The Importance of Drawing – And the Joy!

When I was in school taking art every day my requirements included a drawing every day. OK, so more than a few times I ripped through five or six drawings just before deadline (You know, that A.D.D. thing.) But in total, this drawing every day was a very good discipline and, in fact, necessary to developing the skills needed to become excellent. "Is drawing important?" Students actually ask that question, or worse still, "I don't want to worry about drawing, I want to paint".

If I could recommend any one thing necessary to be an effective artist it would be the development of drawing skills. In my opinion it is not just helpful, it is essential to become a competent draftsman before one advances into color. Just as arithmetic comes before algebra, drawing is the foundation for all things art. Let me define my terms. Drawing: artwork done absent color. This includes pencil, charcoal, and ink. Notice that ink is a wet medium. Painting: Two dimensional artwork in color. Oil, watercolor, pastel, collage, egg tempera, etc. Pastel is often mistakenly grouped in the graphics section of a juried exhibit, but comprised of pure pigment, pastel is the most direct form of painting there is. (Pigment in a stick, with just enough water to hold its shape. Pure color.)

I don't think of drawing as linear; that would be a coloring book. Outlines, even lines, are not found in nature, and a drawing can exist completely absent line of any kind. The idea that drawing is outline and nothing else is one of the most pervasive beliefs my students have. Not true. Taken to photographic detail, a drawing, like a black and white photo, does not need any line at all. Even a telephone line or a fence wire is not a line, it is a thin cylinder with light and dark shadows.

Line should be a beautiful, varied descriptive addition to your drawing. It can be first, a way to place and plan your drawing, or second, a descriptive lyrical element to finish an edge just so. A drawing might even be developed with line alone -- a beautiful elegant contour line or an expressive, active gesture. In any case, think of line as a beautiful, expressive element of the drawing. Outlines belong to the world of coloring books. (Do coloring books influence our children's understanding of what a drawing is and how it is made? Another time...).

Drawing is the description of form, defined by light and shadow. My own drawing is informed by the belief that the process is exactly like painting in its major components of design, concept, and technical application. In other words, I think of drawing in terms of seeing shapes; the shape of light, the shape of shadow, and the shape of the negative around or behind the form itself. Personally, I tend to work from the inside out, describing an entire shadow shape as a massed area just as I would block in the shadow areas first in an oil painting. This method has developed over time, with more and more of my ability to see the shape of a shadow as one continuous shape, rather than the edges of "things" or objects as separate entities. This is not my own discovery, though I remember when I first understood it as a life changing event. If you read any good book on painting or drawing you will hear this same thing, but expressed in many different ways. From the general to the specific, massing general shapes, first the dog, then the fleas – all say the same. 

Transient

Biography of a Professional Artist – One Woman's Story

Biography of a Professional Artist – One Woman's Story

A brief description of my decision to become a full time professional artist, with two small children to support and no backup plan. How an amazing teacher gave me the tools and belief in myself to pursue my dream, and a description of the journey that decision started.

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Creativity is Conversation.

Creating is communication, communication is sharing, and the best, most effective message is a brief message.  How many times have you, the artist or art student, said or heard this: "I just want to be able to loosen up." It is my belief that "loosen up" is the wrong phrase. If you've heard me in a demo or class you've heard me equate painting with poetry. Poetry is not "loose" writing, poetry is essential, condensed, and efficient; the exact opposite of "loose." As with writing poetry or any other creative discipline, the entire process of painting is a journey,  beginning with hours into years of skill building –– learning how to draw, paint, design, and handle your medium. At the beginning we are tight, careful, and afraid of "doing it wrong". With practice comes expertise – with practice comes confidence. With exposure to the Masters' works comes the appreciation of the power that a single, perfect brushstroke has. Poetry.

And there it is. The painter's goal is not to say everything, to render all so perfectly that it reads like a photograph. "That's amazing," they say. In fact, if it's a photographic wonderment, if every tiny detail is rendered with absolute precision, it is the artist and turning the painting into a monologue. Only the beginner needs to say everything. The experienced painter has the efficiency, skill and confidence to edit, to condense, to say much, much more with the briefest paint stroke. Poetry.

One only has to look at John Singer Sergeant, Joaquin Sorolla, or Edgar Paine –– think of any master. No matter what style, the experienced painter has learned to edit. The goal –– communication; interaction.  A give and take conversation with that most important person, the one who views, and perhaps, inside of your thoughtful, skillful impression of your subject, finds something that touches the heart.

That is what completes the circle. That is what a painter lives for, I believe. Not to show off how accurate we are, but to touch the emotion and the heart of the viewer with the idea and the reaction that was the reason for painting what we saw and felt that day. If we can do that, what they call in academia, "to emit a response in the viewer," we are at the heart of what it is to be an artist: To communicate through what we create.

First Blog Entry: What to name this blog, anyway...

This begins a quiet rant and discussion about the life and times of a "famous artist."  Famous Artist...I started using that description on my name tags, gosh, it was in 1982, just a couple of years after I started this life as an artist, I mean, serious, no plan B or back-up plan, support me and the kids on only this – Artist. My studio landlord and neighbor, Dean Miller, referred to me always as "famous artist," so I decided it should stay with me. (Thanks, Dean.)

Mission: To inform and instruct about how to improve the quality of what we create artistically. To describe the creative crazy brain activity and the daily life of a single, more than mature, working artist. And to explore "this American life" from  the point of view of a single woman, mother, grandmother, businesswoman and friend.


 

Koi Pond, Pastel