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The pleasure of drawing

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DEAR READER, I was asked this week to explain about the pleasure and importance of drawing and why?

So, my thought immediately, was I must begin first by describing the pleasures involved, the challenges and that satisfaction will be found at every level thereafter.

You would normally start with a sense and reality of the white of the paper before you, a realisation of the elegance of this, with a pencil in your hand. The abundance of white and nothing else to see may be alarming, but then it begins. With the first mark you make comes with an increase of emotions, and that rush of excitement will soon be felt.

You may hear the first crackle the pencil makes across the texture and surface of the white paper. Then your series of movements follow; like starting on skies down a slope of snow, or maybe going suddenly upwards instead, just travelling onwards. From nearby perhaps, comes the passing scent of a forest; or those sounds of swish, gurgle and the splashing’s of moving water; or the sounds of animals nearby; or the sight and flight of a bird overhead; the glory of seeing a flower in bloom; or the softness of the flesh in a face, and the wonder of a smile. It all depends on where you are.

A portrait of Victoria

So, you continue making marks or lines upon your page and the first check occurs: You ask, “Is it the right size? Is it that big? Is it in the right place within the page?”

Out comes the Rubber! And the enthusiasm with which you rub out, drives you onwards. After this first seen and understood mistake, a positive change happens. A new freedom will occur for you afterwards, for you are allowed to make mistakes, nobody minds. A mistake may often create some sense of  blame, but not in drawing, where each new change is a step forward to realising your aim. You discover the joy of engagement, with an intensity of concentration now, as you pass the next checks. This time they will likely be about proportions and the relationships between then in space. While you think, how nice it is to make a true relationship within your page.

Yes, now you can say: “This is right.”

And a smile appears upon your face as you realise this. While as your speed in your working world changes, so your sense of time slows down, and the time outside this drawing experience seems to pass more quickly. And now visually your world becomes about light and the effects of light you are seeing. How this may change what we preconceived before we begun drawing, now appears more natural, solid, more three dimensional, and real – as a result of a better understanding of how our eyes and thoughts actually work in practice.

The lambing sheds

Then we find our drawing begins to resemble what we had intended, and the deeper magic of drawing begins. For our working path has slowly uncovered more possible outlets to consider, some are cul-de-sac’s, which prevent us from achieving more, and just encourage us to settle for the pleasure which we have so far made. You can, while drawing, dwell in these cul-de-sacs as long as you wish, and the pleasure will remain with you there.

Herons

Otherwise, you can stop and look back at what you have done. Stop and analyse all of its benefits, its triumphs, and its weaknesses. You will now have two smiles. The smile of pleasure and satisfaction for what you have achieved, and a further smile for the new opportunities this piece of work now presents for the future. Yes, indeed. And there’s a third smile, as you consider the new standards and possibilities you have begun to perceive.

It is likely you may now ask yourself, perhaps with a fluttering heart: “Can I do more and continue to hold to these standards today? Is it time to stop? Will the magic still happen? Can I raise the standard of my work next time?”

 

Red and yellow roses

Happily, the answer is Yes, always. You simply have to believe. if it does not, you will just need to re-examine those cul-de-sacs you saw along the way and try again.

Thus, having explained something about the processes of Drawing, I thought I would also mention the obvious importance of Drawing. For drawing is an instant form of communication. It can say immediately, without a mouthful of words, exactly what we want to communicate. It’s also a natural activity, like warming your hands in front of a fire, or waggling a hand in water, to see how cold it is.

Sadly, in this century, it is not in the strict Curriculum of Compulsory Education, although it obviously should be today.

Leonardo said, “Draw from life every day!” He made over two hundred and fifty scientifically executed fantastic Anatomical Drawings, which are held in the Royal Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, at Windsor Castle. Thus, I think we can understand, he did mean this quite literally. These beautiful accurate 3-Dimensional Anatomical Drawings were still used in Medical Manuals in Britain until the mid 1960’s.

However, usually to promote vested modern art ideas, drawing was sadly mocked and marginalised throughout the 20th Century. A foolishness, that was carried forward into the 21st century. Yet this loss of knowledge and those lost skills have become apparent today in many different ways. For apart from a human practical loss in Drawing activity, where it’s impact upon our wellbeing has yet to be determined, is also the very essence of Painting, Sculpture and Design.

So, let us look back in history to see what this has meant. For six hundred years before the 20th century, drawing and painting were an integral part of the ‘Great Tradition.’ It begun in Italy in the 13th century and ended with the leading Impressionists in the 19th century, who still used those skills and standards. Historically this was three hundred years of Italian artists and then 300 years of French artists, with a sprinkling of Europeans and two Brits. Throughout that entire time, 3-dimensional drawing was naturally used as an essential instrument.

Unlike modern artists today, Renaissance artists were also frequently well versed in other activities. As an easy example, Brunelleschi in Florence for example, apart from being a wonderful master draftsman, was also a goldsmith, a sculptor, architect, and master mathematician, as were many of his colleagues throughout those times. While the Italians looked back towards the Romans and the Greeks, where 3-dimensional sculpture is epitomised by The Venus DI Milo. And design by the Acropolises and its architecture. While the Greeks likely also looked back at 3 D Indian painting. And unsurprisingly, they have recently discovered old cave paintings, which show a group of happy pigs, made over 5,000 years ago. So, the need to happily express ourselves in drawing is not a new idea, nor is it an outdated unnecessary one. Quite the opposite is still true and needs to be encouraged.

So, I thought I should end by demonstrating with a handful of people, who like many others before them, practically used drawing to assist them in work of the greater good.

In Florence, Michelangelo apart from being the world’s best sculptor, was also an accomplished architect, and built a bridge for his fellow citizens across the River Arno. Naturally he used his drawings, which were then later re-used by the Italians after the end of the Second World War to rebuild this bridge, which was blown up by the retreating Germans in the later stages of the war.

 

Ponte Santa Trinita in Florence. The First Bridge (3 feet x 4 feet and painted live on location.)

During the time Michelangelo built this bridge, his rival Leonardo designed and built for his fellow citizens, a new drainage system for the city of Florence. Naturally, he also used his own drawings.

Much later and throughout his career, Winston Churchill made drawings and paintings between his activities as a soldier and as the wartime leader of our country. He found those problem-solving activities, which were not life threating when he made a mistake, a very reliable, multi challenging, and necessary aid, for both his military and political difficulties as a man, and our leader.

Fnally, my father’s elderly friend, the late Mr Hardy, who built the biggest dam in the world during his career, also used to draw to keep his mind intellectually active during breaks between his large engineering projects. While like Mr Churchill, he was also fully aware he was walking in the footsteps of giants.

So, I hope you may have enjoyed the above. And I also hope it may serve to raise this entire question and draw attention to the urgent need to re-introduce Drawing properly back into people’s lives today.

With best wishes

Charles Harris

www.charlesharrisinternational.com

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