The first thing to know when you begin to draw is
what you love. And since different people love different things, how does one teach? If I teach my taste to someone who cares about something else, how am I helping that person to reach his goals? The person who loves Mary Cassatt above, may not care as much for the Rohan Master below.
Both are master artists. To understand their ideas through your own drawing would take considerable skill. In certain ways the Rohan Master is more difficult because of the exaggeration of the forms. How do you learn how to do that? What degree of exaggeration is right? He has kindred spirits among moderns. And yet some artists that we associate with mannerism had very realistic skills. Take Gustav Klimt’s drawing below.
In the history of art there are so many models to choose from to guide one’s study. But there are modern artists of considerable skill as well. For a student, the prize might be Walt Disney or Andrew Loomis.
Andrew Loomis is not so far afield from one of my favorite artists Pierre Bonnard (above), whose smallish drawings led toward the making of sometimes enormous paintings.
I’m going to ask my students what they like, and what they love, because I believe that artistic skill is driven by longing. You work harder for the things you love. And the history of art is filled with so many different ways of seeing, thinking and feeling. The Master of the Osservanza (above) is very different from Pierre Renoir of the famous Boating Party (below).
They are both pretty different from Pieter Brueghel. His battle of the angels was one of my favorites works of art around the time I began college.
What is the thought process behind such a work? How did the artist invent his monsters? Once created how did he manage the amazing tonality of this image above? The transitions of light around these invented creatures is astounding. The image is cinemagraphic.
What a contrast to the lightness of Domenico Tiepolo’s Punchinellos!
Some art is severe, as in Albrecht Durer’s copy after Andrea Mantegna.
There’s some beautiful and lyrical severity too in J.A.D. Ingres’s portrait of Mme. Moitessier (whose figure is borrowed from a Roman fresco).
So I am somewhat at a loss for finding the beginning. Artists need to discover what they love so that they’ll have a destination, letting their longing take them along the path.
Whether the destination is simple or complex, you need to know where you want to go. And you make the best progress when the choice is your own.