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Old 07-23-2002, 10:55 AM   #1
Timothy C. Tyler Timothy C. Tyler is offline
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Did the "Masters" of old draw well?




This is a spin off of a thread that got off track. The discussion turned to whether or not the esteemed masters actually drew well. Visual examples are most welcome and helpful.

I personally like the artists from 1830-1920 (mostly those in France and England). These are not counted as old masters by some books but maybe we can here. I think that Bouguereau drew well AND chose how to draw hands, for example, in a way which clearly depicted what he wanted to say. It takes some thought and time to draw a hand which is perfectly expressive. He drew at least one full "cartoon" for every painting.

I think his drawings had more life and looseness than Ingres or David...generally.
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Old 07-23-2002, 11:26 AM   #2
Peter Garrett Peter Garrett is offline
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Tim!

Good idea to start this thread. Interesting to hear you talking about looseness and life in drawing. I haven't seen many Bouguereau drawings. Do you have any that you could show, or links to them?

Perhaps we could also discuss the purposes behind drawings. For instance, when a sculptor draws as a means of clarifying his intentions to himself; and in what ways sketches and drawings done by "masters" are records of their thinking and approach.
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Old 07-23-2002, 01:14 PM   #3
Sharlene Laughton Sharlene Laughton is offline
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Thank you, Tim and Peter, for bringing up the elements of 'looseness' and 'purpose' when talking about drawing. These, to my mind, are important aspects of painting as well as drawing.

All too often, I've heard Forum members speak of drawing as though accuracy and modeling ability are the only criteria for judgment. I imagine that most of us are fairly accurate in our drawings, whether tight or loose, and learning to model with color and tone are not that difficult.

I believe Peter hit it on the head in an earlier posting when he mentioned "conveying the artist's full understanding of his/her subject matter to the viewer". Painting and drawing is, after all, about communication.

As artists, whether painting or drawing, we face the seemingly impossible task of transferring the sense of something very much alive and able to effect us emotionally to a 2D medium. To even come close we must do more than model our surfaces. We have to editorialize by emphasizing elements such as line, gesture, lighting, brush stroke, color, etc. In fact, to translate the sense of the moment (whether painting or drawing) onto a 2D surface we have to direct the viewer's focus.

While the photograph sees everything at once, we don't. If we act as though we do, I believe our work suffers.
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Old 07-23-2002, 06:14 PM   #4
Peter Garrett Peter Garrett is offline
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Sharlene!

You mention editorializing, and that the camera sees everything at once, whereas we don't.

This brings up an interesting point. As a former photographer I was ALWAYS aware of the editing aspect involved in what is also a 2D medium. The photographer edits constantly using light and angle etc to eliminate what is non-essential to the final image.

Similarly, the painter or draftsman (I refuse to write "draftsperson" so please include all of humanity in the definition...!!!) has to decide through use of line, tone, composition and medium what is essential to the final result.

I would argue that the greatest draftsmen did this with insight, economy and daring. In an earlier post I mentioned Rembrandt's amazing ink, brush and pen sketches of people and landscape. I bet if you put a ruler on them they would contain all sorts of "mistakes", but what gloriously executed and felt mistakes they must have been to convey so much and be so "present" to us at a distance of centuries!

When I first looked at Giacometti's drawings I didn't "get" them at all. Now after three years of sculpture, I think they are superb. What evocations of structure and space and form!

I no longer care for academically perfect renditions, unless they have the urgency and purpose displayed by those who are striving to find something real and human.

I guess this is a long reply, but then it is written, I hope, in the urgent and risky manner that I believe a good drawing should be drawn.
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Old 07-23-2002, 07:04 PM   #5
Timothy C. Tyler Timothy C. Tyler is offline
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Intent

We may already start to drift off the subject here, but who cares. Purpose is important. The painter in doing prep drawing FOR A PAINTING will work very differently than someone doing a finished drawing from the inception. Images will be really useful here.

Richard McDonald's prep drawings are really neat as loose drawings. Most sculptors don't draw such fine "finshed" drawings. Some are using "in- sync" video cameras of dancers shot from different angles, so they can see many angles frozen from a moving model.
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Old 07-23-2002, 07:40 PM   #6
Peter Garrett Peter Garrett is offline
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Tim!

Re: FINISHED drawings, just to add a bit of fuel to the fire.

Some "famous" artist (I forget who) said "finished is dead."
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Old 07-23-2002, 07:45 PM   #7
Timothy C. Tyler Timothy C. Tyler is offline
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Hamlet

A manicurist named Hamlet said, "There's the quick and the dead."

Few drawings move me, but Nicholai Fechin's do. I just came back from Taos and had the pleasure of meeting Eya Fechin and see the house and his work in person.
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Old 08-02-2002, 11:55 AM   #8
Gene Snyder Gene Snyder is offline
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Hey everyone,

Just wanted to add that there is a great figure drawing book out there that talks specifically about the comments circulating in this thread. The book is by Nathan Goldstein and is called Figure Drawing: The Structure, Anatomy, and Expressive Design of Human Form.

The following is an old write-up that I did on it for college:

"This is the sourcebook for anyone wanting to learn more about figure drawing. Goldstein divides the study of the figure into four factors that are interdependent on one another. The four factors are: Structural, Anatomical, Design, and Expressive factors. He says that most successful figure drawings contain these four factors to some degree.

In the Structural factor, the figure is broken down to its basic components, using shape to show form. He writes,

'A preoccupation with re-presenting such surface actualities (generally in a high polished manner) blinds the student to the geometric core of forms. Moreover, the beginner's awe of the figure, which is quite rightly regarded as complex, important, and beautiful, and the subtlety with which the figure suggests its pure solids, makes an analytical search for them difficult.'

The Anatomical factor is comprised of a thorough knowledge of the anatomy and how this effects of the surface of the figure. Goldstein stresses the point throughout the book that no one factor is more important than the other. They all work together to create a whole image. Each contributes and enhances the others. For example, he comments on many art students' study of anatomy as being "dispassionate diagrams of the human mechanism" and that these illustrations do not breath the "living spirit" of the human form. He goes into great detail in his discussions on anatomy, however he disregards all inner anatomy that does not effect the surface of the figure. These discussions are accompanied by many old and contemporary master drawings and diagrams of the bones and muscles.

The third factor, the Design factor, covers the importance of composition, and unity. Goldstein describes a drawing's design as "the consequence of its abstract and figural occurrences - the visual nature of the tensions, movements, and the relationships that exist among the drawing's marks and meanings." He separates design from expression by saying that the above occurrences are felt by the viewer is what creates expression - design influences expression."

I personally feel the figure must begin with the gesture. The gesture is the key to expression. Once the gesture and overall feeling is down, then construct the figure to fit onto this "framework" and build from there. I used to draw exactly as Goldstein said, I would start out with a fine detail of the figure and build from there. My drawings would grow across the paper like some fungus, rather than materializing as a whole. All of my drawings then were disconnected, smaller visions that had no purpose as a whole. The parts didn't relate to one another and give an idea of the whole let alone, an expression. I think of drawing the figure now as like building a house. You have to start with a frame before you can put the cabinets in the kitchen!

Hope you enjoyed my old college write-up. This book is definitely an informative source on figure drawing. Good luck in your search for it. Unfortunately, according to Amazon, it's out of print.
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Old 08-02-2002, 12:13 PM   #9
Cynthia Daniel Cynthia Daniel is offline
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Gene,

When I looked just now, Amazon said they have 4 copies left in stock. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...strokeofgenius
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Old 08-20-2002, 07:38 PM   #10
Michael Fournier Michael Fournier is offline
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Book and just how good it is

Well Gene, it is very hard to see just how good this book is from the link at Amazon. I can say this for a book on drawing: I would expect to see at least one drawing in the first 17 pages but it appears that the drawings most be somewhere else inside. I guess I will take your word that it is a good book but I will reserve my judgment until I have seen more of it.

As for the topic of this thread I must say, in a word YES, the masters could draw. And a lot better then most of us ever will. Just because some may have stylized parts of their drawings does not mean that they were bad drawings.

Part of drawing is the beauty of the line and the most beautiful line is not always the most exactingly accurate one. Also a lot of how well the masters could draw was due to the fact that they were not handicapped by the vision of the camera.

Yes, I said handicapped. Today most of us spend more time looking at images of the world in print and on TV and in Movies then we spend looking at them in life. And, as such, the world, when drawn according to the camera is accepted as real. The image of the camera is how we foolishly measure accuracy of drawing. And there is the mistake; the camera is not perfect people, it's images are full of distortion (and I am not even taking about color or value distortions).

The lens has a fixed focal length and point of view as well as being a cyclops. Unless you have lost the vision in one eye for some reason, the two eyes you were born with will always be better then the single lens of a camera. You just need to train your hand to record what your eyes see. That is what the masters spent years working on and that is why their drawings and paintings have life beyond just a accurate copy of a photo. I will end this post with my mantra on drawing. Draw from life and put life in your drawing.
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