At the end of Sherrie McGraw's book "The Language of Drawing" there is a quote by Rembrandt. Here's what the old master had to say: " ...I have made it a rule that they (pupils) must bring me...their drawings, mind you, not their paintings. For a line never lies. Give me a scrap of a man's drawings,...and in five seconds I will tell whether he has any talent or whether he had better become a brewer."
Well, I've considered becoming a brewer on occasions. Usually when the artistic muse is silent and my efforts fall short. But when such frustration arises, a good strategy is to walk away from your studio. Find an inspirational art book to get lost in. Sometimes we just need a break to regroup and start anew, hopefully with fresh eyes and a calmer spirit. One book that will certainly assist in such times of artistic malaise is Sherrie McGraw's " The Language of Drawing- From An Artist's Viewpoint." Mcgraw is a painter, instructor and master draughtsman. Below is an image of the cover of her book.
One of the subjects that McGraw tackles in her book is the unique qualities that make a good drawing. There are plenty of students dutifully learning sight/size and the particulars of anatomy in ateliers everywhere. Certainly a strong grounding in these skills will help the artist hone his or her craft. But there is something more. It comes from inside of us. A sort of expressive spirit.
Drawing correctly is important, to a point. But as McGraw states in her book "Drawing correctly feels and looks vastly different from drawing beautifully. Correct drawing is stiff, whereas beautiful drawing is lively. Instead of working so hard, the student should take a deep breath, relax and experience the joy of drawing first." Look at the flow and expressive accuracy in McGraw's drawing of a man below.
Ever notice how your carefree sketches always seem to flow better than your final pieces? You don't have the pressure hanging over you to produce a great piece. You just allow yourself to get lost in the art and personal expression.
Another point that McGraw makes is the importance of seeing. We hear this a lot in artist circles, but it takes daily practice to truly learn how to see. Learning to see things as they are and capture their essence on paper or canvas is the trick. When we learn to see we unlock the secret to better art. We can express the nature of a thing without becoming slaves to abject precision. Look at the depth of this etching by McGraw.
What is the quality of your drawing "scraps?" If you want to improve your work, develop your eye and learn to see things more closely. The best way to do this is by getting out and doing a lot of sketching. Leonardo DaVinci was known to carry a small notebook with him everywhere. Get yourself a small Moleskine notebook and carry it with you. When you're waiting for appointments or before meetings, or even on a lunch break, steal a little time to sketch. You will hone your skills and develop your eye. And this is how you become more fluent at "the language of drawing."
Visit Sherrie McGraw's website HERE for more information and inspiration.