Why Draw?: Because It Leads to Something…Drawing Is Subversive

October 28, 2013

131020_BBruceLeft: Early sketch from this life drawing sesson. We'd warmed up with 1-minute and 5-minute sketches and went on to a longer pose of 10 minutes. This is on a 14 x 20 inch sheet of Stonehenge, so the figure is about 12 inches tall, and still I didn't have enough space for the feet!

There are a gazillion reasons to draw, but I like to focus on the simple ones. I can go on an on about my love of drawing but sometimes images say it all.

The images in today's post are in chronological order. They were all made at the gesture drawing co-op at the Art Academy on October 20, 2013.

I started with small gesture sketches using colored pencil and graphite (none of those got scanned). They were the warm up. Then I moved on to one of my favorite pens, the Faber-Castell Pitt Artists' Calligraphy Pen (used in the first two sketches here). I like to dive in with ink.


Left: This sketch was made in about 10 minutes. It was supposed to be a 15-minute pose, but I spent the first few minutes starting a very large drawing (upper left-hand corner) and a minute rethinking what I should do when it was clear that wasn't going to work.) Then I started over and did this sketch with a Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy Pen and added shading with a Pentel Color Brush. (Approx. 8 inches tall and yes the foot is again off the page.)


But on the second drawing I added some shading with a Pentel Color Brush, fine point, watersoluble dye-based (fugitive) ink pen. And a no.10 round watercolor brush to add water.


Above: Final sketch of the day. It was meant to be a 25-minute sketch, but I actually finished in 20 minutes. Read about it below.

Then on the final drawing of the day I used the same brush pen and no. 10 round watercolor brush.

I was going to sketch in pencil. (If you click on the image to see an enlargement, look above the eye on the right just below the eyebrow. There you'll see a light pencil line peeking through my ink washes.) But the moment I put the pencil on the paper and made that line I knew I didn't want to spend 20 minutes with a pencil.

So I put the pencil down, picked up the brush pen, picked a new place to start (I restarted with the eye on the left) and sketched. 

The moment I put that brush pen to paper I knew everything was going to work. The sketch isn't perfect (I should have used the watercolor brush on the nose tip where it turns up, instead of the ink brush—but sometimes you just get so excited in the moment—touches like that remind us to SLOW DOWN, you have 25 minutes after all!).

To me however, everything about the sketch says adventure, and documents a series of decisions I made leading to the final sketch. Run this shadow out here, reserve this white space over here, experiment with ink strength when showing texture in the beard. 

There is a little bit that is cropped off the scan at the bottom. I have a bit more of the chest and shoulder in the actual drawing. There's a huge drop of ink there where I squeezed the pen while I was thinking, looking at the model's face and not the paper. I love that drop of ink and all the little water splatters that occurred when I reached over the large sheet of paper to my water source. There are also speckles on the page, spatters of ink, where I stroked the tip of the ink brush with my waterbrush so I could pick up some diluted ink. Sure, I should have used diluted ink on my waterbrush to lay in the upper lip line so it melded seamlessly with the form of the upper lip, and yes I waited too long and let the paper get too dry by the time I decided to darken the cheek on my right, to name just two more things. It's great to notice all those things and that's how we improve for the future.

But I'm happy with this sketch because all the care and attention I put into making decisions all evening long shows in this sketch.

Drawing led to something. It led to me taking risks, some of which actually paid off. It led to me observing more closely (so I could gather useful information which will help me the next time I sketch anything). 

Things happen when you draw. (And I don't just mean a release of endorphins.) Things bubble up inside of you that I can only describe as "questions." These are the types of questions many people stop asking when they are between 3 and 8 years old. Someone (or several someones) in their lives tells them not to look, tells thems it's rude to look. They tell you it's impolite to ask "those questions," that come up when you really look at something. These are questions that can't even be fully articulated; these questions even vary from individual to individual based on interest and focus.

Still, I believe these are essential questions all humans must ask. We need to really look before we are in a position to ask them. Drawing gives us a free-pass to "really look." (You might also think of this as being fully present.)

When truly great artists ask these questions and get them right we, the audience, respond not just to technique, composition, color, line, and obvious subject matter, but because we sense that something clear has been tapped. That's a great thing to reach for.

But the greatest thing about drawing is that you don't have to be a great artist to experience some of this. Each day you can reach for the answers to those questions your "elders" have always told you not to ask, and you can provide your own answer. And when you're done you can enjoy the process and the product of that effort. You can enjoy it alone, without anyone ever looking at your drawings. 

And even if your drawing didn't fully articulate what those answers were, didn't even get close to anything but the edges of those questions, you can still savor that experience. No one can take that experience away from you. Ever.

You'll bring that experience with you, out into the rest of your life, because now you'll always be looking. You'll understand there are questions that must be asked.

And you can have that experience again and again, every time you pick up a drawing implement.

Drawing is subversive. It leads to something—unimpeded questions, which all have answers if we are just curious enough to look.

    • Margo
    • October 29, 2013

    Profound. Just more reason to love putting pen or brush to the page.

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