The purpose of this book is to teach you basic skills in seeing and drawing. The purpose of this book is not to teach you to express yourself, but instead to provide you with the skills that will release you from stereotypic expression. This release in turn will open the way for you to express your individuality—your essential uniqueness—in your own way, using your own particular drawing style.
If, for a moment, we could regard your handwriting as a form of expressive drawing, we could say that you are already expressing yourself with a fundamental element of art: line.
On a sheet of paper, right in the middle of the sheet, write your own name the way you usually sign your name. Next, regard your signature from the following point of view: you are looking at a drawing which is your original creation—shaped, it is true, by the cultural influences of your life, but aren't the creations of every artist shaped by such influences?
Every time you write your name, you have expressed yourself through the use of line. Your signature, "drawn" many times over, is expressive of you, just as Picasso's line is expressive of him. The line can be "read" because, in writing your name, you have used the nonverbal language of art. Let's try reading a line. There are signatures in the margin. All are the same name: Luther Gibson. Tell me, what is the first Luther Gibson like?
You would probably agree that Luther Gibson is more likely to be extroverted than introverted, more likely to wear bright colors than subtle ones, and, at least superficially, likely to be outgoing, talkative, even dramatic. Of course, these assumptions may or may not be correct, but the point is that this is how most people would read the nonverbal expression of the signature, because that's what Luther Gibson is (nonverbally) saying.
Let's look at the second Luther Gibson in the margin.
Now, look at the third signature. How would you describe him?
And another, the fourth signature.
And the last signature? How would you read that?
Now regard your own signature and respond to the nonverbal message of its line. Write your name in three different ways, each time responding to the message. Next, think back on how you responded differently to each of these signatures; recall that the name that was formed by the "drawings" did not change. What, then, were you responding to?
You were seeing and responding to the felt, individual qualities of each "drawn" line or set of lines. You responded to the felt speed of the line, the size and spacing of the marks, the muscle tension or lack of tension. All of that is precisely communicated by the line, the directional pattern or lack of pattern—in other words, by the whole signatures and all of their parts at once. A person's signature is an individual expression so unique to the writer that it is identified legally as being "owned" by that single person and none other.
Your signature, however, does more than identify you. It also expresses you and your individuality, your creativity. Your signature is true to yourself. In this sense, you already speak the nonverbal language of art: You are using the basic element of drawing, line, in an expressive way, unique to yourself.
In the chapters to follow, therefore, we won't dwell on what you can do already. Instead, the aim is to teach you how to see so that you can use your expressive, individual line to draw your perceptions.
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