Did you know that between 1820 and 1860 there were more than 145,000 “How to Draw” books published in the USA? In those pre-camera days, gentlemen and ladies kept memories alive by drawing them. A book by J. Liberty Tadd instructed young women to sketch pigs while standing in a pigsty — “in order to more accurately reflect nature.” Many of these books are now on the trash heaps of history, but they nevertheless remind us of other times and other values. This is being made clear in a current exhibition in New York’s Grolier Club. “Teaching America to Draw” is worth taking a look at if you happen to be in the area.
Show reviewer Michael Kimmelman says, “Drawing used to be a civilized thing to do, like reading and writing. It was taught in elementary schools. It was democratic. It was a boon to happiness.” He notes that these days we have acquiesced to playing a passive role as receivers. We consume drawings rather than make them. There are easier ways to collect images than to draw them.
It seems to me that these days, while a lot of the fine art drawing has turned to forms of tracing, and high quality drawing is somewhat rare, there is still lots of it around. Particularly with the advent of the Internet, there’s an outbreak of drawing-for-its-own-sake. With over 9 million visual artists in North America, and over 70,000 new blogs coming on stream daily, drawing is alive and well and living online. And it’s not just Plain-Jane drawings of your standard barnyard sow.
With the advent of modernism, the ways of drawing have broadened. Contour drawing, broadside drawing, inverted drawing, multi-facet (cubist) drawing, and process drawing are high on the menu. Add fantasy, caricature, cartoon and anime, and the world of drawing is large indeed. Art workshops encourage drawings of 30 seconds, one minute, and ten minutes. Art stores fuel the passion with an ever expanding kit of tools. (Today I bought a ‘Pigma Graphic “2” Archival pen’ — perfect ‘speed’ over both smooth and toothed, nice chisel for thick and thin. I’m not your local representative for this pen — there’s a brilliant marker for every individual style and temperament.)
Folks who never thought they could draw are now drawers. For many, drawing represents low commitment and high joy. For others, drawing’s the key to everything good. Fact is, drawing is still important, still relevant, and still irresistible.
PS: “Do not fail to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is, it will be well worth while, and it will do you a world of good.” (Cennino Cennini, 1370-1440)
Esoterica: For those of us who would be fine artists, drawing is still the bottom line. Next to composition, it’s the most neglected skill. A drawing a day keeps the cobwebs away. One in the morning before coffee is a credible tonic for a day filled with above average work. Canvas or paper, it matters not. “Good drawing forms the bones on which a strong painting hangs.” (Chris Bingle)
This letter was published as “In praise of drawing” on August 1, 2006.
“Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing you will, in good time, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about. (Rembrandt)
Come and paint with me in Lucca, Italy, May 2019!!
My painting holiday workshops are all about the fun of painting in a supportive group environment and is suitable for all levels. Mostly, we’ll be painting en plein air (a nice quiet locale in which to play with our paints!) and enjoying the fresh air. I know Lucca like the back of my hand and will take you to some of my favourites spots!! Each day will start with a short theory session, with an emphasis on quick value sketching then a demonstration of the day’s painting subject out on location. We will also explore subject selection and strategies to tackle complex subjects. After a lunch break, I will let you loose to paint and then come and help each student in turn throughout the afternoon.
After a well-deserved siesta, we’ll meet up for aperitivi and on to dinner; Lucca’s favourite dining spots will be waiting for us with a special menu just for us!
Tuition, meals, luxury en suite B&B accommodation, on-ground transfers and excursions are all included!!
E1895 Euros per painter, no single supplement
For more information email Amanda