Drawing, Bristol Life drawing site and Coldstream

I checked into this post today and found a lot of good writing on art. I recommend it to you

bristollifedrawing.wordpress.com and

bristollifedrawing.wordpress.com/2007/09/24/william-coldstream/ specifically about Sir William Coldstream. I made this comment on the essay concerning him:

The obsessions of artists are fascinating. I can’t fault Coldstream (who measures everything and spends a huge amount of time on the mathematical aspects of his work) for his desire to get the proportions correctly, but it seems he has gone further than that.

  • It must have been crippling for (his) students learning to draw, feeling that everything had to be measured and “correct”. Yet, I found that when I was learning and frustrated in my own drawings with “getting it right” I took a ruler and measured until it was “right”.
  • Later when I was teaching, I preferred to use a wide variety of examples for teaching students to draw figures. I emphasized the drawings of masters where “mistakes” could be seen underneath the final result so that students could see that even the masters didn’t just automatically “get it right”.
  • There is value in the struggle to observe, to coordinate hand and eye in placing marks upon the support for the drawing by use of the eye alone (without thumb or ruler). Working directly gives the students a more forgiving start in their explorations and helps them build their confidence. If masters could make mistakes, then their own could not be so dire.
    In looking on Coldstream’s works that you have provided (in the blog), there is a curious mix of rigidity and stillness that bespeaks his meditation on measured form. On the other hand, his manner of applying paint is much more freely applied than one might think for a painter whose basic precept is careful and studious measurement. I would rather have thought he might be looking for that licked quality of Dominique Ingres, the French Pompiers or the Classicists.

An artist needs countless hours of figure drawing from a model and countless hours of drawing from observation of landscape and still life. Drawing, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of art – the basis from which we branch out into other aspects of art like painting, pastel, watercolour and other image making. Or one might look at it as if painting is simply drawing with pigments; pastel, drawing with chalks. Cartooning is heavily based in drawing; Ceramics with imagery glazed on its surface requires good drawing.

It is the art of observation that shines through, that provides the grounding for the work of art and makes a work either sing with beauty or fall on its head.

It makes me think of Don Hutchinson, one of British Columbia’s finest potters and educators in ceramics. He has often used the blue heron or the frog as his imagery on his beautifully formed pots.

He told me once that he had drawn the frog hundreds of times before he could draw it without thinking and it was only then that he dared apply the image to his pottery.

Each and every ceramic piece of his carrying either of these symbols looks as if he painted them without hesitation. They are fresh and lively and beautiful – and all because he did so much groundwork in drawing to be able to effortlessly reproduce the image with a few sure flicks of his glaze laden brush.

Even thinking of it makes me want to get out my materials and get to work!


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