A long time
ago I read a quote from artist Nathan Goldstein and it has always stayed with
me. He implied that artists are truly artists once they learn something and
then forget it. I took that to mean I didn't have to study too hard in college
since I was supposed to just let it eventually disappear from my memory
(kidding!), but now I think I really understand what he meant: You can't
micromanage your art.
|Railroad Tracks by Bennett Vadnais, oil on canvas, 25 x 30, 2008.
learn a technique and incorporate it into your process, you've got to be
confident enough to just go with it and let muscle memory and all that prior
practice carry you through. If you don't, the results are so tight—and it
shows—or you feel like you are in a straitjacket the entire time you work, and
what kind of joy is there in that?
At first I
thought Goldstein was just talking about techniques like brushwork—things that
don't really have steps and formulas—but now I realize that you have to learn
and forget things like perspective drawing, too. There is a lot to remember
with linear perspective. It can be as simple as creating a vanishing point, but
can become way more complicated with two-point perspective and three-point
perspective. The only way to follow Goldstein's advice is to really learn this
stuff, and practice it so that perspective drawing becomes second nature. And that will happen.
But I've got to commit myself to working through the steps so that my
perspective drawing works every time, and eventually I'll be able to look at a
scene and evaluate and execute it with my linear perspective techniques without
|Roman Forum by Bennett Vadnais, graphite drawing on paper, 10 x 15.25, 2004.
me on this path is knowing that there are ways to learn a skill and practice
this way. And when it comes time to "let go," you can do so with confidence
knowing you've got that technique down. That's how it is with perspective
drawing. To really grasp the rudiments of linear perspective, you've got to
learn the formulas and approaches. Fortunately, there are resources like The Artist's Guide to Perspective and Perspective Made Simple, DVDs that were
tailor-made for you. They'll help you do the groundwork so that you can learn
what you need to know so well and eventually you won't need to "know" it at all—your
hand will remember it. Enjoy!