Line in art is abstract, but it’s so much a part of our mental nature that we hardly notice. (Maybe we’re abstract? Hmm.)
Anyway, taking off my Plato hat now, I’m going to be teaching a coloring book class soon. Coloring books are everywhere. They are best sellers on Amazon. They crowd the entrance of Barnes and Noble. I’ve even seen them in the grocery store. People — evidently, from what I hear — color them to relax. We’re a nervous society, always on the go, and we need to relax. Well if coloring them is relaxing, just think how relaxing it would be to draw them. That’s what I say. So I’m seeking to ride this wave, in teaching, to encourage people to draw. I’m teaching a coloring book class in July at the McLean Project for the Arts, and my goal is to use the coloring book craze as a step on the journey of draw-it-yourself.
People who are entirely new to art, never drawn anything, “can’t draw a stick figure,” can make a coloring book image without drawing. I have ways that you can steal everything from somebody else without going to jail. So there’s that at one end. At the other end, I have ideas for advanced artists to put more line and linearity into their imagery — that’s where I’ll be going with the idea in my participation in my own class. I’ll be sorting out the details of a cartoon that I’ll later use to make a painting. For people in the middle somewhere, I have a ton of ideas for how making coloring book-like images can sharpen the lines in the mind. “Go linear” will be the motto.
Add color, experiment with color. Rinse, repeat.
I’ve done a certain still life motif many times and ought to know it by heart, and yet I find upon trying to draw it from memory that it becomes vague. I keep wondering how I can train my visual memory, and the only way I can figure to do it is by simple exercise. I make the drawings and see how much I can either remember or invent.
I suppose that’s the key: when memory fails, begin inventing things that might be there. Then if you cannot remember everything at least you have begun building another skill — imagination.
People who routinely draw from imagination may wonder why anyone would find it difficult. But nearly all the drawing I’ve ever done has been done in front of something. I am so habituated to looking at whatever I draw that it is difficult to pull things out of the empty air — or “from the space between my ears” — but the more I do it, the more natural the task becomes.