Earlier today I read a blog post from Artist Daily. It was about a class where students spent 20 weeks on a single drawing — a drawing of a nose. I’m guessing that each class must have lasted at least an hour. I’m wondering, too, how much time they devoted to each eye. And what about the mouth? The ears?
It would definitely benefit me to slow down and spend a little more time getting facial features right, but I’d rather not spend two years working on a single portrait.
As I read interviews in the art magazines I receive, I’m often struck by the great lengths to which these exceptionally talented artists go to achieve their spectacular results. It’s mind-boggling. I can’t imagine spending weeks — or even days — carefully arranging and re-arranging objects for a still life. Nor can I really understand the need to take not dozens, but hundreds of photographs of that still life before even beginning to draw or paint. With all that shutter snapping, when do they have time to create?
And then there are all those things good artists should keep in mind about lighting for their studio. North light, of course. At the correct angle, of course. With your easel set at the proper distance, of course. For goodness sake, there are even articles written about choosing the right light bulbs!
Is it only by chance that the artist who wrote about light bulbs also shares video instruction on drawing noses?
Every time I read about stretching canvases, preparing paper, or other “must-do” tasks, I wonder, is this all really necessary? If I want to become an artist, must I learn — and do — all of these essential things?
I suppose the answer is:
(c) It depends
(d) All of the above
Yes, if I want to take my art to the highest levels and produce the very best work of which I’m capable, then certainly I need to slow down, spend more time on each drawing or painting, and do all I can to ensure an environment and materials as close to ideal as possible.
But, no, I’m simply a “hobbyist” who’s only now learning to draw and paint. I could take a thousand pictures of a model or still life, and it wouldn’t result in any noticeable improvement in the final product than what I’d get from taking a single photo.
It depends, of course, on how serious I want to take myself. For now, I’m mostly content with being a learner, someone who’s eagerly exploring the world of art, trying many different things, and figuring out where I fit in. Art is fun — most of the time. Yet even as I’m enjoying this journey, I do sometimes wonder how far I can go. Maybe if I applied myself a little more, paid a bit more attention to detail, gave a little more thought to the right light… maybe someday I could become a real artist.
So, indeed, the only possible answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE.
I don’t intend to get too carried away too quickly. I’m not going to attempt to set up the perfect studio or spend an excessive amount of time taking pictures. But I am going to pay more attention to “prep work” — such as soaking and stretching watercolor paper or applying a finish to the sheet for a soft pastel drawing. I’m also going to make notes of what I read so I can learn not only what to do, but why it’s important.
Do you know why artists prefer north light for the studio? It provides a cool light and allows the artist more control over values, color changes, and contrasts in a painting. Maybe you already knew that. I didn’t.
I have so much to learn, and so many decisions to make. How far can I go? Even more important, how far do I want to go in the world of art? I don’t know the answers to those questions yet, so when it comes to all those must-do things, I’m sticking with my choice and responding “Yes, no, it depends, and all of the above.”