A bridge to creativity

The bridge

The main body of my two part volume on “Drawing” is now complete. What is now required is a bridge to the volumes on “Painting”. This is provided by returning to the subject of “accuracy” as a catalyst to “creativity“.

It is common to find artists and teachers that scorn accuracy. These point out point out that all truly accurate drawings would be the same, no matter which artist produced them and that this would be the antithesis of creativity. But nowhere in any of my books is this use of accuracy recommended. What they do recommend is its use as a tool for both ‘looking‘ and ‘feeling‘ in new ways.

The efficacy of the ‘looking‘ part is easier to explain, for the search for accuracy gives us every chance of  expanding awareness. This must be the case for it requires us to adopt strategies that reveal aspects of appearance that we normally overlook.

In “Drawing with Feeling“, the first BOOK in this volume, the focus is on two inextricably linked approaches to seeking accuracy:

  • The analysis of relativities of size, length, orientation, curvature, position on page, etc..
  • The use of comparative looking to as a means of avoiding the many traps that the processes of visual perception have laid in our way.

Due to the fallibility of human judgement, neither of these can actually achieve total accuracy. But that is beside the point. It does not matter how inaccurate the result, the process of seeking it will have revealed new aspects of appearances and provide opportunities for finding out more about ourselves.

In “Drawing with knowledge“, the second BOOK in this volume, the emphasis is on using linear perspective and anatomy, not as rules for construction images, but as ways of guiding looking strategies. In other words as tools that encourage new awarenesses.

In the next two books, “Painting with Light” and “Painting with Colour“, the emphasis is on  how knowledge of light and colour-related phenomenon can help develop our sensitivity to colour in nature and extend and enrich our domains of exploration.

The idea that the accuracy aspiration might provide a bridge to the awakening of new feelings is harder to for some people to entertain. However it necessarily constitutes a voyage of discovery and, accordingly, provides a way of enriching the memory stores that link us to the feelings of a lifetime.




Images to go with quotations

This chapter has a large number of quotations from artists, but no images accompanying them. I am therefore taking this opportunity to rectify this omission and add a few more quotations.

The first three come from artists that were working well before the arrival of the “Modernist Painters”, but who were significant precursors.

The emphasis is on ‘feeling’ and ‘memory’ and the implication that these is a connection between the two.


Bridge to Chardin
Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, “Did you say that one paints with colours? Not at all, one merely uses colours. One paints with feeling.


Bridge to Couture
Thomas Couture (teacher of Edouard Manet), “Inferior artists fail to respond passionately to nature and merely follow it like a child tracing a picture.

John Constable, “Drawing is just another word for feeling.”


Bridge to Manet
Edouard Manet, seeking the ‘effortless’ look, is known to have submitted at least one of his models to more than forty sittings. His hope seems to have been to complete his painting in one go, but he is said to have only once succeeded. Except on that one occasion, every sitting consisted of a variably long sequence of “failures”, each of which had to be scraped down ready for another try. Evidently, as one sitting succeeded another, the artist could not but help become more and more familiar with the pertinent aspects of his sitter’s appearance and this familiarity would certainly have influenced the looking strategies he used subsequently.


Claude Monet, “I want to succeed in expressing what I feel” and “No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and his composition” and “Impressionism is nothing but immediate sensation. All the great painters were more or less Impressionists”


Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh: fellow students in the Antwerp Academy were astonished to see him completing fifteen studies of the model while they were still labouring away on their first. In the Dutch artist’s view, “one drawing study on its own does not give full satisfaction, but many of them, even if they come from different sources, mutually complete one another.” He also said, “I would like to be able to draw more freely and with more exaggeration.”


Gauguin-still life painting
Paul Gauguin “My simple object, which I take from daily life or nature, is merely a pretext, which helps me by means of a definite arrangement of lines and colours to create symphonies or harmonies”. Also, he is said to have remarked that he closed his eyes in order to ‘see’.


Paul Cézanne was far from advocating cold objectivity when he made the statement, “The painter paints, whether it be an apple or a face. Painting is only a pretext for play of lines and colours, nothing more”. According to him “painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realising one’s sensations.” His advice was to “look at the model and feel very exactly… and express oneself distinctly and with force.”


Bridge to Bonnard
Pierre Bonnard, “Drawing is sensation. You can take any liberty with line, with form, with proportions, with colours, in order that the feeling is intelligible”.


Bridge to Degas
Edgar Degas: “Drawing is not shapes, it is one’s feelings.”  and  “It is all very well to copy what you see; it is much better to draw what you only see in memory. There is a transformation during which the imagination works in conjunction with the memory. You only put down what made an impression on you, that is to say the essential. Then your memory and your invention are freed from the dominating influence of nature.


After eighty (some say ninety) sittings, Pablo Picasso felt that he had failed to complete his portrait of Gertrude Stein. However, without realising it, during his struggles, he had got to know the features of the sitter’s face so well that, after a period of reflection and gestation, he was able to produce his rendering of it from memory.


Henri Matisse, “Exactitude is not the truth” and “I cannot copy nature in a servile way; I am forced to interpret it and submit to the spirit of the picture” and “I might be satisfied with a work done in one sitting, but I would soon tire of it: therefore, I prefer to rework it so that, later, I may recognise it as representative of my state of mind” 


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2 thoughts on “A bridge to creativity”

  1. Francis, This is a tour de force of a post. What a wonderful collection of quotes to support your comments about how the pursuit of accuracy can guide one toward creative expression. This is such an important point to understand for artists and art teachers. Thank you once again for sharing such thought provoking writings.

  2. Magnifique! Merci pour tout. Ton enseignement m’a apporté durant toutes ces années passées tous les outils utiles à une recherche créative inépuisable. Il suffit d’avoir le courage de persévérer pour en apprécier le bonheur qu’elle procure. Ton livre que tu élabores avec tant de soins est une mine de ressources pour celui qui se consacre au dessin et à la peinture et qui n’as pas la chance d’avoir connu et profité de l’enseignement de ton école . Tu as su recueillir ici tous les écrits d’artistes reconnus qu’aucun professeur d’art que j’ai pu rencontrer ne se donne la peine d’utiliser pour aider ses élèves à gagner une liberté assumée par la confiance en soi . C’est la connaissance du processus énoncé qui donne cette confiance. Finalement, c’est le chemin parcouru pour cette recherche de la sensation qui me procure le plus de plaisir. Et encore une fois merci de m’avoir permis de le découvrir. Marie Thérèse

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