Thursday, September 05, 2013
No more drawing practice
Well, thank goodness that's over.
I finally came to my senses and realised I'm not Kurt Jackson. Nor am I David Hockney. Or Graham Sutherland or Euan Uglow. Or any of the other artists I've been admiring and copying lately.
I don't go walking across the moors, sketching and painting (and generally being rugged). Neither do I go out in all seasons, in all weathers, to paint the landscape as it changes through the year. (In fact, I'm a bit if a wimp. Nowadays, I only go out sketching when the weather is 'mild'.) I don't spend years on a single picture, carefully measuring and marking. (I prefer to scribble quickly and hope it looks OK.)
It's been an interesting year of learning by copying but you know what? I'm BORED! It has made me so DULL! All I've been doing is drawing other people's stuff every day. And I'm not much better now than when I started!
But not any more. I'm over it.
And I feel happier already.
I actually quit about two weeks ago and since then I've done more drawing than I have for ages! Mainly, I think, because I'm enjoying it.
The problem with copying the work of other artists was that I lost my own sense of style. I was neglecting my own work. Another thing was that I was comparing myself with other, better, more experienced artists. In the process I had been forensically examining my own weaknesses, which was quite depressing.
This comment, in a book about the artist Zsuzsi Roboz, finally clinched it for me :
"My very good friend Carel Weight once told me whilst we were discussing the work of Peter Blake, 'There is no such thing as good or bad drawing - only expressive drawing.' "
I agree with that, so that's what I'm going to focus on now.
Monday, August 05, 2013
I've spent so much time teaching myself how to draw. I've written quite a bit about it. I've got files and folders full of exercises and studies I've done.
And you know what?
I still can't draw.
I can't draw people; I can't draw animals; I can't even draw buildings. I can draw grass but I guess anyone could do that.
And I absolutely cannot draw from memory or imagination. I really can't.
I'm sure I used to be able to draw better than I can now.
What wrong with me?
I think the problem is this.
I don't care.
I don't care about drawing people, animals or buildings. The idea of being able to depict accurately something I can see in front of me strikes me as being clever but a bit pointless. I've got a camera for that sort of thing.
For me, the pleasure of drawing is in the expression. It's the joy of the gesture, the scribble, the mark.
Last week I went to the coast and I drew rocks. I did a number of detailed studies as I'd learned to do. They weren't very good. And they weren't at all inspiring. I fact, the more I drew the more depressed I got. Then I turned to a clean page and just started to draw - like I do.
The starting point was a big rock but soon incorporated bits of other rocks as they caught my eye. I worked quickly and vigourously. I drew, smudged, erased, drew some more. It was fun and at the end I was more satisfied than I'd been with any of the other sketches. It didn't look anything like a rock and it's of no value or interest to anyone but me. But I look at it now and I think,
"Yes, that's what I want to do. That's how I want to draw."
You know what else? My grass drawings are pretty damn good.
Monday, July 08, 2013
Studying Drawing : Part 2
"... the uncontrollable urge of the artist to jot down sketches on scraps of paper or any convenient surface."
"Drawing strategies ... are easily sparked by the ready coincidence of materials, intentions, function and mood required for the simple act of drawing."
"Daily drawing practice is not only a matter of keeping the hand in practice but also a defining activity of artistic life."
"Students should keep notebooks and sketch books as a witness to their daily activities and strivings."
* Make sure I always have scraps of paper and pens stashed everywhere so I can write or sketch.
* Use scraps of paper - don't throw anything away.
* Draw something every day.
* Photocopy less, sketch more.
* Get into the habit of dating and annotating sketches etc.
(In University I had a large cardboard box by my bed that acted as a bedside table. Over time this would get covered with notes and drawings. Now I have scraps of paper and many sketch books. But I still have to be 'in the mood')
"... an insistence on learning about materials, processes and techniques is probably what demarcates amateur artists from professionals."
* Keep experimenting and learning
* Use different scraps of paper and different pens, pencils etc.
* Try backs of envelopes, till receipts ... recycle, reuse, save money.
(I'm searching for the perfect sketch book. I've used various sizes, papers etc ... but it gets expensive and it's not really what I'm about. I like to use "found materials". Sketch books are handy though.)
"Samuel Palmer ... combined water or body colours or sepia ink with gum arabic, varnish and oil, sponging in his richly textural drawing techniques."
* Use various media and techniques
* Make interesting drawings, not just representations.
* Work it more.
(I can be quite vigorous in my painting, using abstract expressionist techniques, but I tend to a bit tame when I sketch. I'm still too concerned about capturing a physical likeness. It's also a consequence of practicing drawing by copying. Maybe time to let go a little.)
"Durer's ... drawings on intense coloured papers."
* Use more interesting / experimental materials.
* Use coloured papers
(I used to draw and paint on slate, ceramics, scraps of wood etc.What happened to all that?)
There are lots more quotes and notes but I'll post those separately as I group them together.
The more I read books like this, and the sheer number of activities that can arise as a result, makes me realise more and more that being an artist really is a full-time job.
I should give it a go sometime.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
During the cold winter months I've spent many happy hours standing in front of pictures in the Museum or hidden in a quiet corner of the Library going through art books - copying the work of other artists as a way of learning different styles, techniques and work practices.
* the persistent cult of the sketch
* finished, autonomous and presentation drawings
and, my favourite,
* drawing as learning.
(I skipped over the section headed "the affective semiotics of design and composition". Obviously.)
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
That struck a chord with me because that's how I've been working.
I've set myself a list of six things to do every day. These ensure I keep moving slowly and steadily towards the work I want to produce. Every day I tick off what I've done. If I don't manage to tick off each item, it's OK; I turn up again the next day and keep going. It's "always the beginning" and I'm still in the game.
The result is, of course, that as the days, weeks and months have gone by, I've accumulated folders and boxes full of photos, sketches, studies, models, words, articles, cuttings and so on. Now I have to think what to make of them all.
Rainer Maria Rilke said that the poet should enjoy what would appear to outsiders to be the dull, repetitive chores of writing poems. The sorting, the editing, the rewriting, the polishing; in short, the doing of it all.
This slow, methodical process has suited my somewhat reclusive mood over the winter months. It's also laid down in me a little more discipline and resilience. Of course, I still have days when I simply can't be arsed and I bunk off into the hills or down to the coast. But it doesn't happen very often and once it's out of my system I sit down, shut up and get back to work.
One more quote. The artist Chuck Close says "You start off with a blank canvas, and day by day, week by week, you add a brushstroke here, a brushstroke there, and something comes to life in front of your eyes. What could be more magical than that?"
I'm finding more pleasure in my work than I have for a long time. It's not very exciting, but I don't want it to be. I want it to be magical.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Thursday, October 04, 2012
The conservator giving the tour explained that part of the work they had been doing was examining the painting to prove its authenticity, as there had been some debate over it and it had been pronounced a fake. Now that it had been verified they were restoring it ready for exhibition.
This came back to me when an episode of a BBC series entitled “Fake or Fortune” was screened earlier this week. Cardiff Museum have seven paintings by Turner and a few of them in particular had been written off as fakes. However, the investigation proved they were all authentic. You can watch the episode on BBC iPlayer here until 7th October (though possibly only in the UK).
The Museum has now arranged a small exhibition of all seven oil paintings and a small number of watercolours. Also on display is some of the correspondence regarding the original doubts over the authenticity of the paintings. More information is here.
It’s well worth a visit if you have the opportunity, if only to see a small collection of rather beautiful works by J.M.W. Turner.
* Actually, I haven't run since I was twelve.