Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Love of Drawing is the Root of Many Things

New England Coast, sepia chalk on rose gray paper, 12.25 x 16.5, Jan Blencowe, copyright 2012

It's good to go back to your roots. That which is basic to your craft, fundamental, essential and foundational will always be important to the work you are currently doing. For an artist there will never be a time when drawing is not important. A true artist is a student of art throughout her whole life.

In that spirit, that art spirit, my friend Claudia Post and I are meeting on Wednesdays, for art studies. On these days we will go back to the roots of our profession, literally back to the drawing board.

We will be exploring drawing mediums, papers, still life, figure work and possibly some new mediums as well. When the weather gets nicer we may venture outside to draw from nature.

This is what we set up for our first study...

We had been looking at the still life work of Soren Emil Carlsen (1853-1932) and finding great inspiration in his quiet, contemplative but powerful still life work.

"The Samovar"
29" x 27"
Oil on Canvas
c. 1920 (Courtesy of New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut)

"Study in Grey"
34" x 38"
Oil on Canvas
(Dallas Museum of Art)

Here I am working from the set up and below is Claudia Post working from her vantage point....

Take a look at our drawings on the drawing boards, see mine way over to the left, and notice how differently we have approached the work. That's because though both Claudia and I have excellent training in our backgrounds we have been trained in two completely different, but equally respected and legitimate,  drawing traditions!

Claudia's training comes out of what is known as the classical tradition. This tradition is linear, (the emphasis is on line), it is balanced and carefully composed. My training, and preferred style, is the Romantic tradition which is painterly and relies on value masses (as opposed to lines) and emphasizes loose, broad strokes. 

Take a look at our drawings of the very same subject and see if you can see the difference....

Claudia is carefully building her drawing with lines, including using parallel lines to indicate areas of shadow. She sharpens her charcoal and works with a very delicate touch. Note that we worked on these drawings for the exact same amount of time!

After a very quick use of line to place the objects I turn my charcoal on it's side for broad strokes to lay in values, use my charcoal stick blunt, not sharpened and pull out the lights with a kneaded eraser. This process mimics the "ragging out" technique I use when painting.

I think it's easy to see the difference in the linear and painterly approaches!!  Both are beautiful and will yield different but wonderful results.

As the sun encroached on our easels we set up another small still life in another part of the studio and began a second project.

By now I'm certain you can guess whose is whose!!

My painterly drawing, using charcoal powder and vine charcoal on steel gray Canson paper.

This is Claudia's more linear drawing. Notice how much detail she is able to capture in the paint brushes!!

To which tradition, classical or romantic do you belong???  This is actually a very important question for artists to answer. Knowing how you fit into the family of artists and to what branch of the art family tree you belong helps you appreciate your own unique way of working and helps you focus on the areas of painting that are most important to you. Next time you're in a museum and viewing paintings ask yourself which tradition you think the artist belonged to. 

Next week we will be continuing to develop that first still life set up so you will be able to see how both of us bring our works to a finish.

1 comment:

A.Decker said...

I couldn't agree more: "returning" to drawing is always a good thing. Gets me going when nothing else will.
I'm not formally trained so I didn't know it came down to one of two approaches, but I definitely work more in the Classical vein. I've felt the urge to try the Romantic way, by coming across it in my reading, but it just didn't feel natural. I love to outline stuff!
You both have engaging pictures going and I'll be checking in to see how it goes.
Plus, thanks for showing the Carlsens. I'll have to look for "Study in Grey" next time I'm at the DMA.