How Those That Did it Did it,
And How You Can do it too!
REVIEW OF THE BASIC DRAWING TECH
Another wall of text, but, some times somethings need to be put up front.
Advanced skills are not acquired by learning new ‘tricks’, or grasping more complex concepts. ‘Advancement’ is breaking things down to simpler and simpler concepts, really getting at the true underlying causes of things, so you truly visualize what you are doing and why you are doing it. You gain the ability to predict with the data. A whole new view or approach to the same subject can result from such an effort.
So, now it is time for an advanced course on drawing skills. What such a course would consist of is everything you have already learned, but now view it from that invaluable piece of tech re: visualization.
Why does the tech on the Rough Sketch work?
Remember the purpose of the rough sketch; to get everything down without regard to any accuracy or detail? Well, the real ‘why?’ behind the rough sketch is to give you something you can compare the setup up to. Prior to that, you have nothing to compare, and so you can’t get anything ‘right’ because there is nothing there to ‘make right.’
You look at the setup, get a first impression, a vague idea, and that is what you put down.
What is this ‘vague’ idea?
It is a visualization.
The visualization could however, be quite complete. You could have visualized exactly what this sketch is going to look like when it is done before you even start with it. But, the rough sketch itself is first visualized as a rough sketch, even though you know already exactly how this drawing is going to finally turn out.
Why does the tech on Simple Shapes work?
The simple shapes are ‘simple’ because they are easy to visualize. That’s it, period.
Also, they are so general it is unlikely you have too much baggage associated with them, so less of that stuff gets in your way.
You look at your subject, or a part of it, and compare what you are looking at to the simple shapes you have in your head. That is exactly what you are doing, even if you aren’t aware of doing it. When one of those simple shapes fits your setup or part of your setup that is the simple shape you use to get started. It is no more complex than that.
Why does the tech on ‘Large to Small’ work?
When you put down the larger shapes, it helps you visualize where the other shapes fit relative to that larger shape, and relative to one another. If you start to draw a face with the eyeball, drawing the eyeball really doesn’t help you visualize where other ‘things’ fit relative to the eyeball or one another. It doesn’t help much, and can lead to a real disaster. This is experience talking here folks! That is why the ‘large to small’ principle is so useful, it makes it easier to ‘visualize’.
Why does the tech on ‘standing back’ work?
When you compare ‘something’ to ‘something’, what you are always comparing is a mental picture you have of a ‘something’ to a real outside-of-your-head ‘something’. You are never comparing two real things to one another. Why? Because your eyes set on only one thing at a time, and when you are looking at that one thing, and if you are in the act of ‘comparing’, then what you are doing is comparing that one thing to a mental picture of another thing. The actual act is you shift your attention from the real thing outside your head, to the mental picture you have ‘inside’ your head. You are shifting what you are looking at from the real thing outside, to the mental picture you have ‘inside’. And the length of time it takes to make that shift is significant, because that mental picture is not stable, for most of us, and so it is constantly changing.
When you have to physically turn your head back and forth in order to see the setup and the drawing, your ‘memory’ lets you down. That mental picture, that visualization, starts to fade away quite quickly, and so you will miss things. I suspect that when you look at something with the intention of ‘keeping’ it so you can use it later, you make a mental picture of it. That is what memory is, mental pictures. So, when you turn your head, the mental picture is all you have left of what you were originally observing. When you compare two lines in your subject with two lines in your sketch, what you are really comparing are the lines in the mental picture with the lines in the sketch. When you turn your head back and forth, that mental image is disappearing faster than someone who owes me money, whose name shall not be revealed, Eddy!
When you are standing back, all you have to do is shift your eyes back and forth. If you are sitting down, you have to shift your head back and forth. Thus, when you stand back and compare, you get more comparisons per unit of time than you do when you are sitting down, maybe 10x as many comparisons, before that image disappears, just like Eddy does, who by the way, lives at 1022 Baker Drive, in Center Town, in case he owes you money too, although I doubt if you’ll find him there ...
Also, when you stand back, another interesting phenomenon occurs. The two things you have to see, the subject and the drawing of the subject, get closer in size, so it is easier to compare since there are fewer differences between them.
Also, make sure you put your mental image on the paper, and don’t just keep in your head. You can place these pictures, you know, they can be put any place you want them put. That is a kind of mental horsepower, it’s actually a way of measuring the strength of your ‘intention’. When you place the mental picture down on the paper, instead of just in your head, it helps quite a bit. May sound odd, but if you do this, imagine the image down on the paper, then you can almost see your sketch and your image at the same time. Thus this is even faster! I don’t know if I mentioned that earlier or not in this section, so I’m putting it down here in case I didn’t and so this valuable little insight doesn’t get lost or disappear, like Eddy.
So, when you stand back, you look at your setup, get a mental picture of it, turn your eyes to the drawing, put your attention on the drawing, then put your attention on your mental picture, back and forth, finding similarities, differences, and identicals. If your mental picture gets foggy, you simply shift your eyes back to the subject, refuel the original mental picture so to speak, and then shift your eyes back to the drawing, and continue the above procedure. If you also had to turn your head around back and forth, the longer that cycle takes of shifting your head and the fuzzier the mental pictures get.
I guess that is enough on this point.
Another Important-to-know source of 'Baggage'
There is another factor you need to be aware of re your mental pictures.
As you exist, you are automatically creating these pictures, usually completely unaware you are doing so, it is automatic like breathing and your pumping heart. We usually call it ‘memory’. You are always making decisions, aren’t you! So, you are creating your baggage as you go along. Each time you make a decision, you have potentially reduce your ability to experience.
This has a very major impact on you as an artist. What it means is that as you study your setup, and sketch it, you are constantly making decisions about it; how high is this compared to that, how does this fit with that, and so on. So you pile up these decisions, with the result that you begin to think you know how it looks. Well, you do, really, but man-oh-man, you are swimming on the brink of Niagara Falls! What happens is this. As you see your subject and study it more and more, you begin to see it less and less. Why? Because you are building a bunch of memories about what it looks like, and the ‘Falls’ in Niagara is that you stop seeing your subject or sketch, and begin to use your memory of it. You start thinking about it rather than seeing it, and you won’t even know it!!! You begin to operate off those previous decisions about it. And so you see it less. And so your rate of progress is reduced. And you miss things. I guess what I’m trying to say that you are no longer visualizing the way it is, you are looking at previous decisions you’ve made about it, over the Falls you go, butt first.
Thus the more you work on something, the slower your rate of progress on it may be. This is the reason why here you are constantly being hounded to stand back, take a break, get away from it. Taking a break works because you come back to your work mentally ‘fresher’ than before. And what does that mean? It means that the images you’ve piled up, the decisions you’ve made about your work, have faded away, and you can see things now you couldn’t see before because those mental images and decisions stood in the way, less of a filter I guess …
The mirror works because it reverses everything, and you don’t have any of those mental pictures, decisions, of it looking in reverse, so it helps you ‘see’ again.
So, get up, stand back, take a break and use the damn mirror!
This mental baggage is the reason why you are told here to view your work as if you had never seen it before, view it each time as if it was brand new to you, and these procedures are how you can accomplish that. I bug you about that not just because I’m mean and enjoy hounding you … well, maybe I do, a little, but that is not the only reason!
This is why artists will work on more than one piece of work at a time. They know they can do three or four just as quickly as one. As they shift from one work to another, each work comes back fresh to them, as their head is full of decisions from the previous work, and has nothing to do with this one they are now on. So they can ‘see’ it better, and things that needed correction before, that they missed, they can now see. So, their rate of progress is higher. Work on several projects at once.
Why does altering the view of your subject work?
This technique is used for the same reasons as you use the mirror, with the same results.
If you are working from a print or photo etc., turn it upside down, and turn your work upside down! Or turn them both sideways. Why? Because you haven’t seen it upside down or sideways, and so you’ve not made any decisions about it that way, so you are forced to see it now.
Also, when you see a face or a tree, or whatever, no matter how good you are, you can still be influenced to some degree with baggage that comes in on you; after all, it does look like a face or a tree. But, when sideways or upside down, it looks different. It doesn’t make sense. It violates your agreed upon reality, so that baggage tends to drop away.
Why does the tech on ‘Complex Shapes’ work?
The primary ‘problem’ with ‘complex’ things is that you re-experience certain attitudes and feelings from the past.
You look at something now that seems to be complex, and what happens? You kick in on your head attitudes and feelings from past experiences of ‘complex’ things. The ‘confusions’ or ‘I’m not so sure about this’ and other attitudes are coming from previous experiences, but you are feeling them now.
If you put your attention on the simple things, you get feelings and attitudes associated with simple things. If you put your attention on simple shapes, you will also get past attitudes associated with simple shapes; what kind of problems could an ‘oval’ have dealt to you in the past that could hinder you now?
There is not much baggage with simple shapes, and they are easy to visualize.
What are those initial barriers, really?
Remember way back at the beginning of the course we commented a little on some primary barriers some people have in drawing, trying to do it right the first time, and things like that? Well, where do these come from? All they are, are previously made decisions based on previous experience.
The Perfectionist ... poor soul.
As you recall, we talked about this individual earlier in the course. Given the data on visualization, and the role it plays, we can better understand why this situation exists, and so we can handle it.
Perfectionism is just that the person is unable to visualize things any other way than how it looks already completed. In other words, they cannot yet visualize the various stages between nothing and something. They cannot visualize something in an unfinished state, only in a finished state, and that is where they try to ‘start’ their work, at a finished state. This is akin to trying to get it right the first time, which we covered the first fifteen minutes after you walked in the door. Remember?
They are not treated any differently than anyone else. They are trained into visualization, and after a short while are flying along like anyone else. It completely undercuts that ‘problem child’.
Learning New Artistic ‘Styles’
Those who are stuck drawing only one thing are stuck there because they cannot visualize it any other way. This is most easily seen in children who always draw the same thing over and over and over. A cat, or a dog, or Superman, or something, even so called ‘artists’ who draw or paint the same scene over and over, but maybe shift the position around on the canvas, are a sad lot. They do what they can visualize.
Adults are often in the same boat, except they usually have long since given up and so don’t draw anymore. The worst of them pretend to be an authority on art so they can tell us how much they know and how little we know. The usual yahoo art critic … or they just watch t.v., waiting to retire and then wait to die.
Also, when one cannot draw or paint in a different style than one usually works in, such as realism, impressionism, classical, abstract etc., it is usually because they cannot visualize the work in those other styles. That is one reason behind duplicating the Great Masters; you are gaining the ability to visualize something in a different way, or better, than before.
As an aside, when you are looking at the product of a Great Master, what you are looking at are their solutions to the problems they encountered while doing the work.
One way of learning by studying the Greats is to see if you can figure out why they visualized this work this particular way.
Let’s say there is a painting of a tree, by Corot or Turner. They both had a ‘vision’ to paint, they knew they were not painting a tree, but their vision about it. When you study them, it is of great value to see if you can understand why they visualized it that way. What are they trying to communicate?
What was the problem they encountered to which this is the best solution?
This is why it is hard to learn to draw or paint from completed masterpieces. You cannot see what was done that lead up to the final product. You cannot visualize the stages the work went through to get it to the point of completion you now see before you. Thus, for you to learn how to visualize these ‘missing’ stages, it is best that you study from incomplete works, or from studies done by great artists. Then you can better see what it was that leads to the final product, and better able to visualize these various stages in your own work.
A good book on incomplete drawings by great artists is a gift from a god or a muse. From that you can learn. Later, you can study completed works.
In this school, we refer to such studies as, ‘Duplicating the Masters’, and not ‘Copying the Masters’. Xerox machines copy without any understanding. Duplicating entails understanding.
Mimicry, mindless, unthinking copying, is a way to open the door and you can learn from doing it, but at some point, you have to start figuring out ‘why’ was it done this way? So what you are trying to duplicate is not the artwork, but the original vision of the artist, and why was it he visualized this specific subject this way? Unfortunately, we can’t see the original subject, they are buried in some box somewhere, or have been plowed up and changed into a parking lot … or condo … but still, we can learn a very great deal as to why this Great artist did it this way. It takes doing a lot, studying each of them a lot, and then you begin to get the vision he had, and so you understand more, which you can now use in your own work.
Also, a major factor in studying how the Greats painted is to specifically study the way they put paint on the canvas. ‘Painting’ has nothing to do with what you are painting, nothing to do with tones or colour. It has to do with the physical application of paint to a surface, it is how you physically putting paint down on the canvas. ‘Red’ is the same for you as for them, bodies are the same, trees are the same, lemons are the same; what makes the difference, besides their vision of the subject, is how they put the paint down on the canvas, that is the primary element in different styles, the application of the paint.
Great artists usually had a specific way of putting paint on a canvas that is necessary for them to create the effect they wanted to create. So, one of the points your study as an artist, is to study just how they physically put the paint down. You are not studying what they painted, what is the point? If you cannot see how they physically put the paint down on the canvas, you have no hope whatsoever of learning how to paint a face or tree the way they did. None! Why? Because they used paint! So, first study how they put paint down on the canvas, and then you can study how they created what they created in the subjects they studied, and don’t ever lend any money to Eddy.
(How you go about studying just the physical application of paint by a great artist, we’ll get into in full detail when I write up the stuff on painting, which will be done at a future time, but here is a tidbit for you.
So, there is a clue here about how to study the great Masters, which we will get into in more detail when you begin to study the great masters, but I want to mention it here in case I don’t get that far. If you want to study Corot, or Chardin, or Manet, whomever, study the paint before you study the image. The image can get in the way of doing that, so to avoid being distracted, cut out a small hole from a piece of paper, and put that over the image, the entire image covered by the paper but a little hole over the area you want to study. You can’t see the image so as you study and paint what you see in the hole, trying to put that paint down that way, the image is not distractive. This really, really works, and I’m surprized no one does it. This way you can see how the artist put the paint down, and you can study just that, how he put the paint down. Find several places in the Master’s painting you want to study, cover the image up except for that little hole, and see how he put the paint down, and try it yourself. The hole should be small enough that no image is coming through at all, no ‘picture’, just paint. If it is part of a body, then make sure that you can’t see the body, or any part of it, not the arm, the leg, or you’ll find yourself trying to paint that arm or leg, and not getting the point of the exercise, to study how to he painted, how he put down the paint. Do this for several parts of that painting, then paint the painting, and you’ll find that you’ve solved a lot of the mystery, although a few will still pop up.
Don’t underestimate the value of doing this; I guarantee to you if you study how they put the paint down this way, you’re learning curve will be exceptional.)
Now, all this data on ‘painting’ is relevant to drawing! Great artists often drew different ways, different styles, even though they all used the exact same basics as you have already learned here, and will continue to learn as you do more and more drawing on your own. You do your drawings, and then once you can really draw well, you study how the Greats drew. What colour paper did they use, are the lines thick or thin, or do they change in thickness as the move around the paper, are the lines all connected to one another, or are there deliberate gaps left between parts of the same line for the viewer to fill in? This is pretty advanced stuff, and it is around now that you need to begin to learn it. I haven’t added the subjects of ‘changing lines’ etc., to this workbook, yet, but I hope to do so soon. Not all lines are the same, and, lines have shapes! I think you’ll like it when we get to it.
Anyway, that’s later, when I can get around to getting it all illustrated for you. I put it here just so you know there is something there to know, and you may actually be able to see it yourself without me being around. Also, I might forget to do it. (Actually, as of May 2015, I’ve added this chapter.)
You need to learn to trust your visualization. You need to know with certainty that what you see is what you will get. The geniuses, the really powerful people, trusted what they ‘knew’, which is to say, trusted what they visualized.
The way you earn that trust, is to do what you ‘see’, until you have confidence that what you see is what you will get, and thus you’ll realize that what you ‘see’, is what you ‘know’.
The artist’s public
When someone looks at your art, and 'recognizes' what the drawing shows, what has happened? Well, keep in mind that the mental pictures one has of something from previous experiences with it accomplishes identification of those same things now. If you have a mental picture of what an apple looks like, then you can recognize this ‘thing’ in front of you is an apple. If you don’t have a mental picture of what this ‘thing’ is, then you don’t know what it is. This is ‘Bobology 101’.
(Editor’s Note: I see that not everyone has had their meds balanced. The above text should read, “Dorkology 101” –ed.)
What you as an artist must do is put on the paper what ever is necessary so that those mental pictures in the observer have been stimulated into action, and what you have done in your work to some degree matches those mental pictures of the observer. Thus there is an agreement between the two of you. Thus the recognition that what you have done is ‘real’, to the observer. (By ‘real’, I only mean that what you have done is not in conflict with what the observer has already decided is acceptable to them, regardless of subject or style, representational or abstract, etc.)
Also, the likes and dislikes come into play in the observer as well. If they 'like' it, it means they ‘agree’ with it, which means it corresponds with their decisions. If they 'dislike' it, it means they disagree with it. It has nothing to do with how ‘good’ it is, or what it is about, etc. The question is quite simple, “Does it agree with their pre-made decisions on their relationship to the subject, or not”?
One is an acceptance; the other is a rejection … I suppose there are shades of grey …
This is not limited to just representational art, it’s true for all art forms. It’s true for all communications, really, you tend to accept things with which you agree.
(Editor’s Note: What a load of crap! –ed.)
Great artists, the truly great ones, are able to invite the observer to reconsider their own views and decisions about things. The Greats will present to the viewer issues on morality, mortality, right, wrong, ethics, social responsibility, etc., and challenge the viewer to examine their own views on the subject. The really Great Ones are considered Great not just because of their technical expertise, such as they actually know how to draw or paint, but they also presented an opinion on something which caused others to reconsider their own opinions about something, be it some circumstances of the times, or the morality or ethics of some situation. Great art really is ‘great’. Only those who know what they are doing, and have had the personal integrity to actually learn the basics of their trade can accomplish it. This is what is meant when you hear that sometimes the artist must shock others out of their life long nap and wake them up to the world around them, demand of the audience that they at least look! That is how the Masters do it.
Those poor, unfortunate flakes who pretend they are ‘artists’, and the yahoos who have de-brained and programmed them and sucked the life out of them for the yahoo’s’ own financial gain, consider things such as meat dresses, jars of urine, etc. as ‘shocking’, and therefore of artistic value. They have no idea at all, none, about why the Greats did what they did or how they did it.
One of the methods these yahoos use to degrade art is by attempting to identify ‘art’, ‘entertainment’, and ‘creativity’. Thus they create ‘identification’ between entertainment and artistic merit, both of which can be creative to various degrees. All art has an entertainment aspect to it, but not all entertainment has any artistic value. A loud fart in a classroom of 12-year-olds would probably have the whole room rolling on the floor laughing their collective butts off, but there is no pretense of artistic value to it. The ‘art’ may be in how it is being presented to the class, but it is the presentation that is artistic, not the fart.
(Ultimately, what one considers having artistic merit is determined by their own condition as a person. Someone who is themselves personally very degraded, would consider degraded things as being artistic, since those things communicate well to them, and so that is what is ‘real’ to them. That is what they agree with. This is the world of the dung-eater and the yahoo art critic. As these pieces of human garbage con their way into positions of social influence, then of course the foul smell of their rot begins to permeate all through that society.)
Meat dresses are entertaining, but are of no artistic value what so ever, unless you are an idiot. Now, in my humble opinion, what would be of artistic value is if the yahoos who promoted such garbage promoted it in a yard full of dogs. Now, that would be worth putting on video, especially if the yahoos and their corporate and government sponsors were the ones who actually modeled the meat dresses as the dogs were let loose … I think that is called, ‘performance art’.
(…and more crap…)
The yahoos hate the Greats with a vile passion, and do whatever they can to demean or degrade or dismiss just how great these artists really were, and still are! Fortunately for us, these yahoos are observably incompetent by any reasonable standard, so their program of destruction has failed. All that is left for them to do now is die.
Getting back to the point of this section, for the artist who really wants to have a tremendous effect on society, all you have to do is to find that societies sacred cows and give an alternative or opposing view. But you have to be good, really good, to do this. You have to be able to communicate your opinion.
At some point, you have to begin to do something with your skills for the benefit of all. You have to stand for something, and show others, and invite others to join in the dialogue. That is your role as an artist in society.
Don’t just paint another pretty picture.
Do something with your abilities!!!!
If you know someone who considers art should be ‘shocking’, find out what they consider ‘shocking’, and you’ve got them.
If their idea of great art is Velasquez or Corot or Sergeant, or Fuk Ling, then you have a grasp on their ‘baggage’ and then you can go in that direction.
This is the entirety of what you are doing when you aim for an audience. You are dealing with their visualizations, and what they think. What you think, or like, or dislike, is irrelevant.
Now, of course, you can create art just for the fun of it. If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.
I have a little story to tell you, which will illustrate what I’m talking about here regarding this ‘audience’ thing.
Back in LA, I made my living by selling paintings. (Yes, paintings I painted, not paintings someone else painted!). If I didn’t sell something, I didn’t eat, a true stereotype. A basic bottom-line type of existence. In truth, that is how I learned to fast for up to 30 days at a time, which I still do every year.
Anyway… when I went to art shows all throughout the LA area, I used to ‘filter’ my work, taking what I knew was really f-ing good, and leaving everything else at the studio.
I learned real fast that what I thought what was ‘good’ or ‘bad ‘was irrelevant. Crap sells, it really does, literally, artist poop sells! My sense of aesthetics had no value at all. What I had to deal with was what the audience thought was ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and boy, talk about a Halloween taste in art! (But that is another story.)
So, I learned, and I began to bring everything I could carry to the art shows, and sold whatever I could sell to pay last month’s rent.
At the time I was doing all this, I used to go to these shows with a very dear friend of mine, Louis Askew, bless his heart, and he would also put his work up for sale.
One day, when I was down in his basement, I found a whole pile of canvases stuck behind a furnace or something, really grungy and dirty, and I thought “Wow! Treasure! Here is a bunch of stuff we can take to the shows!” Louis was appalled at the idea. Those paintings were stuck down into a dark and dirty corner of the basement for a very good reason; Louis was not at all pleased with them! So I told him what I had learned about selling art was a business, and you had to treat it as a business just as you would if you’d be selling socks. And of course I told him that what he thought was ‘wonderful’ wouldn’t necessarily be what anyone else thought was ‘wonderful’. Usually it is not. He understood, but didn’t believe me that it would make any real difference, and refused take the work to any show. So, I made Louis a deal. I told him to pick out what he thought was the absolute worst painting of the bunch, and let’s just try it and see. So he did. He picked out what he thought was the worst of the lot. It was a little 8’x10’ canvas which had the top left half, along the diagonal from the top right corner to the bottom left corner, all filled in with red paint, and the other half of the canvas filled in with white paint, and in the middle was this great, big, black apple.
He was right; it was terrible, one of the most gawd awful things I ever saw. Anyway, we washed it up, varnished it, put a cheap frame on it, and sold it the very next show!!!
We spent the rest of the week down in his basement washing all dirt and grime off this pot of gold, this treasure trove, this pile of now ‘wonderful’ canvases, getting them ready for the next show.
So, as an artist, when you are dealing with an audience, you are dealing with their senses of aesthetics, their visualizations of how things are. Not yours!
This subject of ‘visualization’ has been a dominating point in the ‘basic’ line drawing book, as taught at this school. You can accept it or dismiss it, according to your own experiences, but the point is: there is something here to know.
I’m not interested in getting into any debate with anyone on whether what I wrote in these last few sections on ‘visualization’ is ‘true’ or not, and have no desire to ‘convince’ anyone. All I know is that it works, and either you use it, or you don’t do as well.
What else could you want?
This has been a rather lengthy section in the ‘basic’ line drawing book at this school. (No kidding. -ed.)
You can accept it or dismiss it, according to your own experiences, but the point is: there is something here to know.
I’m not interested in getting into any debate with anyone on whether what I wrote in ‘Visualization’ is true or not, and have no desire to ‘convince’ anyone. All I know is that it works, and either you use it, or you don’t do as well.
What else could you possibly want?
As an aside, the only act which precedes visualization is the intention to visualize. Intention is the creative act.
Visualize what you want to have, visualize how you are going to do it, visualize yourself doing it, and then do it.