Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thoughts on Drawing

My mom sent me to art school when I was about seven years old. She always loved to draw, but never had a chance to take any formal lessons in drawing when she was young, and wanted me to have something she never did. Well, unfortunately, it backfired. I look back on those seven years of torture and all I remember is how much I hated that place. The last four years of it, I would spend at least 15 hours "making art" each week. Of course, there were projects that were more successful than others - I happened to get the knack for drawing in pencil, which means that pencil was a lesser of two evils when it came to choosing between pencil and watercolors. Even watercoloring would work out once in a while. Yet, I spent most of those seven years wishing my mom had sent me to a tennis club instead (I still blame her for ruining my dreams of becoming a professional tennis player - I must say I never played tennis in my life).

I "graduated" from art school when I was fourteen and could not imagine picking up a drawing tool ever again. However, as time went on, I found myself returning to a stack of my old works more and more often. Once in a while, I'd even get an urge to draw my mom lying on a couch with our cat in her lap. With time, those urges started coming more frequently. I would never spend more than half an hour on a drawing - I did not care about it being 'polished' - I'd always leave it in the "sketch" shape. What I enjoyed about sketching is how liberal one can be with the line - how a seemingly careless style can produce a drawing that is dynamic, full of character and life.

Take a look at this example of still life by Cezanne - one of my favorite pieces of his

Still Life with Carafe, Bottle, and Fruit
Paul Cézanne
French, 1906

Or this one; evidently, more labor has been put into it, but it is nevertheless a sketch

 Boy with a Red Vest

Boy with a Red Vest
Paul Cézanne

Simple, yet deep, real.

I never worked on tiny details either or paid an extra effort to staying within the contours of figures when I created shadows or put in a darker value.

I began to realize that what I hated about art school was not the art of drawing itself, but how methodical my lessons made it seem. I hated that I had to come to school every day at 3 pm and spend 3 to 4 hours drawing, no matter whether I felt like it or not. Weeks, sometimes months would be spent on the same composition, same drawing, trying to get it to that ever-unreachable state of perfection.

Sketching requires none of that. Furthermore, to me, the beauty of sketches lies in their imperfections. Sketches can be as easily abandoned as they are started. They don't need to be about anything, don't need to have any meaning, any story behind them.

I find joy in these short bursts of creativity; even today, sitting in my partial differential equations lecture, i mindlessly sketched my professor writing something on the board. Yes, the drawing was in pen, on a ruled paper, it turned out messy, but I loved it a lot. If you rummage through my room, you'll find quite a few sketched I made of my boyfriend on all types of paper, in all sorts of media.. I think I even drew something on a paper coffee cup at some point!

Drawing 100 gave me a great excuse to take a well-deserved break from endless equations and immerse in sketching and drawing. It did turn out to be a bit more than just drawing. Coming up with a narrative for my work was probably my least favorite part of the course, since I never try to say anything with my sketches. I draw because I want to. In my sketchbook I have silly drawings of flip-flops and a recycling basket, a chair in the Math Building library. They are stupid, pointless, unnecessary, but I liked making them. That little amount of creativity I have in me all goes into putting an especially messy line on a piece of paper.

More importantly, the class got me to give charcoal another try. Having failed at it earlier, I held quite a biased opinion against using it in my drawings. However, now that I see how different and real sketches made in charcoal are, I'm sure I won't be throwing my compressed charcoal away when the semester is over.

For many, sketching is something you do right before drawing the main product - we've seen that in our course. Drawing 100 helped me realize that to me, the sketchbook is where it is all at. And I'm not getting rid of mine any time soon! See you in Figure Drawing!

P.S. Here are some beautiful sketches from a handful of the greatest artists ...

Sketch of Anatomical Structure
Paul Cézanne

An Artist in His Studio

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn
Dutch, The Netherlands, about 1630

View on the Stour
Sketches from John Constable's sketchbook from 1814

East Bergholt Church
Sketches from John Constable's sketchbook from 1814

1 comment:

  1. I just recently discovered your blog and started subscribing via rss. I am also a mom who sent her daughter to art school so she could have something I could not. I am very proud of her accomplishments. (She went on to photography.)

    I mostly just wanted to stop by and let you know I truly enjoy reading your blog.