Sunday, December 07, 2008

On Drawing





Studies of a couple of boys at Game Supper.

I love to draw. If painting, for me, is all about passion: the loaded brush, the waiting canvas - drawing is all about tenderness, about intimacy. I set the drawing board on my lap and curl around my work; I caress the paper with chalks, gently rubbing in middle tones with a chamois; with a soft eraser I dab away the lights.

I tell my students that everything an artist knows is in their draughtsmanship; if you know what you are doing you can read an artist's work in their drawing without ever seeing a canvas - it is all there in black and white (or red and white as the case may be...)

It's true - drawing is the foundation of the painting structure: the design, the form, the light and the shade. Drawing is the Alpha of painting (and when I find out what the Omega is I'll let you know).

Apparently nature, too, starts by drawing:

From an article by Oliver Sacks in the New York Review of Books:

"While most of the flowers in the garden had rich scents and colors, we also had two magnolia trees, with huge but pale and scentless flowers. The Magnolia flowers, when ripe, would be crawling with tiny insects, little beetles. Magnolias, my mother explained, were among the most ancient of flowering plants and had appeared nearly a hundred million years ago, at a time when "modern" insects like bees had not yet evolved, so they had to rely on a more ancient insect, a beetle, for pollination. Bees and butterflies, flowers with colors and scents...would develop...in infinitesimal stages, over millions of years. The idea of a world without...color affected me with a sense of awe."

Me too.

That the world of black and white preceded the world of color, as drawing precedes painting, overwhelms me. Think of it: every time an artist does a preparatory drawing and develops it into a painting they mimic the evolution of life on the planet...

10 comments:

Karen Winslow said...

Hi Elizabeth. I absolutely LOVE your idea!! It's fabulous! Jack was a volunteer EMT on the Cambridge Rescue Squad for many years, so this strikes close to home...a very worthy idea! The drawings are beautiful!

Wow! for the longest time on would click on your blog, and it looked like you had lost interest...then, the other day I checked, and this was a wonderful surprise!

Karen

Elizabeth Torak said...

Thanks Karen! great to hear your voice and I appreciate the enthusiasm. I have thought a lot about Jack whiel doing this. when I was t th fire meeting the guys kept referring to "the squad" with a certain note of reverence and respect; I finally figured out they were talking about our local rescue squad.

Susan Abbott said...

Thanks for all of your thoughtful posts, Elizabeth. If you ever get sick of grinding paint, you can always make a living as a writer! I'm really looking forward to seeing your paintings (and preliminary sketches) on this theme.

Eulalia Benejam Cobb said...

...and the evolution of photography and film as well. I sometimes lament our world's obsession with color. There's too much of it everywhere (I'm talking about man-made objects here). Did you mourn the NYer's decision to use color photography? I did....

Curtis said...

I love to draw the brim of a hat just like you! Beautiful drawings. I also think your general proposal "subject" is outstanding. I am interested in poverty but have been having a difficult time finding the proper series of subjects to explore this, while at the same time touching a group of non-art people... your subject, by nature does just this. good work. and again, really good drawing.

Elizabeth Torak said...

Susan, Thanks for your kind words. I've been enjoyin gyour blog as well - how great to get around Vermont - something I'm still meanign to do after 14 years here.

Love your comments on the video!

Elizabeth Torak said...

Lali, Spoken like a sculptor! I can't honestly say I am bothered by the amount of color in the world, although when The New York Times added color it bothered me and I quipped "It looks like 'the Gray Lady' is wearng makeup. I don't think I felt the New Yorker switch as profoundly, and in all honesty I've adapted to the new Times.

Elizabeth Torak said...

Curtis, Thanks so much! I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves to draw hats. My new maxim is that if you want to be a Contemporary Realist in America you'd better learn to draw a baseball cap - which, as you know, is quite challenging.

Are you familiar with the work of Isabel Bishop? She was the only female memeber of the Ashcan School and is one of my favorite artists. It was she (not personally of course) that taught me how expressive clothes can be, something I had lost sight of after umpteen years of life drawing. Bishop was still alive, though a very old lady, and living in her studio on Union Square in New York City when I was a student at the Art Students League; I still regret not having had the guts to just knock on her door...

Thanks for your vote of confidence on my project - this is all so challenging isn't it? I love your idea of working on poverty and admit to a pang of envy when you described the guy with the scrap yard - what a great subject! I'm sure the metaphors will come to you; mine seem to arrive when I least expect them. Have you thought about adding some reference to drug use among youth in Vermont?

www.professionalessayuk.com said...

I do agree - drawing is all about tenderness, about intimacy but why then two men can be seen in the picture?)) I would appreciate drawings with some loving couples!)

Elizabeth Torak said...

Just to restate the obvious, the tenderness and intimacy I describe in this post refer to the process, i.e., the relationship between the artist and the medium, not to the subject matter.