Thursday, August 6, 2015

A question or three

After collecting varied samples of drawings as well as information about it over the past couple of months, a few research questions have popped up. I'll list them here with a little description of each.

Is it possible to truly draw solely from what one sees?

There are two opposing philosophies with regards to how drawing can/should be done. The proponents of the 'visual' side insist that one should only draw what one sees, and try as much as possible to keep any preconceptions out of the drawing process. People who strongly believe in the other 'mental' side say that everything one sees is defined by some type of law, and these laws can be understood, applied and manipulated without the need to see the subject. Of course, it is not possible for an artist to be purely one or the other, but most seem to take more to one side than the other, either explicitly in statements they make or it can be seen in their art.

Should classical/traditional drawing be taught again in art and design courses?

In our technological world we've almost forsaken the traditional methods of practicing and studying drawing. Back in the day artists studied drawing almost as a science and so were skilled craftsmen in the field. In modern times the emphasis on “draw what you see” has taken the scientific approach out of the picture, so to speak, and created an art-making process devoid of structure or knowledge.

Is drawing still important in today's design environment?

Drawing is important even in a world now dominated by technology. It is repeatedly emphasised that despite all the software now available to us, it is still the creativity and drawing skill of the artist that determines the quality of the final piece.

M.C Escher: visualising abstraction


Born in 1898 and passing away in 1972, Escher never did well in school, but instead learnt at an early age that drawing suited him well. His father encouraged him to go into architecture, but the young Escher disappointed his father by failing his high school exams and wanting to go into graphic art instead. Following these studies, Escher travelled widely in Italy and spent time sketching landscapes and discovering the local architecture. It was in Italy that he met his wife, Jetta Umiker. They had three sons, and the marriage lasted till well into Escher's later life, but Jetta eventually left him because he prioritised his work over her.

A graphic art teacher at the architecture school which Escher attended, Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita, encouraged him to go into graphic art. Amongst his major influences was Islamic art, which is dominated by pattern, relationship and the utmost craftsmanship. This also inspired him to go beyond merely copying nature, and instead creating his own illusions. Escher was also fascinated by mathematics; not so much the formulae side, but the many visual possibilities that it opened up to him.

His work explored mathematical ideas in a graphic medium, something that was not attempted before. Mathematicians loved his visualisations of their discoveries, and they also marvelled that someone who did poorly in abstract maths could create such accomplished graphic work of it. Out of all the mathematical phenomena, 'regular division of the plane', or tessellation, is arguably Escher's most important source of inspiration. He became fascinated with it when he travelled to the Alhambra and copied its many patterns. Additionally, Escher explored polyhedra, the shape of space and his own identity through his intriguing self-portraits, which were mostly executed as reflections.

Always a quiet man, Escher kept to himself and his work. He did not like intrusion and kept a tight work ethic his entire life. Self-discipline and a commitment to his craft are his greatest competencies.

Some more of Escher's work ...







Starry, starry night

I've chosen to create a CD cover for Don McLean's Vincent, recorded in 1971 as a sort of tribute to the eponymous 19th century artist Vincent Van Gogh. The troubled painter is famed for his highly expressive, individualistic mark-making, as well as his interpretation of his subjects. The song itself describes the artist's life, with a chorus that aims to paint the artist as ignored and misunderstood.

My design's main, central motif is taken directly from the swirling stars in the Starry Night painting, referenced in the first verse of the song. The pattern is used to convey the varied mark-making so prominent in Van Gogh's works; the colours take their cue from the acoustic, somber tone of the song's instrumental. The simple composition is meant to give a sense of the calmness and tranquility felt as McLean sings in an equally direct style.

So, without further ado ...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Intro to this collection

I chose drawing because it encompasses everything in design. It's the basis of visual creativity and the starting point of work created in other mediums. The subject itself also just plain fascinates me and I want to gobble up all the info I can about it. My other options were fine in terms of personal interest, but they didn't have the same connection to my future job as drawing does. While I would like to learn about watches (pretty much anything mechanical, or natural), it doesn't impact the problems I have to deal with now, and will continue to deal with.

As a person, I'm technical and perfectionistic. If I'm interested in something, I want to know everything possible about it. So at the end of this exercise (will it ever end?) I want to compartmentalise everything in drawing into topics, which all link to the greater whole. I want to understand drawing as a science, not as a mish-mash of scattered and unrelated data (read: artsy-fartsy nonsense). My skillz in drawing are not where they should be, and so I want this exercise to double-up as a primer in draughtmanship. It's difficult to practice when you're not sure where to start, and demoralising when you're not sure that what you think you know is right. 

It's a very broad subject and so the challenge would be to try to group all the info into related topics. Of course, being interested in drawing for quite a while now, I have accumulated a lot of info on it in the form of PDFs and physical books over many months. There's a folder on my PC with a whole lot of historical drawings and paintings, and it also has other types of design work across a broad range of disciplines. This obviously doesn't mean that my groupings include all that there is to know about drawing, and so I'll be looking forward to adding to that knowledge base. There are lots of little things in drawing which you can only pick up by close observation and experience.

Spiritually, drawing connects a person to their subconscious and allows them to have a closer understanding of the natural world. Mentally, it works the right-side of the brain and broadens a person's creative capabilities; in essence, it opens the mind. When I draw, it isn't always emotional, but this depends on when I choose to do it, how I do it and for what reason. In times of stress, it's therapeutic; in boredom, exciting. The physical activity of drawing improves eyesight and hand-eye coordination. It also relaxes the muscles and helps with sitting still.

I'll start off with the history of drawing, since it's the most logical first step. Perhaps I can then branch off into elements/principles, but I'll see once I get there. Below is a mind-map of the topics I could think up for drawing; it's obviously not complete, but it lists the main topical groups.

Image source: Daily Mail