37 I Can’t Even Draw A Straight Line!
This is one of the most common things for people to say – and the cheeky answer is ‘use a ruler!’
Who wants to be able to draw straight lines? Where’s the fun in that? I know that it’s just an expression used by people who don’t feel able to draw anything realistically, or don’t particularly want to, but it’s an interesting statement.
Here’s a brainteaser for you – how many lines can you see in this picture?
How many lines did you see in the picture above? There are three…. two black ones and a white one between them….. Yes, one and one equals three!!
Everyone has things that they know more about in a tactile sense. I can draw people, cats, Maltese farmhouses and a few others things reasonably well from imagination, but they don’t look ‘real’. They don’t have the subtle qualities of light and form unless I draw them from life. Even using photographs can be tricky (although tempting), as they don’t have that three dimensional real-life dynamism. Drawing from imagination can only bring up symbols stored in your visual memory. If you don’t replace your childish symbols with more sophisticated studies of the world as it really is, those symbols will not change.
Most people can draw one thing reasonably well. It will be something that they know well, that they have a lot of sensory information about. Maybe they use it, touch it or smell it every day. It might be a feature of their hobby or pastime, or something that they are very familiar with. A golfer, for example, could draw a pretty accurate number nine iron from memory – a chef might draw a good saucepan, or a cleaver. When we invest more than just superficial ‘looking’ into a subject it is more deeply seen and understood. It engages more than simply sight; we have a physical, visceral feeling for it too.
This is the great gift of art, and why it can enrich our life. By practicing drawing everyday objects we begin to notice all sorts of subtle things that we would not have noticed otherwise. The more deeply we can focus on just copying exactly what is there in front of us we will begin to notice more and more in the ‘ordinary’ objects around us.
This is true on both a figurative and conceptual level. We might never notice the way colours reflect differently in china and metal until we see it in a painting, or try painting it ourselves. The messages in abstract art, installations and video art etc also confront us with new and sometimes shocking ways of seeing ourselves and what’s happening around us.
One of the basic functions of art, and artists, is to notice things that others don’t.
Every time we work creatively, we are helping to breathe new life into the world. Even if we are faithfully copying an old master, or singing someone else’s song, or playing a great piece of music, our own nuance will be there, making it our own. Our skills grow every time we practice, and it’s those tiny steps that move us onward.