Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The Language of Drawing
The page at top is a scan of some recent sketches I did from photos of some White-throated Sparrows. Though we rarely get them in our backyard they have arrived in Philadelphia in the last week and, as of a couple of days ago, in our backyard as well.
I did a couple field sketches. But they flushed easily and I didn't get far with the field sketches. So I decided to do this work from photos just to familiarize myself again with the structure of them and other sparrows. After all they will be THE birds of the next 4-5 months!
Drawing them, the recent field sketches I've done, a recent conversation with a birder who watched me sketch at a local hawk watch and then asked about field sketching, and finally the reproduction of a tremendous Goya drawing in a recent New York Times article on a show of Spanish drawings all led me to this post.
About 25 years ago I ran across a book that talked about drawing as a part of a general education in the US over 100 years ago. It was just considered a basic and necessary skill. A far cry from today. I never read the book and may be slightly misremembering it. But I think my memory is basically correct. Drawing at one time was just much more important than it is now.
And yet.... I love drawing. Even when I was an abstract painter I loved drawing. But it is an odd thing. It changes the 3-dimensional world into two dimensions. It also seized the world in a way. Seizes it and puts it down. In that sense I think it may be almost an atavistic human impulse.
I think what got me thinking about this more than anything else was: 1, the Goya drawing. It's the best that drawing can be. And 2, the conversation with the hawk watcher who was interested in my field sketches at the feeder below the hawkwatching platform. He mentioned Urban Sketchers, a site I've looked at a few times, as well as a site devoted to sketches in Moleskine sketchbooks, a type of sketchbook I often use. That reminded me of the Sketching in Nature blog that I often notice in the Art section of the Nature Blog Network. And then there is this very odd New York Times blog on learning to draw. The odd thing is not the blog, but it's location at the New York Times. Still it's one more example of a seeming increase in interest in drawing.
Basically what I saw was the very highest type of art, as in the Goya, as well as the broad appeal of drawing as in all of the various web sites. It looks like there is almost a Renaissance of drawing, especially of sketching from life, whether it be people, cityscapes, nature, birds or whatever.
I could never prove this. And since I'm not part of any of the blogs and websites I mentioned I don't really have a good feel for it. I do spend a lot of time at the Wildlife Art section of birdforum.net as I've mentioned many times. There is a great appreciation of birds drawn from life there. But all in all I'm just not part of any such movement and so all I can do is speak from an outsider's viewpoint.
But it's hard not to notice this seeming widespread desire to draw and particularly to draw from life. That strikes me as very good and very welcome. I think it's the foundation of good art. And that Goya reminds me of just how exceptionally good drawing can be.
Like music it's a sign of the best in human culture. The more of it the better.