In Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Invitation to a Beheading, the
pencil is described as the “enlightened descendant of the index
finger.” That sounds about right, especially considering the pride of
place that artists often afford their pens, brushes, and pencils. For
many artists, however, the jumping-off point for creativity can also be
the surface on which a subject is rendered.
Seeing a painting or drawing progress from beginning to end allows the
finished artwork to be understood as a series of discrete steps leading
to a virtuosic whole. During a recent tour of the Grand Central Academy
(GCA), in New York City, I observed instructor Joshua LaRock developing
a drawing of Michelangelo's marble sculpture Dying Slave, based on a cast bust of the master's sculpture.