The Laws of Nature

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why Do You Draw?

Vija Celmins - "I see drawing as thinking, as evidence of thinking, as evidence of going from one place to another."

Art Without Compromise by Wendy Richmond
Chapter 6: " Another Kind of Language"
section 6: "Why Do You Draw?"

I'll be leaving for a three-day trip tomorrow morning and so I thought I'd post something that everyone can chew on for several days until my next post. In Chapter 6 of her book, Richmond asks us why we artists draw. My immediate answer to the question is because when I was very young I was given crayons and paper and encouraged to draw. That encouragement continued throughout my life. And, once I learned to draw I liked it very much, so I had the desire to continue. Also, because I think in pictures rather than words, drawing is the easiest way for me to express my thoughts and feelings. Remember the game Pictionary? It was one of the few games that I could win.

But, my set of answers to Richmond's question won't necessarily be the same as someone else's, and to find answers the author conducted an informal poll among her colleagues, students, and readers. She placed their answers into these general categories that I'll paraphrase:

  • drawing is a physical act that links the eye and hand in a way that's physically deeply satisfying

  • drawing is a way of meditating because one must concentrate on only one thought while drawing and place all other thoughts aside

  • on the other hand, drawing is enhanced thinking that requires time and concentration; it's a way of deeply studying something

  • drawing is a conversation within the work, between one mark and another and between the mark-making and the surface

  • drawing occurs because one has the ability to do it, and there's satisfaction in that accomplishment

  • drawing allows the artist to closely observe the subject, either real or from the imagination, in order to understand it better

Why do you draw??

How often do you draw?

Do you prefer to draw what you see around you or from your imagination?

How important is drawing to your process as an artist?

Have a great long-weekend!


Stan Kurth said...

I'll say more about this during the weekend but for now I'm just going to say, I draw because I have to. As long as I am able I will not cease to draw. All of my art is associated with the act of drawing. When I'm physically not drawing, I'm drawing in my mind. It is ongoing.

hw (hallie) farber said...

I agree with Ms. Celmins--drawing is thinking. It's also a way of catching something that's just beyond reality--something that can't be photographed.

Maybe it is a language. I sometimes draw pictures for the person on the other end of the phone.

Odd Chick said...

I draw because I'm a Drawer. It's a way of making my imagination tangible, touchable, seeable.

Anonymous said...

Great discussion! Drawing helps me observe. I have a love/hate relationship with drawing. The more I draw- the more I appreciate those who draw with great skill. I plan to draw always from now on- but came to it in mid life. I like that it can be done with minimal materials. Hope you have a great weekend Kathy!

Anonymous said...

I draw because I sort of have too; if I don't, I'll get grumpy within a few days. I think it's what I do best. I like the magical moments when I achieve total concentration and something interesting emerges. Drawing is critical to developing my art work. And, sometimes I draw just for fun!

Casey Klahn said...

I grew up drawing, from the age of four, for several hours a day, until I entered college. Sometimes over 5 hours and as much as 8-9 hours. Luckily, my father worked at a paper factory!

I didn't focus as much on drawing in my early professional art career, because I needed to manage the painting task. Recently, though, I have tried to base my work on drawing. I am discovering the division (if you will) between painting and drawing, and that is a fun exploration.

Celeste Bergin said...

I have loved drawing my entire life. I completely love it. I feel sorry for artists who avoid drawing or feel like it is a chore. To me it is one of the best things about being alive. There has been times in my life when I have been lonely and crestfallen--but drawing, my favorite friend, has never failed to rescue me. When I was a young adult and I walked into a big drawing studio for the very first time, I thought I might swoon from the intense pleasure of simply being there! The huge windows, the model's stand, the easels, the smell of turpentine in the air--I never felt happier. By the way, charcoal and turpentine make the most exquisite dark you've ever seen. Once I stood in front of a Michaelangelo drawing and drew in my sketchbook--following his lines. It was a very simple drawing--but it made me feel like I was standing with him, drawing with him! Drawing reaches across all boundaries--including time boundaries--we are the same as the people who first drew something on a cave wall. Drawing says "I was here".

Angela said...

I draw because I am a completely tactile learner - when I was in school I loved teachers who gave you lots and lots of notes to copy and in the classes without notes, I would outline the book - I never studied or read through them again...just the act of making my hand write the words imprinted them on my brain.

I find that drawing is the same way for me. There are just things that I can't 'see' or truly understand about a thing until I draw doesn't matter how much I do it in my head (though that does help) some things just aren't clear until I've actually got a pen in my hand and I'm trying to make it look right on paper.

Then, when I paint I find that I don't need any type of brain and hand have already made the connection, gathered their information and I can just paint from there. My paintings often don't follow the drawing completely either...but I know what is and isn't important because of the info that I got while doing it.

I often do try to paint without drawing a subject first and I don't know that my paintings really suffer for it in the end result - but the process is nowhere near as enjoyable. If I don't draw first it means I have to consciously THINK the whole time I'm painting...which I would just rather avoid. :)

Carolyn Abrams said...

I've never liked drawing. I always felt i drew because i had to have some sort of plan in order to get to the fun part ....painting! But since i have learned to use drawing to observe life and to draw from memory and see what comes alive i have become more enthralled with it!

M said...

I am the odd person out in every way in this discussion. I believe everyone's observations about their "drawing connections" but... I usually draw because it allows me to paint.I draw out of necessity and I wasn't interested in structured drawing in my early years. All the work I created was based on pattens (sewing, chochet, knitting etc.

I've honed my skills through practice and I'm competent enough now to execute most subjects but it is the thrill of the brush that makes my soul sing. I doodle incessantly and I've always done so. That's more about creating pattern than representing.

Deborah C. Stearns said...

I don't draw. I doodle occasionally, and I put down rough sketches of design ideas sometimes, but I don't draw with any regularity. I don't like my drawings -- my rough sketches are pretty awful, most of the time. They don't look good, but the serve the purpose of helping me remember some design idea, so I don't expect much more from them than that. I took a drawing class, some years ago, meant for real beginners (it was called "I Can't Even Hold a Pencil"), and I found the whole experience to be frustrating and upsetting. The teacher was wonderful, so it wasn't her fault; the gap between my goals and my abilities was simply too large, and the work I produced was so bad (in my eyes) that I couldn't find any worth in it. I know that practice would improve my skills, but I don't enjoy the process of drawing, so I don't practice and my skills don't improve. So I don't draw. Really.

But put a needle and thread in my hands, and I'll be happy to create designs and patterns for hours. So maybe that is my "drawing."

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Dan Kent said...

I drew as a child and as a teenager - I won contests, I was the cartoonist and artist for the school newspaper, I drew the covers, front and back, for our literary journal and the art teacher was angry that one of her students didn't get the assignment. Drawing (and guitar and banjo) was what I did, what I was, and what I enjoyed doing.

Then it was time to get serious. Art (and music) were not "serious" pursuits. I was told that I could always do that as a hobby. I went to college. There was not time for art except for doodles in the margins of my notes. I worked full-time, got married, had children. I bought an easel, took a few art classes, but could not balance "life" and art. So art fell away. I would doodle and occasionally draw cartoons, but that was all.

After three decades, I decided that I had literally left my soul behind. And returning to art as a serious pursuit has been like discovering myself again, like doing what I was literally made to do. Purpose has returned. I have discovered what I am and that I must draw. I cannot go back.

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Mark Sheeky said...

Hi Kathy. Hope you've had a nice trip.

Hmm, drawing. I think I'm like Pam. I never really liked drawing because I'm afraid of drawing badly, yet I seem to draw at my best when I don't worry so much about getting it "perfect". I draw only when I need to, for a painting, generally just outlines that form an under-drawing. I rarely ever shade and I don't doodle other than as scribbly mnemonics for painting ideas that flash into my head. I don't ever practise, but I do imagine drawing all the time. That helps a LOT.

Angela said...

As an add on to what I wrote above:

I can draw well, but I can't draw if the reason for the drawing is prep for a painting I'm too excited to get to the painting part to take the time for a well-drawn picture...and it doesn't seem to matter.

I'm not actually doing these drawings as an 'under-drawing', just doing them to better understand whatever it is that I'm going to paint. The paintings is actually done freehand and probably won't actually look like whatever I drew. I also don't usually draw out the whole paintings composition...I usually just draw single components of the main parts of it.

I just added this in to say that being able to draw skillfully isn't necessary for drawing to be useful. I think that just the act of TRYING to depict what's in front of you with a pencil on paper can make you notice things about it that you just wouldn't 'see' otherwise, no matter how much you looked at it. The information you get from it isn't at all dependent on how much inborn talent you have for drawing.

That's why biology students (of which I was once) are encouraged to sketch in their field journals when they're out studying something - no one cares about their drawing skills, its just accepted that they'll notice more if they try to sketch it than if they only write about it.

Unknown said...

Hi ALL - I'm back and have just read your comments (more like conversation). Your experiences and ideas about drawing are nearly encyclopaedic -thank you!! Very diverse and instructive.
I have a rather intense formal education in drawing although I always wanted to spend more time painting. At one point, a critic told me to stick to drawing and forget painting. But, that wasn't my goal or desire. I continue to sketch but not as much anymore because I spend so much time painting instead. However, I've always felt that learning to draw is foundational to learning to paint well. I'm probably wrong about that since no blanket statement can ever be correct, but there is some truth in it. Thanks so much for another lively discussion!!

Mary Paquet said...

I especially relate to the comments by Hallie and Pam. However, I realize that I draw more from objects and life than from imagination. Drawing helps me know the subject. Somehow, I would feel I was cheating with my art if I did not draw my own images, so I do, even though I find drawing a challenge, and a traced picture would be far more perfect.

That said, one of my best mornings of the week is drawing class. I draw almost daily.

I wish I were like my granddaughter, who at 15 draws many wonderful pieces from imagination, and is equally at home with realism.

Kaylyn Munro said...

I draw because I discovered at some point that the right side of my brain is actually located in the ends of my finger where the grip the pencil. Without a pencil in hand, I am not really thinking.

This true whether I am drawing as a tool for seeing or for discovering the design and detailing for a building. (I am an architect in my professional life, an artist in my real life.)

Unknown said...

Hi MISS - thank you!

Hi Mary - your grandaughter must be very talented! Keep up the drawing :-)

Hi Kaylyn - you have a fascinating combination of careers that would keep a pencil in your hand all the time! Wonderful.