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Monday, September 11, 2017

A #2 pencil is a pretty cheap way to find your joy

Put down your cell phone and pick up a pencil.

A quick sketch of captive models, by Carol L. Douglas
On Friday, I suggested a list of drawing books for those who want to improve their drawing skills but don’t have access to a class. Reader Michael Schaedler of Jay has the traditional Maine opinion that it’s silly to spend money on something you can find for free. He located a text online and has been faithfully doing its exercises. It’s Dorothy Furniss’ Drawing for Beginners and it runs through all the basic subjects.

Looking at old drawing texts, I’m reminded of what an unlettered generation ours is. We want the technical stuff, fast, and don’t want to waste time on rhetoric. I’m as bad as anyone; I buy art books mainly for the pictures. Still, in this week of enforced solitude, I’ve found myself reading and appreciating these older writers and their thoughts on the craft of drawing.

Teenage boy sleeping through church, , by Carol L. Douglas
A reader asked me for tips about figure drawing. That’s a separate subset of knowledge from drawing inanimate objects.

George B. Bridgman (1865–1943) was a Canadian-American artist. He taught anatomy for artists at the Art Students League of New York for 45 years. His books were the standard for 20th century instruction on the subject. They can still be purchased today. Start with his Complete Guide to Drawing from Life.

Most of the time, you'll find very boring stuff when you wait at doctors' offices. But occasionally, you'll find a skeleton. By Carol L. Douglas.
I think every studio should have a copy of Frank H. Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy. It’s useful to know how things work. Pressured by his family, Dr. Netter left a career in art to go to medical school. The Great Depression had the last laugh; there was more work for a medical illustrator than there was for a doctor. His anatomy book is a masterpiece, and it explains to the visual learner what parts go where.

Bailiff at Hall of Justice, by Carol L. Douglas
My reader should be practicing gesture drawings constantly—one or two-minute sketches of people done from life. Gesture drawing is very personal; it’s an impression of a form. There’s no ‘right way,’ but it should be fast. If it goes more than two minutes, it’s no longer a gesture drawing.

The only true gesture drawing I have on my laptop is of a horse. Figures. By Carol L. Douglas.
The more he draws people, the more skill he will develop. Modern life presents all kinds of opportunities to draw surreptitiously. They just require that we put down our cell phones and pick up a pencil.

Note: This week, art conservator Lauren R. Lewis shared resources for those of you dealing with hurricane clean-up, here. Since then, she found this fantastic resource. It includes hotlines as well as tips for first-phase cleaning of flood-damaged artwork. May nobody need it.

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