This Post is about the connection between fast drawing, learning and personal expression. It is an important subject because there seems to be a connection in many people’s minds between speed and expression. Various questions arise. Perhaps the main one is whether there is any necessary connection at all. In all my books I assume that personal expression can come in a multitude of ways: fast, slow, passionate, quietly sensitive, and all gradations between these extremes. This Post concentrates on using fast drawing. As its core is “Movement, speed and memory”, Chapter 8 of my book,“Drawing on Both sides of the Brain” (see below”).
The question raised by Chapter 8 relates to the widespread practice of starting life drawing sessions with poses that are so short that they force fast drawing. Those who advocate this practice, believe that their shortness will increase the likelihood of creativity and personal expression. In Chapter 8, I question this belief.
I have met many people who think that copying photographs is somehow cheating. Certainly it can be used as an easy way of sidestepping the challenges (and opportunities) provided by copying directly from nature. But this does not mean that it can never be justified.
The main purpose of this Post is to publish Chapter 7of my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”, which discusses the advantages and disadvantages of copying small, static, two-dimensional photographic images, as compared with confronting the full force of nature, in all its dimensions. Its conclusion is that both possibilities have their place. Rather than condemning the practice of copying photographs out of hand, artists might be well advised to work out what is the best option in the circumstances of the moment.
The chapter also considers an earlier and, for many years, much used memory-based alternative to copying photographic images.
CLAM is an acronym for “continuously looking at the model“. It describes a teaching method, suggested by Kimon Nicolaїdes and popularised by Betty Edwards. However, they describe it as “contour drawing”. Since 1941, when Nicolaїdes‘ book “The Natural Way to Draw” was published posthumously and started its life as the most influential book on drawing published in the twentieth century, his method has proved its value as a powerful teaching tool. However, in addition to its well established advantages, it has significant disadvantages. Chapter 6 in my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain” explains both its strengths and its limitations.
Why avoid talking of “negative spaces ” or “negative shapes”?
The title of Chapter 6 of my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain” is “Negative Shapes”. Some people may be surprised to find that I question the widespread use by art teachers of the phrase “negative shapes” and of its equivalent, “negative spaces“. After explaining the reasons for the popularity of its use as a means of bypassing the problems due to familiarity, I argue that it has significant shortcomings. In the light of these, I suggest that there are alternatives which avoid its disadvantages without relinquishing any of its advantages. Perhaps more importantly, these provides better ways of using drawing from observation as a tool for discovering the unique characteristics of objects in the world around us.
The chapter featured in this Post is about the paradigm shift in artists thought that took place in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and some of its consequences in terms of the Modernist teaching methods that were to emerge in the twentieth century.
The chapter featured in this Post tells how, over the centuries, artists changed the way they conceived the function of the sketch. From being a step in the Academic method, by which predetermined elements were organised into a composition, it was used in more open-ended essentially Modernist ways. This chapter also explains what I mean by drawing with the “feel-system” and, in doing so, prepares readers for the crucial role it plays in later chapters. For this reason it is key to the ideas developed in my book.
In furtherance of my project publishing chapters from my books, we now come to a chapter on traditional artistic practices. Its title is “The Renaissance and the Academic Method”. To understand how it fits into the structure of “Drawing with Both Sides of the Brain”, please go to the POSTSCRIPT below. To read the chapter just click on the link immediately below:
In 1992 I was asked to write an article for “La Revue du Tarn” as a contribution to the “Year of Toulouse-Lautrec”. In particular I was asked to give a critique of the big exhibition of his paintings that took place that year in London and Paris. More recently I included an edited adaptation as Chapter 7 of my book “Fresh Perspectives on Creativity“. Click here for a .PDF copy of it.
Apologies for the poor quality of some of the illustrations. They will be better for the published version.
Toulouse-Lautrec : Drawing of a woman from the “Artilleur et femme” series
I hope you enjoy the attachment below, which is about the accuracy versus expression debate. It is the first chapter of my book “Drawing on the right Side of the Brain“, in which I compare the expressive potential of searching for accuracy relative to that of other artistic goals that lead to different manifestations of inaccuracy, whether it be in the guise of distortions, abstractions or any other kind of deviation from accuracy. My conclusion is that not only art history but also the outcomes of my experience as a teacher, as illustrated by the work of my students, show that both have the potential to inspire artistic creativity. The drawing of Durer’s Mother below is one of the six illustrations in the chapter, three of which provide examples of the expressive potential of the search for accuracy, while the remainder provide examples of the expressive potential of researching deviations from it.