07 September 2011

Turner at the Tate, and some thoughts on drawing

They do say that "tone does the work, but colour gets the credit" - you can see that better in the enlarged watercolour, and the engraving made from it, below -
"Interactive display" meant not only videos the watch but - oh joy! - a chance to sit and draw. You could get close up and personal with a Turner drawing and pick up a pencil and do what he did.

Nor could I resist. Some of the drawings had such delicate lines that my decrepit eyesight couldn't cope, so I settled down in front of this landscape, initally deterred by the subject. But bit by bit I got into it, and started noticing more and more subtleties ... as well as having to revise my initial impression of its structure.
This experience, coupled with a comment in an email about "drawing badly", prompted some reflections on drawing itself. I'm trying to figure out where drawing stops and starts - in relation to both writing and painting. (How it relates to sculpture may be an entirely different topic...)

I am uneasy when people say they draw badly. Maybe because bad-good is a continuum with a slippery slope. To me, drawing is about looking, looking hard and looking again. This includes looking at other artists' drawings - especially how they made their marks. I've spent some time trying to make "their" marks ... standing in dimly lit art museums, sometimes with a lined notebook and ballpoint pen, and focusing on a small section of an old master drawing ... making the marks I see. It has the same effect for me, emotionally, as looking intently at stitching - the maker's hand and mine are powered by the same mind, one that  accepts small accumulations because it knows what the larger effect will be. 

So there I was with my ballpoint pen wishing I had a better tool - a pencil, thick paper - then the drawing would be "better", it would more closely resemble the original. I came to realise it doesn't matter - the important thing was the looking, and the translation of that artist's mark into my own gesture. I could have been drawing in air, and gained from the process.

Is drawing is the bridge to painting? Yes, I think so, in that both need composition. But the drawn line is so different from the spread paint ... can they be on the same continuum? This issue touches upon "the word as shape" - to be seen rather than read. For me, reading-for-recognition-of-information trumps word-as-shape, and often I can't get beyond constantly rereading the word to look at the painting as a whole. 

1 comment:

magsramsay said...

Drawing has been on my mind too - partly thinking about going back to evening classes, partly because it's something I've tended to skip to jump straight into painting, mainly because my copy of 'Drawing Projects , an exploration of the language of drawing" has arrived from Amazon.
I flicked through it in the Tate shop and liked the combination of contemporary practioners such as Cornelia Parker and imaginative lessons - a lot about marks and expression