Posted 4th February 2006
In my recentreassessment of how I was doing and whereI was going wrong I decided that I was going to start somenew series of features, eyes, noses and mouths. This is to get me away from self portraits, awayfrom the psychological over-involvement they seem to entail, away from getting too involved with tryingto create finished drawings too soon, and to put the enjoyment back into drawing for me.
So here’s the first four eyes (no pun intended,) two copies and two from life.
I’m doing some copies of old, (and not so old,) masters in all my series. I really do think its invaluableexperience. It takes you out of your own style for a while and lets you see how some of the best artists of theirday have solved the same problems and challenges you face when you’re learning to draw and paint.And lets face it, if you’re any kind of artist at all, you’ll be learning throughout your entire life (isn’t thatpart of the fun?) so I hope that I never get too big for my boots to do this kind of study.
I do think you learn the most from working from life. Its a tougher challenge all round. When you copy a drawingby somebody else, all the real challenges have already been faced and solved – how to simplify the shapes, thetones, what to leave in or take out – whereas when you’re working from life you have to figure all that hard stuffout for yourself. I think this is why people sometimes say that its easier to copy than it is to draw from life,and I guess I agree with that.
Part of what I’m trying to do here, as I said on mybackground page when this site first wentup, is to send myself to my own little art college and to learn all the stuff they glossed over or totally ignoredwhen I did my degree fifteen or twenty years ago (the one year of it I completed anyway).
Now, if you went to a master’s atelier back in theRenaissance, or right through the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries come to think of it,you’d be expected to sit drawing copies of other masters’ drawings for a very long time. Then whenyou got that right, you’d be expected to work from plaster casts for an even longer time. If you eventuallygot that right, you might possibly, if you were very good, be allowed somewhere near a live model.
Now I freely admit, I haven’t the patience to spend the next two years exclusively copying old masters,and two more after that drawing plaster casts. I know that if I did I’d be a much better painter,at least in terms of technique, but I wantto be a portrait painter again soon. I’m getting bored of what I do for a living now, it keepsme from drawing and paintingall day and that frustrates the hell out of me, so it seems to me the best way to pay the mortgageand get to draw and paint all day isto learn fast! And you know, this is the twenty-first century and everyone is in a hurry thesedays, everyone wants it all on a plate and yesterday, please. I guess I’m no exception.
But at least I’ve realised that I’ve been trying to push ahead too quickly lately, and that because of that I’ve gotmyself into trouble.
So what this series of eye drawings, and the other series I’ll be working on, represent is me realising that Ineed to take the time to get this right. Twenty hands, twenty eyes, twenty noses, twenty mouths, and a lot ofdrawings of people in cafes before I let myself near a proper attempt at a portrait.
I don’t have all the answers, maybe I’m wrong even about this. I can but try.
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