Power to the Pencil

23 Jan 2013

With so much interest in plein air painting these days, it's easy to overlook how important drawing skills can be to the landscape painting artist. Fundamentally, drawing is both a way of seeing and a way of knowing a subject. If you can draw it, then you own it. It is in your visual library and can be recalled when needed. But the act and art of drawing goes much deeper than a mere recording process. For the artist, drawing is how we know the world. It is an expression of life and evidence of what we find relevant and recognize as beautiful. The ability to translate that appreciation of beauty into a beautiful drawing is a high art.

Dancer Tying Her Scarf by Edgar Degas, drawing.
Dancer Tying Her Scarf by Edgar Degas, drawing.
There is also something wonderful about the tactile sensation of a pencil or crayon dragging across a receptive paper surface. It is a feedback loop, and when one gets very accomplished at drawing techniques, there is a seductive pleasure in making the subtle variations of pressure resulting in the kind of rich tones that serve to create an image. It recalls the simple, untroubled pleasures of our easy drawings from childhood, when each mark we made was a new experiment and a revelation. Our first simple drawings thrilled us because they gave physical form to our imaginations, unfettered by adult expectations or rules of any kind. They were also the one thing that we could make that was truly our own.

We thank the gods for the humble No. 2 pencil--just holding it above a pristine piece of fine drawing paper still gives us that familiar feeling of empowerment and excitement about the worlds we might create.

Keep drawing! We would love to hear from you about your first drawing experiences and if they shaped the artist you've become today, so leave a comment below and please stop by The Artist's Road to read more in-depth articles and interviews with prominent artists.

--John & Ann


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shotwick wrote
on 26 Jan 2013 4:55 PM

When I was about three years old I enjoyed drawing a lot. I discovered that if you drew around the edge of something you got a good likeness - i loved to draw around my hand and colour it in. One day a friend of my mothers was visiting and she noticed me absorbed in drawing hands all over my page. She asked me " Can you draw a cat ? My pet cat was sleeping on the rug beside me so i lifted her onto  her side,  put her on a clean page and proceeded to draw around her!  My mother and her friend  were convulsed with laughter and I was extremely puzzled about why it was so funny. The experience however did not deter me from a love of art which I still enjoy sixty years later !

mifasola1 wrote
on 26 Jan 2013 7:04 PM

I could not draw my way out of a paper bag and was very frustrated for many years and stayed away from painting, drawing or creating anything.  Finally I decided that I would begin painting again, took a drawing class and realized that I didn't need to be afraid and if I messed up, I could start again.  I also discovered that drawing and sketching are two different things, however sketching leads to a drawing and when I take my time and give it thought I surprise even myself with a beautiful piece.  I do know this - that I must create every single day, even if it's just a quick sketch on a post it note at my desk.  Practice, practice.  

on 30 Jan 2013 10:38 PM

It is funny how infinitely rewarding the simple act of drawing can be. We have always felt that no matter what kind of troubles a day might bring, having accomplished a satisfying little drawing makes us feel like it was a good day after all. There is no substitute for the practice - it is a perfect positive feedback loop. The 10,000 hour rule here also applies - the more we do, the better our drawings and our vision become.

Thanks for the comments!

J and A