Sunday, July 23, 2006

I could use more of this

This has nothing to do with “focus,” but there’s an exhibition on in New York I wish I could see. It’s called Teaching America to draw: Instruction Manuals & Ephemera, 1794 to 1925.
Between 1820 and 1860, there were over 140,000 drawing manuals in circulation south of the border. Learning to draw was something people took seriously way back then. Now everyone thinks they have to draw like Leonardo (or at least have the potential) before they’ll pick up a pencil. This is a shame. I’ve been doing mediocre drawings for years and really enjoy it.
Betty Edwards says that most of us stop drawing in elementary school if we don’t think we’re doing it well. I think she’s right because I was better at drawing than my friends and classmates, and they’d all lost interest by junior high.
I’ve never had much interest in being a draftsperson though – life drawing bores me – but it’s useful for sketching out ideas, explaining things I can’t put into words, and just because it’s fun to draw. But I’ll admit I’m more of a cartoonist at heart than anything else. I’d rather look at a book of Saul Steinberg drawings any day than admire sketches done by the Old Masters – aside from Leonardo of course.
I think people underestimate their ability to learn to draw. Edwards believes that if you can write your name, you can draw. And why not? Before David started art college his skills were tentative. But it’s amazing how he’s developed his style and confidence by sketching ideas in his notebooks over the last three years. He only took one drawing class, so it’s necessity and practice that have propelled him forward. You can’t help improving if you keep on doing it.

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