begin now to collect a file of the details that give a setting its "atmosphere."
Learn to observe significant details. You must lx; concerned with more than Martha's hair-dress. Precisely why does Martha in a formal gown look so different in shorts or slacks? IIow do the folds of her dress break at the floor when she sits down?
Watch emotional gestures and expressions. What does a girl do with her hands when she says, "Oh, that's wonderful!"? Or with her feet when she drops into a chair and says, "Gosh, I'm tired! '? What does a mother's face register when she appeals to the doctor, "Is there no hope?" Or a child's when he says, "Gee, that's goodl"? You must have more than mere technical ability to produce a good drawing.
Nearly every successful artist has a particular interest or drive or passion that gives direction to his technical skill. Often it is an absorption in some one phase of life. Harold von Schmidt, for example, loves the outdoors, rural life, horses, the pioneer, drama, and action. His work breathes the fire that is in him. Harry Anderson loves plain American people — the old family doctor, the little white cottage. Norman Rockwell, a great portrayer of character, loves a gnarled old hand that has done a lifetime of work, a shoe that has seen better days. His tender and sympathetic attitude toward humanity, implemented by his marvelous technical ability, has won him his place in the world of art. Jon Whitcomb and Al Parker arc at the top because they can set down a poignant, up-to-the-minute portrayal of young America. The Clark brothers have a fondness for drawing the Old West and frontier days, and have been most succcssful at it. Maude Fangel loved babies and drew them beautifully. None of these people could have reached the pinnacle without their inner drives. Yet none could have arrived there without being able to draw well.
I do not strongly recommend becoming "helper" to a successful artist in order to gain background. More often than not, it is a discouraging experience. The reason is that you are continually matching your humble efforts against the stellar performance of your employer. You are not thinking and observing for yourself. You are usually dreaming, developing an inferiority complex, becoming an imitator. Remember: artists have no jealously guarded professional secrets. How often have I heard students say, "If I could just watch that man work, I'm sure I could get ahead!" Getting ahead does not happen that way. The only mystery, if such it may be called, is the personal interpretation of the individual artist. He himself probably docs not know his own "secret." Fundamentals you must master, but you can never do so by watching another man paint. You have to reason them out for yourself.
Before you decide what type of drawing you want to concentrate on, it would be wise to consider your particular background of experience. If you have been brought up on a farm, for instance, you are much more likely to succeed in interpreting life on a farm than in depicting Long Island society life. Don't ignore the intimate knowledge you have gained from long, everyday acquaintance. All of us tend to discount our own experience and knowledge—to consider our background dull and common-plaec. But that is a serious mistake. No background is barren of artistic material. The artist who grew up in poverty can create just as much beauty in drawing tumble-down sheds as another artist might in drawing ornate and luxurious settings. As a matter of fact, he is apt to know much more about life, and his art is likely to have a broader appeal. Today great interest has developed in the "American Scene." Simple homeliness is its general keynote. Our advertising and much of our illustration, however, de mand the sophisticated and the smart, but it is wise to bear in mind this newer trend, for which a humble background is no handicap.
It is true that most artists must be prepared to handle any sort of subject on demand. But gradually each one will be chosen for the tiling he does best. If you do not want to be typed or "catalogued," you will have to work hard to widen your scope. It means learning broad drawing principles (everything has proportion, three dimensions, texture, color, light, and shadow) so that you will not be floored by commissions that may call for a bit of still life, a landscape, an animal, a particular texture such as satin or knitted wool. If you learn to observe, the demands should not tax your technical capacity, because the rendering of all form is based upon the way light falls upon it and the way light affects its value and color. Furthermore, you can always do research on any unfamiliar subject. Most artists spend as much time in obtaining suitable data as in actual drawing or painting.
The fundamentals of painting and drawing are the same. Perhaps it might be said that drawing in general does not attempt to render the subdeties of values, edges, and planes or modeling that may be obtained in paint. In any medium, however, the artist is confronted with the same problems: he will have to consider the horizon and viewpoint; he wall have to set down properly length, breadth, and thickness (in so far as he is able on the flat surface); he will have to consider, in short, the elements that I am talking about in this book.
The nude human figure must serve as the basis for all figure study. It is impossible to draw the clothcd or draped figure without a knowledge of the structure and form of the figure underneath. The artist who cannot put the figure together properly does not have one chance in a thousand of success—either as a figure draftsman or as a painter. It would be as reasonable to expect to become a surgeon without studying anatomy. If you are offended by the sight of the body die Almighty gave us to live in, then put this book aside at once and likewise give up all thought of a career in art. Since all of us are either male or female, and since the figures of the two sexes differ so radically in construction and appearance (a woman in slacks is not a man in pants, even when she has a short haircut), it is fantastic to conceive of a study of figure drawing that did not analyze the many differences. I have been engaged in almost every type of commercial art, and my experience confirms the fact that the study of the nude is indispensable to any art career that requires figure drawing. A vocational course without such study is a deplorable waste of time. Life classes generally work from the living model; hence I have tried to supply drawings diat will serve as a substitute.
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of drawing: linear and solid. Linear drawing—for example, a floor plan—embraces design or scale. Solid drawing attempts to render bulk or three-dimensional quality on a flat plane of paper or canvas. The first involves no consideration of light and shadow. The latter gives it every consideration. It is possible, however, without light and shadow, to make a flat or outline drawing of a figure and still suggest its bulk. Therefore it is logical to begin with die figure in flat dimension—start out with proportion, cany it from the flat to the round, and then proceed to render the bulk in space or in terms of light and shadow.
The eye perceives form much more readily by contour or edge dian by the modeling. Yet there is really no outline on form; rather, diere is a silhouette of contour, encompassing as much of the form as we can see from a single viewpoint. We must of necessity limit that form some way. So we draw a line—an outline. An outline truly belongs within the category of flat rendering, though it can be accompanied by the use of light
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