Why Don’t Artists Draw Anymore?

In the past many of my early mentors would deride the work of illustrators and graphic designers as ‘not real artists ‘. They were so wrong.
The art of illustration demands many creative skills. Not only in the handling of materials to produce an acceptable result for a paying client, but also it requires an imagination and storytelling ability which goes way beyond the mere copying of a subject, as so many artists tend to do. 

In the 70s I managed an art materials shop and gallery in the centre of Leicester. One of our artists was royal portrait painter, Bryan Organ who lived locally.

Ideas for David Attenborough (studies for Attenborough in Paradise) 2016*

In conversation one day I asked him “Bryan, what is the difference between a professional artist and an amateur? “

This was his reply. “A professional draws and an amateur paints”. I knew exactly what he meant through handling his work through our gallery. This interview with him explains the theory perfectly.

http://www.leicestersocietyofartists.co.uk/events/2016/bryan-organ-talk.php

He would find a subject and observe / dissect it from so many different angles via ‘working drawings ‘. 
For instance, he produced a major exhibition based solely around the life of a local pigeon fancier.  Small scale studies of the individual prized birds, the loft interiors, family portraits, and their lives which revolved around the world of pigeon racing.

Attenborough in Paradise 2016 **

He worked on a small scale using mainly pencil and gouache, creating endless studies which we framed and exhibited alongside several major finished paintings. These studies were the ‘nuts and bolts ‘ of Bryan’s art. The drawings showed the development of the theme throughout its entire process, to the major works hanging on the gallery wall.

How many of us just pick up a brush and paint a picture, and then move on to the next subject?
Where would the world of art be without the wonderful drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci? The Mona Lisa tells us little of the brilliant mind which existed behind a fairly ordinary portrait?

I spent many years teaching art to adults and children. There is very little difference when it comes to teaching art.
On enrolment nights the conversation would often go something like this-:

Me “Have you done any drawing?”
Student “I can’t even draw a straight line.”
Me “Use a ruler.”
Student “Is that not cheating?”
Me “No, it’s drawing a straight line!”
Student “I can paint but I can’t draw.”

Such is the perception of ‘drawing ‘. Painting is drawing with a brush and colour. How can one exist successfully without the other?
It is all down to observation, and then using the information creatively. See, draw, understand, create.

So many people say, “I cannot draw,” yet they are capable of writing a legible letter in their own hand, so the dexterity is there.
 What they really mean is THEY CANNOT BE BOTHERED TO LOOK!
 By drawing you are undertaking intense observation of your subject, and therefore will have a far better chance of producing something which is far more intimate and creative in your finished work. 

How many of you even consider working from your own sketches? When drawing a subject, you can be very selective and note only the essentials which first caught your eye, as a possible subject ‘. Or you can study the finer details. A camera is nowhere near as selective and tends to ‘flatten everything out ‘. 
I do use my camera, but only to collect ‘information’. For instance, there is little point in sitting in front of buildings and drawing every single window, chimney and doorway. While travelling, time is often important, not to mention the weather conditions. 
I will take a photo, only draw from it, and then put it away, occasionally getting it out to check the local colour of such things as buildings, boats, street signs etc., By working from photographs you can easily fall into the trap of producing an exact copy of your photograph, and what is the point of that?

Mike Smith

*Organ, Bryan; Ideas for David Attenborough; Leicester Arts and Museums Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/ideas-for-david-attenborough-236360
**Organ, Bryan; Attenborough in Paradise (Portrait of Sir David Attenborough); Leicester Arts and Museums Service; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/attenborough-in-paradise-portrait-of-sir-david-attenborough-234869