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WHAT IS DRAWING? An absolute must have skill.

WHAT IS DRAWING? An absolute must have skill.

Article by Ronnie Rayner Larter

Drawing is the expression of form on a plane surface, and although colour can have very expressive qualities, I personally feel a well-executed drawing in charcoal or graphite can have more expressive qualities than a rainbow of pigments.

If you stop and think for a moment, you will find many of the old masters’ drawings used very little colour in their studies and they were often more highly charged emotionally than their paintings. Why? Because of the expressive use of line and shading.

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Woman in red and black by Jean Francois de Neufforge, 1700s

Most of the masters used only three colours; mostly black, red and white. The lack of colour forced them to express their work in form only, thereby, creating a highly expressive piece of work that was pleasing to the senses. Fine Art schools today have dropped that priority, but in the old school it was the first skill a student had to learn.

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Christ’s Figure by Leonardo da Vinci

What then is drawing? It’s the expression of one’s inner feelings, a means of communication, a special language in line and tone. It’s an activity that’s as natural to mankind as breathing and eating. The word ‘draw’ means to ‘pull’ and that is exactly what the artist is doing, quite literally ‘pulling’ the pencil over paper to make marks.

To the man in the street the pencil is like a magic wand where the artist seems to have some hidden power when he or she magically creates an almost prefect form of a human figure, animal, flower or landscape. The observer is filled with awe and wonder, even to the point of wanting to own the drawing, thereby becoming collectors. To understand why a person is moved by the expression of form is a difficult one to answer, but it does seem to have a strange and sometimes strong power over us.

As artists of realism we need to learn to draw perfectly, but not with cold accuracy to the point of losing any sense of emotional qualities. We must be well trained by way of getting the proportions correct, the perspective right, light and shade accurately placed etc., skills that helps us to create realism, yet the emotional quality must come from the way line and tone is rendered. Lines used in hatching and shading needs to be highly charged to create expressive marks that please and satisfies the eye. They must have an aesthetic quality that sings to the senses.

The Drawing Academy is one excellent route to take to develop drawing skills that trains the eye to see through painstaking practice and study of drawing techniques. Learning to draw should be seen in a similar way a singer trains his voice; giving attention to every note and chord. The singer learns to control his vocal cords, even to the most subtle differences of tone and sound that can express his or her innermost feelings through music and words. The same applies to an artist who wishes to draw realism. How can he or she draw accurately unless drawing skills are finely tuned. The ability to draw well and to express our innermost feelings through line and tone would be severely dampened. Not only that, when it comes to painting realism, drawing skills is an absolute must.

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Categorized: Art Articles

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Susan says:

    Ron, thank you for your article. I like what you say about drawing: “It’s the expression of one’s inner feelings, a means of communication, a special language in line and tone.”

    • Ronnie Rayner Larter says:

      Thank you, Susan, for reading and for commenting. As you say, it is a form of communication with a language of its own. One can understand why drawing and painting has therapeutic value to those who suffer from anxiety and depression and find it difficult to communicate for one reason or another. Art can be very powerful in their lives.

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