Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Studying Drawing

It's been a long time since I've painted anything. I haven't been anywhere near a tube or pot of paint. That's because for some time (12 months, maybe? I've lost track) I've been teaching myself to draw better. That's pretty much all I've been doing - drawing.

During the cold winter months I've spent many happy hours standing in front of pictures in the Museum or hidden in a quiet corner of the Library going through art books - copying the work of other artists as a way of learning different styles, techniques and work practices.

Recently, I've worked my way through a massive text book titled "The Primacy of Drawing" by Deanna Petheridge, formerly Professor of Drawing at the Royal College of Art, London.
Let me tell you this about the book: it's MASSIVE. And I thoroughly enjoyed it ... most of it  ... OK, I skipped some parts. But it was interesting and surprisingly readable for an academic book.
I like academic books because they remind me of my time in University when I would spend hours reading, researching, making notes and sketching  ... sometimes even on the topic I was supposed to be working on. A big difference this time around is that I actually read the book. In University I had a notorious practice of reading the back cover and the inside flap of a book and thereby being able to give the impression of having read it.
This book places drawing at the heart of all art and visual thinking. It investigates the role of sketching and visualising as a key process - particularly in the early, exploratory stages of disciplines such architecture, design and engineering. This interested me because as well as copying other artists, I've also been copying drawings, plans and studies by fashion designers, architects and illustrators. (Look at the initial drawings of the architect Frank Gehry)
For me, the most interesting and relevant sections of the book, given what I am trying to achieve, included:
* the origins of drawing and the primacy of line
* the persistent cult of the sketch
* finished, autonomous and presentation drawings
and, my favourite,
* drawing as learning.

(I skipped over the section headed "the affective semiotics of design and composition". Obviously.)

Drawing has been important throughout history and this book contends that it remains important in an era of found objects, readymades, installations, video, digital and performance art.
For me, the combination of theory and practice together with commentary from artists themselves made this a very worthwhile read.

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