Sunday, January 10, 2016

Drawing as Basic Skill

These drawings from today have nothing to do with art.  The ones above are what I would call thinking on paper.  A friend texted me after she saw the water bottle drawing that I posted the other day;  she said she wanted one but with the animal facing inward.  Puzzled, I wrote back and asked if she wanted a water bottle, and if so, to tell me materials, etc.  But she told me that she had thought the water bottle holder was a small dog carrier, sort of like a newborn baby front carrier.  I looked back at my drawing and immediately saw what she was seeing-- and it DID suggest a pet carrier (and I then noticed that the whole design was based on the principle of one of those rubbery plastic little kid swings).  With a few modifications, I was able to design the pet carrier in a way I would never have thought of had I started out to design one.  I love how my friend's creative leap sparked the whole design.  
After texting back and forth with my friend and sending her a photo of the sketches, I put those aside until later, when she is able to send me measurements so I can make a mock-up.  Meanwhile, I needed to go buy replacements for three of our pathetic ancient lampshades.  I didn't feel like carrying the lampshades with me to the store, so I made careful drawings of the important details.  I could have snapped a phone picture, but photographs aren't as useful for communicating mechanical details as line drawings are.  I've illustrated lots of sets of directions, and line drawings always do it best :  the abstract possibilities of pen are great for leaving out the extraneous and focusing on the essential details.

For the above reasons I believe drawing should be taught to everyone, as it used to be, as a basic life skill like writing and reading, rather than being set aside as a subset of Art that only the Talented are capable of learning.


  1. Hi Gwen, I really enjoy this blog. I like how you tackle drawing nearly anything in your vacinity and I feel inspired by it. You've hit a note for me here with this post. You may not be surprised if you remember my thesis at WWC about art and learning. I am still fasinated by the role of the creative act in our lives and have renewed my 2-D making process as of this last fall. I still have unresolved questions about what is art, how it and the practice of making it impacts everything...and yes, drawing should be encouraged as basic life skill, and not as only a skill of the artist. I love that idea, but also want to see art not as something removed from everyday life and still think that the line between practical drawing whether it be for communicating something or discovering through really looking in order to draw, and 'art' is a grey blurry line, very dependent on the maker and beholder. One question surfaces for me; I wonder if drawing was a more widely developed skill in the masses, maybe the general idea of what is art would shift as well. maybe we wouldn't elevate pure representation as much, rather the ability of an artist to communicate their ideas/interpretation. Anyway, thanks for the provoking post and a chance to process my thoughts here.

    1. Hi Laura! Of course I remember your senior project out in the garden, and I also remember walking with you and Kelcey and a few others from Pienza to Montepulciano (with a brief interval in a van) and your drawing with clay in your journal! As to your question one result of drawing becoming more available to everyone would probably be a lessening of the grip of commodification and marketing on art and ,as you suggest, more of a focus on art as communication and expression using whatever means works. There is no doubt that there is a mystery and magic to seeing well enough to draw representationally; but it isn't a priesthood. Drawing is one of the first things children do, until they learn that they are unable to. Sad that our culture keeps alive that myth.

    2. Yes! And I so enjoy children's drawings and watching them draw as well. You are right, many children up to adults at some point are either too hard on themselves and get frustrated or the feedback from others is too harsh to make it worth their effort to keep trying. I think it is a combination of encouragement from others and self determination to work on this skill, like so many other things in life, that makes a difference. What do you say to a child when they are frustrated and feel like they can't draw well enough?

  2. Sometimes it helps to draw along with the child, saying "I am seeing this and drawing it this way" and encouraging the child to follow along. Sometimes it seems better to just be attentive and acknowledge that s/he is having trouble seeing or making up something. I don't have a definitive answer! We live in an image-saturated society, so it sometimes helps to show the child more abstract art or art that isn't so carefully articulated so that the child sees there are other ways to draw besides in a realistic manner. Artists such as Picasso , Paul Klee, Chagall have done good examples of work that is more expressive than realistic.