Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Road to Improvement

I’ve been reading a number of books and blogs lately about how to improve in the execution of one’s art – whatever medium – and the consensus does seem to be that Drawing is an essential basic skill.

Robert Genn (Canadian art blogger par excellence) states that it has long been said that progress cannot be made without a good grounding in the basics. ( I remember a prof of mine making a lovely Freudian slip when he described this as a “good grinding in the basics”!). Genn describes the basics as: drawing, composition, value, colour, and depth. Without these, he feels, it’s unlikely a piece will turn out well except by a fluke. He notes that while there is a reluctance to plough through basic exercises the time spent on them is so well invested that it will save time later on.
He quotes George Eliot: "Genius is the capacity for receiving and improving by discipline." I must take note!

Here is David Bellamy ( a well known British painter with numerous lovely books on watercolour) on the importance of drawing:

“The foundation of [artistic endeavours] is the ability to draw”.

He advocates practicing at every opportunity, carrying a sketchbook everywhere, and feels that sketching is so fundamental it will “free you from the shackles that hinder development”. Sketching will “advance your work infinitely more” than taking another workshop, looking at books and magazines or watching videos. “I cannot emphasize how important it is to continually strive to improve your drawing”.

The importance of sketching before approaching the medium – cutting out fabric, smearing juicy splotches of wonderful colours across paper, kneading the clay – is because it forces you to actually LOOK. I love the light on the trees that I can see through my study window – but before I rush to the design wall with fabric, I need to observe exactly how the light works. How is the light actually shown? How many values? How many colours? Is direction of the light important? How do the lines and shapes intertwine? Do the dark and light areas form distinct masses? Are there any rhythms that are subconsciously affecting the way I see the scene? How do I see depth? Does the light change, or the colour? Or the texture? If I make myself sit and sketch for a moment then I can answer all these questions – and many more I’m sure.

The second important result of sketching is that you can then rearrange things! Yes, sometimes MN (Mother Nature – or more likely MaN….) gets it wrong. There’s an awkward tree in the wrong place, there’s one solitary tree when a clump would look better, there’s a STOP sign in the middle of the rural scene, there’s a shiny new plastic building in the middle of the beautiful old time worn stone ones.

As Charles Reid says: be careful how you place the outlines….there is nothing so discouraging as a bad composition at the very start. Do most of your “changing” in composition before you begin…when [the composition] is just blocked in.

So…I’m heading outside with pencil and sketchbook and hope!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading…..


1 comment:

Jackie said...

I spent some time at the beach writing haikus, perhaps not as directly helpful as drawing, but feeding the soul nonetheless.