How To Get Good Grades In Your Drawing From Nature Assignment
- Attend all classes
- Find time to study and research
- Ask questions when you do not understand a concept
- Practice makes perfect
- Take good notes in class
Architectures drawing from nature (actual life) encounter several graphic problems related with weight and textures. Discuss how these problems can be mitigated.
The graphic problems are more than just dealing merely with weight and textures- it becomes one of openly struggling with delicacy of form, and involved with the accuracy of the description. Plate 71 is a fair example of how the problem may be tackled. I had to fill a page in a children's encyclopedia with drawings of shells. Some of the shells I drew from actual life into my sketchbook, others I copied from photographs. My own version was meant for children, so it had to be simple, in a clear and descriptive line, yet at the same time it had to be accurate and informative. This is why I chose a simple pen line technique, and depended on a sensitive outline to trace the contours, ridges and textures. In order to give a unity to the style of drawing I restricted myself to convey the form of the shells with lines that followed the contours-a device which was particularly suited to shells, the structure of which is largely linear in any case, for example, the bulbous form of the red whelk is conveyed by the coils, the curling delicacy of the worm shell by the decorative twists, lines of textures, etc.
Make several studies of shells, perhaps attempting them in some material other than pen, yet maintaining an interest in the linear structures they exhibit. You will be able to make your drawing much more sensitive than my own, since yours will not be intended for reproduction, nor will it have to be simple enough for children to 'read' with ease. Try to convey the individual textures, as well as the structures of the shells - you may even try to hint at the 'colour', as I tried to hint at the iridescence of the pitariadione. I am not suggesting for one moment that you should draw your shells in the manner I drew mine, but you may look at my own picture to see how I tried to intro- duce an element of variety without allowing the quality of the page as a whole to suffer. Look, for example, at the different ways in which I have treated the mouths of the shells-a treatment which has depended very much on the looking, on what I actually saw. In the red whelk the outer delineating line varies a great deal in thickness, swelling thick and thin, to convey the particular nuances of the way in which the edge of the shell curves away from the eye. The similar line of the scalaria is much harder, more brittle, in accordance with the feeling of this shell. The lip edge of the large periwinkle not only swells from thick to thin in order to suggest the curve of the mouth edge, but in the middle of the curve this line disappears entirely, and a contour is suggested with a few flicks of texture. You too could set yourself the problem of making sure that the particular apertures of the shells are all seen and drawn in slightly different ways. Try not to make a mark without being aware of why you doing it.
The transition from the antique to life, or from the stone and shell to life involves a whole new way of seeing. It is almost impossible for a beginner to sit down and draw directly from nature. The artist has to learn to see nature before he can draw it, and as John Constable pointed out, the art of 'seeing nature is a thing almost as much to be acquired as the art of reading the Egyptian hieroglyphics'. What I have to say apropos this is in fact very difficult to convey, and most students do not at first grasp its full implications. We learn to see by imitation. When this point is grasped, the full importance of the role which the artist plays in society is also grasped, and we see that the artist is charged with the important mission of revitalizing the vision and imagery of society.
Each time we open our eyes, we create a world which is unique to our- selves, yet we see this world through the eyes of a million artists. In learning to draw one is learning to see in a certain way-one is compelled to strip away the scales of prejudice which form a film over the eye and to peer into a pristine world. In this way the external vibrations, the light waves, are channeled through the eye to create in the brain a different image of the world. This is one of the secrets of learning how to draw - the secret is an alchemical operation of the eyes,
Drawings of sparrows by three different children
As the writings of Grotzinger have shown, a child does not 'learn to draw' so much as he uses drawing as a means of exploration. As the child grows, almost all his education, both conscious and unconscious, is directed by imitation - he learns to laugh, walk, talk and even feel, from the people around him. He has to learn to draw in a similar way. Invariably, once he has learned the idea of image-making (not as natural a thing as one is tempted to think!) he learns to draw by copying the drawings of other children, or from pictures around him, and this usually means that he learns from very bad sources; from comics, for instance, or from bad art teachers, and he becomes given to producing ill-proportioned images of supermen or flying saucers, or uninspired drawings of twigs in jam jars. To illustrate what I mean I will take some drawings done by children at the beginning of the present century.
The three delightful drawings of birds in plate 71a were made by young children before they had been taught 'how to draw sparrows' by their art teacher. In spite of the fact that each of these drawings is delightfully in- dividual, with a wonderful relationship between the outlines of the birds and the spaces they occupy on the sheets, all too clearly this was not good enough for their teacher. He set out to teach them how they should really draw sparrows. This meant, of course, that the poor children would have to learn to draw sparrows in the way their teacher drew sparrows! Surely enough, he produced a series of hard-lined conventional images of sparrows, insipid in execution and quite without imagination, and set his children the task of tracing it, copying it, and cutting it out. By the end of a few weeks the children could indeed 'draw sparrows', as plate 71b shows - but how uninspired are these 'adult' versions compared with their original visions. The children before this exercise might well have sided with Blake and seen an angel in the flight of a pigeon, but after the exercise they would never see a bird again, except as a wire outline symbol.
The tragic tacit assumption behind the exercise set these unfortunate children was that there was only one way to draw a bird, while the truth is that there are about as many ways of drawing birds as there are different kinds of people and different kinds of birds, as plates 23, 72 and 73 will confirm.
Fred Gettings Flying Bird 1966, roller drawing
Eduardo Paolozzi (b.1924) Fishermen and Gulls 1946, Indian ink and wash, Victoria and Albert Museum
Steinberg (b.1914) from The Labyrinth published 1961 by Harper and Row
All this talk about how children learn to draw is not very far removed from our own problem. Adults also learn to draw and increase their graphic scope by the study of other artists. It is not so much that one learns precisely where or how to put the lines (as young children learn to draw) but that one learns to see in a distinctive way. The difference between the faces of Sickert (plate 67) and Steinberg (plate 74) is not merely a matter of technique or the placing of lines- it is a difference in a way of seeing.
Ways of seeing may be grafted on to one, just as the ways of (and therefore seeing) sparrows may be grafted on to young children, and all this is a matter of temperament. An artist with a love for humanity may be more easily persuaded to adopt Sickert's vision of the world, for example, than the vision of Grosz (plate 75). It is a matter of temperament, a matter of personal vision. And it is this personal vision that one must try to develop through the medium of drawing. The real aim must be to find your own personal way of setting down your unique personal vision of the world. In the initial stages this comes down to familiarizing yourself with as many different styles and graphic visions of the world as possible, copying and learning as you go along. If you like a particular drawing, then open yourself to its influence, copy it perhaps, but certainly allow its vision to merge with your own, to become a part of yourself. This cross-fertilization of visions and techniques is essential for artistic growth. In this respect we must learn to draw like little children draw before their personalities are so dutifully repressed, striving to express and explore our own individual vision without shame or fear of technical incompetence, yet being constantly open to learning from what has been done before.
There are only three ways to learn to draw: the first is under the guidance of a competent teacher who wishes you to grow into your own personality; the second is by a close study of nature with an attitude that permits you to make a leap into the dark in order to learn something new; the third way is by intelligent copying. Let us look at the implications of these three methods.
The superbly delicate and sensitive pencil drawing of a bird in plate 23 was done by one of my young pupils whom I had encouraged especially to de- develop a sense of imagination. For some time she had been drawing startling 'realistic' versions of birds, relying almost entirely on photographs of other artists' work for her inspiration. Realizing the dangers (mainly the danger of her imaginative faculty being swamped by learned gimmicks, and too great a reliance on other men's vision) I put her through a fairly intensive course
The extent to which the medieval apprentices copied is well known; they were trained to submerge their own personalities in that of their masters, in the certain knowledge that once they had learned to draw well in one way, they would be in a better position to develop their own personal vision later. This tradition of copying in order to learn to draw survived in one form or another until well into the nineteenth century. Hesketh Hubbard, in his account of the training of Victorian artists wrote:
...the method of learning to draw landscapes in those days was by copying specially prepared drawings graded in complexity. The drawing was rightly recognized as a form of handwriting and both arts were taught by copybook.... Before adventuring to sketch in the field, the student learned a graphic touch for foliage, cloud and masonry. He learned, too, to compose his motifs, conventionally per- haps, but resulting in an agreeable composition. He learned picture-making side by side withdrawing. This method naturally led to a certain similarity amongst the work of the majority of the pupils, but it had distinct advantages. It was the means of perpetuating a tradition long enough for it to mature and its possibilities to be explored and worked out.... This tutorial method ensured a sense of style in both handling and design, and no doubt accounted for the high standard of much of the work produced by amateurs in the first half of the last century. I doubt whether it is an exaggeration to say that pictorial composition received a great setback when this method of teaching was abandoned. The more adventurous spirits naturally came to express themselves individually, but they benefited by their early background, which gave them the assurance of men proud of their ancestry. It carried them forward on the full flood of a sound and living tradition.
Later on in this same book Hubbard goes on to say that the method of copying fell into disrepute because it came to be taught in a wrong way, 'slavish imitation took the place of translation or interpretation'. But before this degeneration took place, artists copied with their eyes open, not blindly. "They produced a drawing in the manner of Canaletto or Cozens; they did not counterfeit any given drawing', and they used old master drawings as standards and correctives for their own work. Intelligent copying is therefore not only advisable - it is even necessary. One word of warning, however - try always to copy from originals, not from reproductions.† Most museums and libraries have facilities for copying. Your aim should be to learn; to learn something about the style of an artist you are fond of, and something about your own limitations and possibilities. Try to see how the other artist felt, and understand how he saw the world. Look, paraphrase, analyze, simplify, abstract and reconstruct - but never merely imitate. Copying, that is intelligent copying, is an art in itself.
If you the temptation to learn to draw as draw, and succeed in learning to draw, however badly, like yourself, then there is no danger in copying at all. Copying other drawings, either in toto or as isolated fragments, is after all only the equivalent of the close reading that thinkers and philosophers indulge in every day-copying is a visual exchange of ideas, just as reading should be a literary exchange of ideas.
Now we may return to a consideration of drawing from nature. Here, of course, the subject is the thing, and it deserves some thought. It is both the inspiration for the drawing and a danger to it, for while it is the source of the artistic impetus, it may hypnotize the artist into a bad drawing. The artist may easily become so entranced by the subject he has set himself that he will forget that he is doing a drawing of it, that he is interpreting it rather than merely eulogizing it! Yet another dangerous attitude to the subject is the one that compels the artist not to look at it while he makes his drawing! This sounds so fantastic that it is hard to believe. However, it is all too common. The artist, having chosen a subject, is usually very eager to set up his easel or drawing board and settle down to fill his paper with pencil strokes without troubling to look at the subject carefully and without asking himself what he is trying to do. The whole secret of drawing from life resides in the initial looking, and I recall that my art master would bring this home to his class by making us stand for at least five minutes examining the nude before we were allowed to put pencil to paper. In this way we clarified our aim.