m spending more time in the Ackland, NCMA, and Nasher than ever before, because I’m there to sketch.
Although I took time this semester to draw works of art for my Art History courses, I also filled my sketchbook with Disney drawings. I decided to sketch Disney characters because I was excited by the prospect of looking more closely at these cartoons. I’ve always loved Disney animations, and I wanted to see how difficult it was to accurately capture each character.
I discovered that even the slightest change to the proportions of a character completely altered its appearance, to the point where it was almost un-recognizable. Only when the proportions were as true to the original image as possible, was the character revealed. For this reason, I tried to make sure that each character was as accurate as possible before I used color to complete the drawing.
Below are images of Wall-E and Donald Duck that I drew during the semester.
By spending time looking more closely at these characters, I came to appreciate the subtleties in their designs (for example, the fringe of hair on Donald’s forehead and the joints at Wall-E’s elbows). I couldn’t help but wonder how many iterations of these characters were sketched before the final look of the character was decided upon. With this in mind, I began to draw a few characters of my own, including dragons and colorful birds. I tried to create distinct creatures that were different from anything I’d seen before.
In conclusion, I thought that this drawing class was simply going to be something that I could check off my list of required classes for the Art History major. Instead, I discovered a process by which I could actually become more familiar with works of art. I realized that sketching could be a powerful tool that would push me to look more closely at works of art.