reprinted from the newsgroup rec.arts.fine
Images: Luca Cambiaso | Giovanni Cambiaso| Piero della Francesca | Hans Hofmann | Charles Webster Hawthorne | Paul Klee | Gustave Courbet |
>I'm trying to teach myself to
draw by going through
Nicolaides "The Natural Way to Draw".
> I work rotating shifts so taking ongoing courses isn't
> practical. Does anyone have any suggestions for other sources of
> instruction, or information, remember I'm just starting. Any help would
> be appreciated.
>EKT, Prince George Freenet, British Columbia, CANADA
It is hard to learn to draw without a master. It is even worse with a bad master. I never thought Nicolaides was a good one. He gives a whole series of tricks without metaphoric content-but they have it, he is either not telling or doesn't know.
I know of very few good drawing books, I will mention some later on.
Many years ago a student of mine gave me a book by Soprani: "Gli Artisti Genovesi egli Forestieri chi hanno habitato qui." [Approximate title-The artists of Genoa and the foreign [artists] who have lived here.]
Among the other biographies were two of Giovanni [the father] and of Luca Cambiaso.
Luca Cambiaso (1527 - 1585):
Luca Cambiaso was rediscovered by the cubists and later by the surrealists, both wanted him as their precursor. He was a great figure. And his father tells how he produced him as a virtuoso-that is as a child genius artist.
Giovanni says that four things are necessary.
You need a clear and simple series of geometric principles from which to construct figures in the round.
The last was Giovanni's. He made up a series of cubes and rectangles which were anatomically based, could be seen in perspective and could be used to make up a figure-that means you could make up a composition without having any models posing for you.
But the great drawings is another story. He says, a friend of his had a stack of drawing by a tuscan painter famous in an earlier period who was out of fashion now, but who drew with a fine sense of style. The young Luca drew over them with a stylus or a very light pencil-right over their outline-learning how to simplify and make forms more grand.
Unfortunately the guy was too good and we don't have a single figure drawing by him now, Luca destroyed them all. His name was Piero della Francesca.
Piero della Francesca:
Death of Adam, Arezzo from Web Gallery of Art
But what is the meat of this argument? Cambiaso believed that the figure was everything, as did his generation. If so, you need to be able to conceptualize it, not merely repeat one angle of it. Also you need to learn how to elide the particularities which do not allow for monumentality -- another absolute then. He worked out a system which really taught it.
Luca's drawings are marvel to my eyes to this day. But Luca couldn't paint well at all. His paintings are weak!
I don't expect you to follow the advice of Giovanni Cambiaso, although I think, judiciously followed as well as other things, it makes some real sense. There are some other books which teach drawing in different ways. Always remember that teaching drawing is not teaching something objective, but teaching the ideation of the teacher.
John Ruskin's Elements of Drawing was an extremely radical book. One of my friends, Lawrence Campbell wrote the Intro for the new Dover Press edition-should still be in print, cheap in paperback.
Ruskin teaches not what ideally should be out there, but what we see at different distances from the eye in light and shade. A brilliant and original thing.
One more thing. When I was a teenager, before the book was translated, A friend translated Paul Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook for me and I followed its exercises. That is a great book for learning what metaphor means. His big book The Thinking Eye, especially Volume 1, does it even better, but start small[from the sketchbook-it is now in English and probably in print, or in your local library].
He is a metaphoric artist, par excellence- he knows he is one and he teaches just that. But remember, they are HIS metaphors and HIS way of thinking - not yours. But it is a good apprenticeship.
Runner at the Goal, 1921. Watercolor and pencil on paper, bordered with watercolor on the cardboard mount, 15 1/2 x 11 7/8 inches overall. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. 48.1172x55. Paul Klee © 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst.
(This article) was advice to someone who wanted to learn how to draw who was young and did not have good quality teaching available to him. In the absence of a teacher it would be a start. The problem is I don't know anyway of getting "Forming" out of a book.
There are some books which talk around it, like the Andre Lhote books on the nude and on landscape, and the best would be Allen Leepa, "The Challenge of Modern Art," which was written by a a Professor at Michigan State who had been a Hofmann student, and represents the most articulate version in written form of Hofmann's viewpoint as a pedagogue. The first edition of 1949 is the one to use, in which he uses Hofmann's work as examples. After that, since his mother remarried to Abraham Rattner, he switches to Rattner, and it is not so useful.
Other books which carry some of the studio method in them are Hofmann's own "Search for the Real", William Morris Hunt's "Talks on Art," transcribed and edited by Helen Mary Knowlton, and Charles Hawthorne's: "Hawthorne on Painting." All of these are based on studio criticism by the artist in question.
Cathedral, 1959 (with Clement Greenberg essay); Self-Portrait with Brushes. Casein on plywood, 1942 from Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Charles Webster Hawthorne (1872-1930)
A Study in White. Oil on Canvas 36" x
Reading Public Museum
All of the artists are committed essentially to the French method of direct perceptual work, often with great insights into color and value as well as "drawing". None of them is as good as a really good drawing teacher, but they give insights into what should be learned in that context which cannot be gleaned in any other way, except intense and knowledgeable drawing from master paintings in search of the "structure." And the only person I know of who gained mastery from that activity only, was Gustave Courbet.
Gustave Courbet (1819-1877):
The Painter's Studio, Allegorie, 1855; Oil on canvas, 11' 10 1/4" x 19' 7 1/2" (361 x 598 cm)
Musee d'Orsay, Paris
Gabriel Laderman is not a faculty member of the International School of Painting, Drawing and Sculpture and has no connection with it. This article was reprinted with his permission.
International School of
Painting, Drawing and Sculpture