|Leah by Patricia Watwood, pencil on toned paper,
18 x 14, 2011.
I have just finished two big projects. Foremost, my show Myths and Individuals
opened at the end of October at Saint Louis
University Museum of Art. In two months the show will open for it's New York
City venue at The Forbes Galleries. As soon as I came home, I had to finish a new painting for the ACOPAL
exhibit at the Butler Institute of American Art--which runs Dec 18, 2011 through Feb 27, 2012. I promise to tell you more about that
in my next post, but here's my review for the last ACOPAL exhibition
So, here I am, between projects,
and in that place my painter friends and I call "Post Paint-em'
Depression." Whenever you are
completely finished with a body of work, a show, or a big project, all the
adrenaline and deadline pressure is gone, and you are left with an empty studio
and the inevitable self-examination of where you are on your artistic
journey. It's not always a
comfortable place to be.
What I like to do in this time
of "in between" is to go back to the beginning. For me, it starts with drawing. I agree with Ingres that "drawing is the probity of art,"
and that all artistic investigation can begin from this simple touchstone. It doesn't get more pared down than a
pencil and a blank piece of paper. This is a great place to reacquaint myself with my artistic core--where I
started, where I've come, and what I've learned along the way. The goal is to clarify what is most
important in making art. For me,
this also means working with a model and drawing from life. I don't set any other boundaries for
myself. In fact, I like to check
my more conceptual and intellectual ideas at the door, and allow myself some
unstructured, non-goal-oriented time to just explore with my pencil in hand.
And, while drawing with my model last week, I started a long
conversation with myself about "What is
drawing, anyway?" (You'd think after 15 years, I'd have worked that out, but
really it's complicated!)
||Andrew by Patricia Watwood, pencil and white
chalk on toned paper, 16 x 12, 2011.
I thought about the many different styles of drawing
with different priorities, and then asked, "How do I discern what is the most
essential characteristics of my
drawing?" By what standard shall I
decide when my drawing is done? Is
correct? Is good or bad? Every artist determines their own
answers to these questions. Drawing is an amazing discipline precisely because it is at the same
moment very simple, and infinitely deep.
It is instinctual and open-ended, and also very conceptual.
To help answer my questions, I
think one question: "What would Rubens do?" Rubens is one of my favorite draftsmen--so personal and affectionate,
combining form and structure with energy and gesture. Gorgeous contour, and enough value to show form and light,
but not a tonalist by an means. He
is pretty nearly perfect as a master teacher if you are looking for one to follow. So, I looked at Rubens and was
reminded of his lovely balance between contour and interior volume. I saw how careful description of
gesture creates mood and emotional connection. I saw how his painstaking care in rendering a facial
expression and subtle forms marry integrity and excellence with the humility
and mystery of nature.
|This drawing by Rubens shows how deftly he
could create with just pencil on paper.
So, while I am drawing, getting
myself into a muddle, trying to dig my way out, I will ask "WWRD?--What Would Rubens Do?" and the Old Master will give me a hand out of the mire.
P.S. Here are a couple books I've
been poring over:
Paul Rubens: The Drawings (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series)
Classical Drawing: Essential Techniques from Inside the Atelier by Juliette Aristides
For more painting instruction from Patricia, check out her latest DVD, Figure Painting: Realistic Skin Tone.