Drawing is arguably the oldest form of visual art, but despite its long history, it still has the power to surprise. For example, the simple graphite pencil has been around for more than 200 years, but artists continue to find new methods of working with it. The fundamentals of drawing are relatviely few and straightforward, and yet they can take a lifetime to master.
Recently I was in Savannah, Georgia, for the Savannah College of Art & Design's Art Materials Trade Show, where I observed some students and drawing faculty buzzing with drawing ideas in reaction to a few vendors and products in particular at the show's riverside venue. Downstairs the Natural Pigments booth had teachers and students interested in genuine, historic pigments hovering around its fascinating glass jars of raw color and its tubes and pans of mixed paints.
Upstairs, General Pencil's wide assortment of charcoal, graphite, and other pencils drew a crowd–their free samples didn't hurt, either. The Hahnemühle fine-artist papers drew appreciative oohs and aahs from students, even if they had to buy fewer of the precious sheets than they would have liked. Art Calendar was giving away ramen noodle packs to folks willing to stop by their booth and learn about their art-business news publication. They often had a line of people waiting to spin their carnival-like wheel for a chance to win that student food staple–or a free subscription to their valuable monthly magazine. Excellent painting and printmaking surfaces from Ampersand, fine pastels from Sennelier, affordable quality watercolors from Da Vinci, and superlative brushes from (a different) Da Vinci kept the show floor full of students and teachers–especially after noon. It seems that neither local artists nor young art students feel motivated to shop for art supplies first thing Saturday morning. Blame it on the Savannah nightlife.
Freedom of Teach's desktop-sized anatomy figures gained the attention of a number of drawing instructors and envious students, and even intrigued some neighboring booth workers. I wrote up a small item about their reasonably priced and very accurate polyurethane sculptures for the Fall issue of Drawing, which hits newsstands on November 11. The founder of the company, Andrew Cawrse, made his first figure purely to more thoroughly learn the human body, so he could become a better artist. Impressed friends asked him for a copy of his figure, and the project quickly became more involved. Cawrse subsequently attended dissection classes alongside fourth-year medical students, and he hired an Olympic-level athlete to pose for him for the accurate rendering of the body's outside. The result of all his research and careful craftsmanship is his desktop figure, which he sells in three guises depending on the user's needs. His was one of the more interesting stories floating around SCAD's event.
An equally great thing about SCAD's annual expo is that it offers the visitor a chance to see what's cooking in the studios of the school's students and faculty. SCAD is serious about draftsmanship–line drawing and contour drawing and figure drawing alike are stressed for all students whether they are going into film, fashion design, or fine arts. Each major requires several drawing classes, and a Foundations Studies section has just become its own school. One Foundations faculty member I had a chance to catch up with was Jesse Payne. This artist has a lot going on right now, including his usual load of classes and his young family. In November and December he will serve as an apprentice to the masterful painter Odd Nerdrum in Nerdrum's Norway studio, and Payne has a show of his own work opening in March. I am hoping to put together an article in Drawing that will use his Grotesque Head Project–the probable subject of Payne's upcoming exhibition–as a launch pad. In this project, Payne uses Leonardo da Vinci's sketches of grotesque heads or caricatures as the basis for fully rendered figures. Payne's technique is admirable, and his daring in completing the thoughts of Leonardo is arresting. I’ll be catching up with him this winter to see how the project has come along and what he has learned from Leonardo after studying the Old Master's lines for so many hours. For more information on Payne, visit his website at www.jessepayne.com.
Check back with this blog often–I won't always have lengthy reports to offer, but as soon as an interesting piece of artwork, drawing approach, or exhibition hits my desk or my email inbox, I'll share it. Nearly every day I see something that keeps me excited about covering draftsmanship; I'll try to bring any interested blog visitors along for the ride.
Until next time, keep drawing.