Drawing ≠ Representation

A drawing that looks like the subject we’re drawing is but one type of drawing, albeit what most people think of when it comes to drawing. (That “oh, wow, it looks like a photo” definition of what constitutes “good drawing”, usually followed by a “I could never in a million years do that” which reinforces the myth that drawing isn’t something all adults can do.)

There are other styles of drawing, and other reasons to draw. There’s much to be explored and enjoyed once we put “it must look real” aside as our primary aspiration. It’s “I was walking by myself and saw a long line of daffodils along a bay” vs how Wordsworth put it: “I wandered lonely as a cloud … When all at once I saw a crowd, /A host, of golden daffodils … /They stretched in never-ending line /Along the margin of a bay”.

Drawing to fill the time, to encourage patience. Doodling.

Drawing to explore a new material. Focusing on what the new pencil/pastel/pen/colour does rather than making a finished piece..

Drawing to capture personality. Portraiture beyond mere likeness.

Drawing to convey emotion. Expressive mark making.

Drawing without looking at the paper whilst you’re doing it. Blind contour drawing. Drawings about looking, about seeing. not representation or realism. It’s impossible to draw something perfectly this way, and that’s at the heart of it. Impossible to do it right and also impossible to do it wrong. You have to abandon control, hope of perfection in the overall drawing before you’ve even started, yet at the end, within the chaos there are tiny bits of magic.

Drawing without lifting up. Continuous line. Drawing whilst looking at the subject more than the sheet of paper. Drawing a line tracking what your eyes are looking at, without lifting up your pencil/pen to move from one part to another. We don’t close our eyes when looking from one thing to the next, we just don’t bother to register what’s inbetween even though our eyes do cross over it.

4 Replies to “Drawing ≠ Representation”

  1. I loved watching your videos. You have a powerful and contagious serenity about your method. It’s as chaotic and beautiful as nature. Very enjoyable!

    1. Love the thought that I have “contagious serenity”! Certainly painting, responding to a painting, is very calming to me. ?

  2. Thank you, I enjoyed the post and the videos and picked up a bit of your contageous serenity.
    I have drawn during long delays at airports, helps the time pass and to feel more positive. People don’t move around as much during a delay. Also from the aeroplane window, on the train in cafes etc.
    Also recently did some drawing with my non prefered hand. After a while right hand said ‘c’mon let me take over, ‘left hand replied no thanks I’m liking this’
    and this resonates with what you said about ‘abandon control, hope of perfection’

    1. My non-dominant hand (left) can create far more interesting results in a drawing than my “I know what I’m doing” hand (my right), though sometimes it feels like I need to sit on my righthand to stop it from taking the pencil!

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