I spend most of my time thinking about drawing and learning to draw. Your message was received with great enthusiasm but somewhat daunting as I am now tasked with providing helpful advice within the limits of correspondence.
Speaking of drawing is like speaking of Rachmainoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. I can even let you listen to it. But only by playing it on your own piano will you truly understand. I can only provide concepts to ponder, any insights you gain will come from within you. The good news is, learning to draw well is much, much easier than learning to play the piano even poorly.
Drawing, at its best, is like taking a Sunday drive. For the draughtsman though there is no road. So before setting off on this pleasant journey the way needs to be surveyed and surveyed again. Flags are planted and adjusted. The way is leveled here and widened there, the rises and falls are calculated and curves straightened. Stone and gravel packed over that, finally the pavement, stripes and signs. This is important work and requires your full attention. Each step is made easier by the care put into the steps before.
In keeping with the surveyor analogy, the tools are the same for the draughtsman. Plumb and Square. These are the keel and compass by which you will find your way. Plumb and Square are constant and steadfast truths, truths that we share with all things of this Earth. If you let a thousand people, one at a time, into a room to straighten a picture hanging on the wall, each and every one of us will come to the same conclusion. Comforting somehow, that in these polar times, there is something upon which, we all agree.
The sense we draw upon most when drawing, is our sense of Balance. Our sense of Balance is the first of our senses to come online. Well before we learn to See, learn to Listen, Touch or Smell, before we know anything at all, we know which way is up. It is real, it is constant and it is within you. It is within all others. It is within all things.
Before you begin, you must prepare to begin. Using our surveyor as example, before the target is sighted and measurements made, the transom is set, so that it is plumb and square. So that it is true. You are the transom. Before you begin, true yourself. True yourself by squaring yourself to center, square your paper to center, and then align the center of the subject to these. When all are in alignment, all is one, and you may begin.
A view can only have a single point. A different point will have a different view. The view is different even between one eye and the other. Hunkering down, cocking your head or turning your paper are natural things to do, but not at all helpful. If you find yourself slouching or twisting your page, re-center. It is only from this place of centered repose that the truth can be revealed.
No line has meaning but by its relationship with other lines. A line is never drawn for its own sake, but is drawn to clarify or complete another line. In music, a wrong note is jarringly obvious. There is nothing particular wrong with the note. It remains as sweet as it ever was. It is wrong only because it does not relate right to the note before. Unlike music where the song goes on and we soon forget the clinker. In drawing a wrong note, an untrue line, if left unnoticed, can de-tune the rest of the song.
Whether you are drawing the figure, a humble still life or a grand vista, you draw the same. Do not draw the thing. Draw where the thing is. Where it is in relation to where something else is. If you do this with diligence and presence, you will suddenly find that the thing has appeared on your page.
The draughtsman, when drawing a line, sees these two lines at once, the line in question and the line that it relates to. This brings us to something you will soon develop, the draughtsman’s gaze. When drawing, the draughtsman sees differently than one normally sees. Our normal way of seeing is to flit from one detail to another, and our mind puts it together to tell us what it is based on our experience and expectations. The draughtsman has no memory, has no expectations. He sees, not the fragments, but the whole, and all at once. I have heard of this also referred to as an “open gaze”. It is not what you see; it is what you look for.
As you begin, as you center yourself, your work, and your world. When all these are in alignment you have entered that place of love. If you maintain this center, all your efforts are an expression of this love. Drawing indeed is love in communication.
Thank you Damion for reaching out to me.