Saturday, 9 April 2011


I'm reading Betty Edwards' wonderful book again. Here is her final piece of advice, right at the end of the book.

First, don't be afraid to learn to draw realistically. Gaining skills in drawing, the basic skill of all art, has never blocked the sources of creativity. Picasso, who could draw like an angel, is a prime illustration of this fact, and the history of art is replete with others. Artists who learn to draw well don't always produce boring and pedantic realistic art. The artists who produce such art would no doubt produce boring and pedantic abstract or nonobjective art as well. Drawing skill will never hinder your work but will certainly help it.

Second, be clear in your mind about why learning to draw well is important. Drawing enables you to see in that special, epiphanous way that artists see, no matter what style you choose to express your special insight. Your goal in drawing should be to encounter the reality of experience - to see ever more clearly, ever more deeply. True, you may sharpen your aesthetic sensibilities in ways other than drawing, such as meditation, reading, or travel. But it's my belief that for an artist these other ways are chancier and less efficient. As an artist you will be most likely to use a visual means of expression, and drawing sharpens the visual sense.

And last, draw every day. Carrying a small sketchbook will help you remember to draw frequently. Draw - anything - an ashtray, a half-eaten apple, a person, a twig. .... In a way, art is like athletics: if you don't practice, the visual sense quickly gets flabby and out of shape. The purpose of your daily sketchbook drawing is not to produce finished drawings, just as the purpose of jogging is not to get somewhere. You must exercise your vision without caring overly much about the products of your practice. You can periodically cull the best examples from your drawings, throwing out the rest or even throwing out everything. In your daily drawing sessions, the desired goal should be to see ever more deeply.

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