Communication & Discovery
Through drawing, artists learn how to explore subject matter in new ways and to greater depths
Job study. Opposite page: Raven
Every drawing has a life of its own. From the second we touch graphite to paper, a drawing begins to flow and become alive. As draftspersons, it is our responsibility to guide this new life to its almost predetermined conclusion, much like the banks of a river lead water to the sea. We need to respect the works we are creating and allow them to grow into exactly what it is they were meant to be before the process of drawing ever began.
Our practice of drawing is one of communication and discovery. As we seek to communicate our experience of the subject at hand, we inevitably discover and experience said subject in new ways and to greater depths. This is the joy and adventure of drawing! We get to explore the world around us. By looking closer and more intently than others may look, we also get to enjoy a secret intimacy with the world available only to those who have had cause to slow down and be observant and present in the moment. This closeness with the visual and material world isn’t exclusive to artists, but we have been given a unique propensity and set of tools for investigating deeply those things that surround us. This leads to an increased possibility of appreciating them richly as well.
All art is about speaking, sharing and communication…to one degree or another. When communicating we must know the language we are speaking if we wish to be able to share thoughts and ideas in a way that is edifying for our audience. There is no difference within the context of the visual arts. Through the cultivating of technical skill and understanding of different mediums and methodologies (language), we artists gain the tools we need to depict our experience of reality, humanity and truth in a way that hopefully affects others in a positive manner.
Additionally, it is important to understand the power and emotive potential of whatever medium we choose to work in. Drawing is not necessarily a study or preparatory work, which precedes a painting, sculpture, etc. Drawing is a discipline and form of its own with a unique ability to convey and communicate mystery, reality and the human experience. For me, something dreamlike occurs when I’m viewing or making a drawing. As the element of color (hue and chromatic intensity) is largely removed in most drawings (speaking of graphite or charcoal drawings specifically), they somehow take on a more mystical and/or mysterious presence; seemingly less connected or grounded in the physical realm than say paintings or sculptures. This feeling and opinion about drawing is, I admit, my own and subjective, but as visual artists we should be thinking about such things. Understanding how certain types of mediums make us “feel” allows us more freedom and possibility for intentionality in regard to what type of creative tool we might use to convey a given subject, point or experience. Put simply, the more understanding we have the better we can communicate. The desire to communicate leads us to discovery and new discoveries initiate new impulses to communicate. This is the cyclical life of an artist!
Discovery about the surrounding world changes us from the inside out and, without exception, affects our work and is what causes our particular “voice” or “style” to emerge. Style is not so much a matter of mark making or physical usage of a medium as it is something more real and honest that begins to come forth in our work as we develop and progress as draftspersons and painters. It happens naturally, not through mimicry, although the influence of other artists upon us is inevitable and needed. It is important that our priorities and motivations for creating are deeply essential and are concerned with reflecting our creative nature. For instance, goals for our work should not sound like, “I want to be able to paint like so-and-so,” but, “Hopefully with enough practice and time I will gain a higher level of understanding and be able to share that understanding through my art.”
Do you see how one focuses on others, comparing yourself to others, while conversely, the latter realizes that this journey of art and creativity is a personal one that has more to do with discovering our “true self ” and the nature of things than it does with making a nice painting. When discovery remains the focus of our efforts and work, then in turn we are not as focused on what others are doing or on being “better than” someone else. “Better than” thinking may be useful in a market economy and in regards to making money or a temporary sense of satisfaction or something, but it has little to do with what the artist journey is really about: precise communication and
discovery on both personal and societal levels. Discoveries through creating are largely the end goal and with each one that occurs we take another step down the path of realizing our personal, full potential and even, possibly, our role and reason for being.
What you and I make matters. We are constantly adding to the world through the creation of our works. It is my opinion that we should contribute something beautiful, nourishing and true as often as we can. This is no small task and it will require each of us to work diligently to grow in skill and increase our ability to impact the world through painting, drawing, etc. We are each doing our own small part. In the end that’s all we can do and hopefully, through our combined effort and intentionality, we can make a difference.
There are many ways to approach the practice of drawing and each artist needs to find the methodology that works best for them. Experiment, draw constantly, try different mediums and methods and over time you will realize that somehow along the way (almost without trying or noticing) you have arrived at a style and process that is unique to you and useful in sharing your experience of the world. I hope through your work you are able to communicate effectively and that your journey of art and discovery would be filled with joy.