An Opening Chat

Deak Rkadkr:

For many years the iieo<l of a further book on the subject of figure drawing has been apparent to me. I have waited for such a book to appear which could be recommended to the many young artists with whom I have come in contact. Finally, I have come to the realization that such a book, regardless of one's ability as an author, could be written only by a man actually in the field of commercial art, who in his experience had met and countered with the actual problems that must be clarified. I recall how frantically, in the earlier days of my own experience, I searched for practical information that might lend a helping hand in making my work marketable. Being in the not unusual position of having to support myself, it was the predicament of having to make g(x>d at art or being forced to turn to something else.

Across this wide country there are many of you in that predicament. You, also possessed of that unaccountable urge which seemingly comes from nowhere, want to speak the language of art. You love to draw. You wish to draw well. If there is any chance, you greatly wish to make a living at it. Perhaps I can help you. I sincerely hope so, for I think I have lived through every minute you are now living. Perhaps I can compile some of the information that experience tells me you want and need. 1 do not pretend to undervalue the fine work that has been done; the difficulty has always been in finding it and sorting out what is of practical value and putting it into practice. I believe that the greater chances of success lie in the mental approach to the work, rather than in sheer technical knowledge, and since the mental approach has not often been stressed, here lies the opportunity to serve you.

I not only assume that my reader is interested in drawing but that he wishes from his toes up to become an efficient and self-supporting craftsman. I assume that the desire to express yourself with pen and pencil is not only urgent but almost undeniable, and that you feci you must do something about it. 1 feel that talent means little unless coupled with an insatiable desire to give an excellent personal demonstration of ability. I feci also that talent must be in company with a capacity for unlimited effort, which provides the power that eventually hurdles the difficulties that would frustrate lukewarm enthusiasm.

Let us try to define that quality which makes an artist "tick." Every bit of work he docs starts out with the premise that it has a message, a purpose, a job to do. What is the most direct answer, the simplest interpretation of that message he can make? Stripping a subject to its barest and most efficient essentials is a mental procedure. Every inch of the surface of his work should be considered as to whether it bears important relationship to a whole purpose. He sees, and his picture tells us the importance of what he sees and how he feels about it. Then within his picture he stresses what is of greatest importance, and subordinates what must l>e there but is of lesser importance. He will place his area of greatest contrast about the head of the most important character. He will search diligently for means to make that character express the emotion in facial expression and pose that is to be the all important theme. He will first draw attention to that character, by every means available. In other words, he plans and thinks, and does not passively accept simply because it exists. Not far back in the annals of art the ability to achieve just a lifelike appearance might have caused some wonder in a spectator, enough to capture his interest. Today with color photography and the excellence of the camera going perhaps even further in that respect, we are surfeited with realism par excellence, until mere lifelike representation is not enough. There is no other course than somehow to go beyond obvious fact to pertinent fact, to characterization, to the emotional and dramatic, to selection and taste, to simplification, subordination, and accentuation. It is ten per cent how you draw, and ninety per cent what you draw. Equally defining everything within your picture area, in value, edge and detail, will add no more than can be achieved in photography. Subordination may be achieved bv diffusion, bv closeness of color and value to surrounding areas, by simplification of insistent detail, or by omission. Accentuation is achieved by the opposite in each case, by sharpness, contrast, detail, or any added device.

I take this Opportunity to impress upon you, my reader, how important you really are in the whole of art procedure. You, your personality, your individuality come first. Your pictures are your by-product. Everything about your pictures is, and should be, a little of you. They will be a reflection of your knowledge, your experience, your observation, your likes and dislikes, your good taste, and your thinking. So the real concentration is centered on vou, and vour work follows along in the wake of what mental self-improvement you are making. It has taken me a lifetime to realize that. So before we talk at all about drawing, it is important to sell you strongly on yourself, to plant that urge so definitely in your consciousness that you-must know at once that most of it comes from the other end of your pencil rather than the business end.

As a student I thought there was a formula of some kind that I would get hold of somewhere, and therebv become an artist. There is a for-

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