How to Draw


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Picture Making continued

No, the only way in which to compete with nature is by a careful approach through the terms of your medium, letting your medium dictate the way. Where, then, does this dictating start? Well, in the first place, nature is not confined in her activities to a rectangle as we are. Nature is not static, yet canvas and paint are. Nature is three-dimensional, a canvas is two-dimensional. The range of color that nature can achieve will outdo the largest palette and the shapes, tones and variety of nature could never be squeezed into a rectangle without there being a hopeless muddle.

We must tackle the problem in another way. We must start from a completely new standpoint if we are to make pictures and appreciate pictures. We will have to think again about the whole question. Now where do we begin?


First of all, what do pictures consist of? What are they all about? Pictures can be of things seen, things remembered or ideas about things seen and remembered. There is no end, in fact, to the number of different kinds of pictures. Pictures can be decorative murals, or used to brighten up a room or match the furniture. They can be for propaganda: advertising the church, the state or soap flakes. They can be used for flattering the great and wealthy: portraits and possessions, or for the passing delight of the fashionable.

But the pictures that have most interest are those that have been done for none of the above obvious reasons. Those that have been done for private, personal motives: expression, the desire to find out about the world or just for a sheer love of seeing and painting. The pictures that have been done for the private experience alone will have something in common. They all obey certain laws. They must work within the
bounds of canvas and paint. Naturally artists from time to time have struggled to enlarge on these limitations and the history of art is a succession of their successes and failures, see the Impressionists, the Cubists.

And it is this tension, this struggle to enlarge the confines of painting, that has given art its vitality and its purpose. Often we can see in a picture the tension caused by the conflict of an artist between his idea and the limitations of his medium, or how he has been sidetracked from his original purpose in order to solve the problem of squeezing the essence out of nature so that it fitted comfortably into a rectangle in paint.

Well, we cannot compete with nature as nature moves too quickly for us. It cannot be transferred in all its beauty and wonder to a canvas, with conviction, by directly confronting her. So what can we do? Give up nature as some modern artists have tried to do?

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