Monday, August 12, 2013

Drawing Lessons in Amsterdam, Things I Don't Do and Why

If you're planning to take some drawing lessons in Amsterdam, it's handy to know what techniques and ideas are available with your teachers of choice.

Perhaps it's fair to begin with the techniques and styles that I personally do not cover in my drawing lessons just to make sure expectations are correct.  I will try to give the reasons behind some of the choices in my drawing techniques so far and hopefully it all makes sense and gives you something to consider in your own artistic development.

The first style I do not practice, or endorse in my drawing lessons is that of the fast poses or ultra quick sketches.  I have a couple of reasons for this.  First of which is the fact that I'm very slow when it comes to drawing.  The moment I speed things up, results start to suffer badly to my eyes. 

There is also something contradictory about trying to draw as quickly as you can.  If you are looking for hobbies involving speed, then you would be well advised to steer clear of drawing and painting, which most masters will agree, are all about slowing down.  If you stick to the speedy approach, especially in the beginning, you will rob yourself of the chance to develop your eye for detail.  Your visual sensibility will not change and you'll keep churning out the same doodles year after year.

I have seen this in some painting acquaintances of mine, which only after 25 years of painting (a lifetime indeed) they discovered there is such thing as lights and darks, and how to see them correctly!!  It took me about 2 weeks to discover this and another 6 months to a year to practice it and understand what it really means. 

However, if you put a time pressure to this practice, the depth of your understanding will be very superficial indeed and your art will show it.

See by comparison what the most well-regarded academic schools apply during their drawing lessons.  One of the techniques is called long poses.  In long poses, the same model poses in the same light and the same position not for hours or days, but indeed for weeks.  The students analyze the outline of the form, the way shadows turn around limbs, and every day, further nuance is discovered and reflected on their work.

Let's make no apologies here, this kind of drawing lesson is not the most exciting and to someone walking into a room in dead silence where everyone is creating the same perfect rendering for weeks on end, it would seem more like an autistic clinic than an art school.  However there is a purpose to this, which I mentioned above.  Developing visual acuteness and sensibility to a level above what other people can see.

I have engaged in such long studies myself and found them to be invaluable:

The second type of drawing that I do not practice or teach in my drawing lessons is the ink line drawing style.  The reason is I get extremely nervous about making a line that I cannot delete later.  I have tried and every time the result is somewhere between the pathetic and the irrelevant. 

Contrary to my comments on the previous style of fast sketches, the art of line in ink is one that has only shrank in popularity, including it's availability in drawing lessons, and which can be an exquisite form of drawing in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing.  I wish I can learn this myself.

Given the fact that most of my studies and practice have been to try and achieve realism, which is an excellent way to learn how to draw and in turn paint, I also know little about illustrative type of drawing.  By this I mean the type that you can make without necessarily looking at the subject.  this would include cartoon drawing, inventing characters or settings, and basically doodling to a high level all from your head.

This last area is one that has really caught my attention lately and which I would love to include in my drawing lessons.  The reason for this is that I see illustrators as people who have a highly developed visual intelligence, which is not so much perceptive but perhaps more mental or imaginative.  They can dream up a subject and then render it realistically any way they want.  I envy that capacity and indeed wonder how it may be developed.

They also work at speed, which I criticized so much at the beginning of this article, but their speed is the cherry on top of years of dedicated studies of form and light and therefore they have a license for it.

Good illustrators are in a word for me, the monarchs of the visual arts, able to compose, draw and manage light any way they want and do so in relatively short periods of time.  Whenever one of them breaks out of their usual work and produces fine art, he or she is usually met with great acclaim.

I'm sure that academic drawing lessons is part of all their education and therefore a valuable tool for all of us to use!

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