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Drawing From Within
By Nick Meglin and Diane Meglin

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 Drawing From Within

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Drawing From Within
By Nick Meglin and Diane Meglin
ISBN: 0446674044
Genre: Inspirational & Self-Help

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Chapter Excerpt from: Drawing From Within , by Nick Meglin and Diane Meglin

Chapter 1

When you are drawing from within, your chief concerns should be what and why rather than how a drawing is done. Therefore, you won't find much information in this book about media and materials. Here, a pencil is a pencil is a pencil, and 2B or not 2B isn't the question. Materials don't make drawings, artists do! Technique and rendering have little to do with making a personal statement.

During the initial stages of drawing our concentration should be limited to what you see and feel and the act of expressing yourself. When favorite materials (those that offer the most comfort and security) are relied upon, then the tools we use to express ourselves have become too important.

Media has always played a minor role in art. Let's use two famed Dutch artists, albeit of different eras, as examples. Rembrandt certainly knew his way around a palette, and his mastery of the brush cannot be denied. However, his use of these materials has never been the reason his work is held in such high esteem. Van Gogh never displayed Rembrandt's mastery of drawing accuracy nor subtle coloration, but van Gogh's passion and intensity for his subjects made his work equally praiseworthy. In the work of both of these artists, achievement has never been a matter of how.

Still, whenever I said, "Materials are immaterial!" I drove my students bonkers. They were so accustomed to focusing on rendering that they had built their drawing foundations on it.

"If you use the very same tennis racket Pete Sampras or Martina Hingis uses, you too can win the U.S. Open or Wimbledon," I said to my class. They laughed. Obviously, this is absurd. Tennis champions will get the same result from any style or brand of tennis racket. Pete and Martina would play well using a snowshoe! In these cases it's obvious materials are immaterial.

"Was it the bat or the batter that made Hank Aaron the home run champion'" I ask my students.

"The batter, of course!" they reply.

Then, I'd announce that all drawing exercises for the first few weeks (both those drawn from life in the classroom and those done on location) would be drawn directly with fountain pen. The students reacted as if I were a sadist whose greatest joy derived from making their lives miserable!

"Didn't we all just agree it was Hank Aaron and not his bat that hit 755 home runs'"

"Yes, but that's different!"

"How is that different" Okay, another analogy! Clinical analysis might very well prove it was a particular Remington typewriter that set down Arthur Miller's rich, free-flowing dialogue for several of his most cherished plays. Even if this fact led to a stampede of writers rushing to buy that same model typewriter, would it have changed the literary world one iota'"

My students moan begrudgingly. Nevertheless, they begin to get the idea that in any endeavor it is the person, not the material, that is responsible for the work.

So why the fountain pen? There are several reasons for inflicting this "writing" instrument on art students. The most important reason is that when you use a fountain pen, every line drawn on paper is a commitment. There are no erasers to destroy "mistakes" nor are there "bad lines," since drawing from within is, by definition, a nonjudgmental approach. There is only drawn response to subject matter.

Please remember, the goal is not to make a pretty drawing, a neat drawing, a good drawing, etc., but just to draw. Therefore, every pen line set down is a bold, permanent expression of search and discovery, taste and tendency, question and conclusion. In a pure learning experience, in order to "correct" a drawing, one needs to see the original line and be able to indicate the "improvement" accordingly. With an eraser, that original line would disappear, and with it, some of the learning potential for that work. The fountain pen provides a wonderful, convenient on-the-spot drawing instrument. Combine the fountain pen with a sketch pad and you'll have a portable studio. Wherever and whenever you find yourself with even a few minutes, you can react spontaneously to all the visual stimulation around you.

Unlike the ball-point pen or roller-tipped markers, the flexible point of the fountain pen offers a line that responds to your individual touch. The amount of pressure you exert on your drawing surface will create a thick and thin line of an extremely personal nature. This results in differences similar to those of your individual handwriting. Anything that helps separate your work from another artist's is important to making your statement that much more personal.

When my instructions in class were still met with moans and groans, I would introduce the work of Frank Frazetta, a popular artist and a close friend. Frank, Angelo Torres, and I were part of a small group of young men who played ball and hung around together in Brooklyn. We also shared drawing interests and occasionally attended life-drawing sketch classes at the Brooklyn Museum and the Art Students League. Frazetta had little formal art education, but he was a "natural" from the very start. Invariably, someone in our classroom would approach him during the break, look over Frank's shoulder, and ask him about his drawing materials. Some of them actually attempted to buy his "miraculous media" with which he had captured the living form so beautifully and effortlessly. Frazetta never understood why anyone would want to buy his chewed-up pencil stumps!

"They don't even have erasers!" he said incredulously.

How absurd to think it was the drawing instrument and not the artist's hand that was responsible for remarkable drawings.

If my attempts to ease my students into accepting the fountain pen as a viable drawing instrument failed, my final statement on the subject always worked.

"You'll use the fountain pen because I'm the instructor and you're the student and that's the whole story!"

So much for being fair and reasonable!

As an artist, you must concern yourself with making personal statements. Respond visually to life around you. Interact with your subjects. These elements are what's necessary for you to produce meaningful work, not what material you use.

Let's break down the most popular drawing media into three categories:

Pencil—this includes all shapes, grades, sizes, and properties, including graphite, charcoal, carbon, Conte crayon, pastel, etc.

Pen—any shape, size, and level of flexibility, including "dip-in," markers, and fountain pen varieties.

Brush—all shapes, sizes, and styles, including sable, camel, nylon, plus the many portable, cartridge-filled "brushes" available today.

So much for materials. Let's move on to what's really important. Your first...


The Sky's the Limit if Supplies Are Limited

For this assignment, you will focus on becoming involved with your subject only. This will discourage your involvement with drawing materials per se. It will also allow you to experience your positive and negative responses to working with (and without) the comfort and security of materials you prefer or have already mastered.

  • 1. Draw a person from life (not from a photograph).
    one drawing medium from each of the three categories listed previously.

    Excerpted from Drawing From Within , by Nick Meglin and Diane Meglin . Copyright (c) 1999 by Nick Meglin. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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