I’m glad my comments were helpful. Commenting on your drawings helps me as well, since it prompts me to consider how and why I draw. I guess I want to teach drawing. I’ve thought about it certainly, but I cannot do so in a traditional studio setting for various logistical reasons, my schedule, family obligations and so on. But through writing, perhaps I can find an outlet for teaching the ideas that I wish to share. I see drawing as being a wonderful tool for observing life, and through observing things I also see a path to knowledge about life, even to wisdom.
How perfectly lovely to have a wife who encourages you. Listen to your wife. (I’ve already written about marriage here, so isn’t that apropos?) Her advice to keep your drawings, heed it well. Okay, maybe not every single scrap. But certainly the ones she tells you to keep!
I know the feeling of being dissatisfied, but you can learn a lot from past drawings. People think “yes, I’ll learn to recognize my mistakes.” That’s not what I mean. If the drawings bother you, stick them in a drawer and get some distance from them. Later after you gain skill, you’ll gain confidence and then the drawings may prove helpful. I had ideas from my earliest inkling that I wanted to be an artist — a beautiful shifting mirage of things I saw that held great meaning for me. I tried to draw them, but lacked the skill. I was dissatified with those drawings, but I kept them anyway. Looking back at old drawings now, ah, how revealing! To find ideas that I had forgotten — oh, some of them good ideas! I have the skills now to pursue these thoughts, and because I kept the drawings, I have the reminders of these perceptions, these appearances, that I once wanted to do.
At the time of their making, you may not have recognized that these things you sought even were ideas. Time of itself provides a means of observing life. Seeing events through the perspective of time, we see differently than when events are actually taking place. Time is not just a theme for the novelist. It has meaning in the visual arts too.
Well, anyway, you want to spend some of your regular working hours — your art hours — drawing from life. Even though it’s far more difficult than copying, drawing from life is incomparable because in this direct perception of things, you have no intermediary. You copy drawings to learn different ways of thinking visually, and you draw from life to learn to carve your own path.
I liken it to target shooting. You aim your pencil, point and shoot. Sometimes you miss. You try again. But it involves you in a very precise way of thinking and also a personal one. If you draw what you notice then the drawing becomes a map of your attention and perception. And that can be really marvelous, and again also provides reasons for keeping the old things — because you may lack the skill to record all that you notice, but even the imperfect attempt gets at parts of it — so, you see, by keeping old drawings you get to bump into your past self. Another form of time travel.
Getting a job as an artist — that is very tricky, I won’t kid you. If you get one, put in a word for me too! How good are you at self-promotion? If you’re a strong self-promoter you might find employment as an artist before you’re really “ready” in which case you can (hurray!) learn on the job. Being unsatisfied with what you do, of course, makes self-promotion complicated. So, some employment related soul searching is wise.
As a hobby, art is a fabulous thing. Winston Churchill painted to relax so you’d be among quite dignified good company. Perhaps you cannot be an artist full time, but have you considered becoming prime minister? As to formal training, I was in lots of classes in my youth, but honestly everything I know about art I learned by trial and error and by very careful study of old masters’ pictures. The best art is personal, and the lessons that really count come from inside your head.
Well, I’m glad to be able to give advice and especially where your wife’s concerned. Listen to her. A man always does well to heed his wife’s wise counsels. Don’t be “super” critical, just self-critical enough to move forward. Let your love of drawing guide you. Love is a good teacher.
[Top of the post: Winston Churchill painting in 1946.]
2 thoughts on “To Mike”
“The best art is personal, and the lessons that really count come from inside your head.”
I absolutely agree.
Thank you for your comment.