Saturday, May 05, 2012

Back to Basics

When I worked in Financial Services I worked with a team of computer programmers building systems that my team and I had designed. On one particular project a contract programmer was retained to provide additional expertise. He was a big guy with long hair and a long moustache called Max. He rode a big motorbike. As I got to know him I realised that he was, in fact, an extremely capable and experienced systems designer. I was intrigued to know why he had taken on such a basic programming contract. His answer was that he had a rule that one in every 5 five contracts he took on should be basic programming. That way he could keep his skills up-to-date and maintain a high degree of competence. He could design good systems but also knew how to build them well.

I want to be like that, but in art not computing (obviously).

During the Winter months it was usually too cold and wet to stand around sketching, and I knew I wouldn’t be going to the London studio very often, if at all. So I spent a lot of time in libraries, museums and art galleries. I wanted to use the time to learn more about making art and to develop my own skills. As I looked at and read about art, I became aware of my own shortcomings - particularly with regard to drawing.

Now was the opportunity to do something about it.

I decided to teach myself to draw better.

I’ve read quite a few “How To Draw” books - the best one of which was “Basic Drawing: How to Draw What You See” by Charles Williams.

I can draw reasonably well sometimes and I can produce expressive pictures. I don’t try to reproduce what I see, just to reference and interpret it. I don’t really see the point of being able to reproduce an exact image of something - I might as well take a photo. But the enjoyment of making marks on paper covered up the fact that I couldn’t always draw what I wanted to or in the way that I wanted to - and that affected my ability to make pictures and sculptures. I’d noticed this in a serious way some months before when I struggled over and over again to get the proportions right on a sculpture of a figure I was making.

But the best thing I’ve found is to look at art in the Museum and in books and to copy it. I’ve photocopied lots of pictures from books, downloaded loads of Google Images and been through my own photos. Each week I select a couple of dozen and then set about copying them. Once I feel I’ve captured the image reasonably well I move on to draw it in different ways using different media.

I’m not following a course but as I go along the next steps become clear and so I focus my attention on those. I’m being very self-disciplined about it - which I can be when I want to! Most of the sketches are pretty awful and the rest are really terrible - but I’m keeping everything so I can monitor the process.

It’s absorbing and enjoyable and I have a lot of work to show for it, which is satisfying.

It’s not for public display though.

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