The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…

This drawing is all three…except the Good. I’m completely enamored with 19th century art. Now, before your get your trendy art skivvies in a bunch I’ll clarify (not that I really have to… this is my blog, dingnabbit). I appreciate the skill, the craftsmanship. Granted, in terms of subject matter the work can be a little underwhelming but if we are talking about craft, pushing paint around or smackin’ a chisel, you’d have to be blind or in denial to not be impressed with the stuff coming out of the ateliers back in the day. This is a little charcoal drawing I did based on a Bargue lithograph. The “Bargue Drawings” were part of curriculum put together in the 1800’s by Bargue and Gerome. I won’t go into all the details… you can learn more about it on the interwebs using the googlemachine. For a while I’ve learning about 19th century drawing techniques (as best as I can manage by researching contemporary artists and schools that still use these ideas) and trying the concepts out for myself. Sight size drawing is of particular interest, hence the Bargue Drawings. This particular drawing comes at the end of the sequence, I think, but my enthusiasm could not be controlled so I started with it. It turned out pretty badly. From the start I set myself up for failure. I did not draw a median down the center so getting all the proportions right was a pain in the rear end. You’ll noticed that the proportions are still way off but I think I need to call it a day on this drawing. The plan is to work on a series of Bargue drawings just to build skill and improve observation. I look at this type of drawing the way an athlete looks at practice. If I want to be good on game day I have to put in the time. When I spend time making measured drawings I notice that judging proportions and angles when I am gesturing is much easier and more accurate. The problem, of course, is the down time between drawings. If you don’t use it you lose it, they say. That is certainly true in observational drawing.

The other drawing of the horses head also uses sight sizing. I started that thing a while ago and it has since sat in my living room mocking me with its cold, dead horsey eyes. The source image is a photocopy of a charcoal drawing (I think) of a fragment of a Greek sculpture. This one is in graphite and is maybe half way done. I have five painting and drawing projects to do that use some aspect of sight sizing in their construction. I keep telling myself “Don’t start anything new until these are finished”. I haven’t learned all I can from them so I can’t progress until they are resolved. It’s hard to keep disciplined. In college and grad school there was a structure to things. Deadlines helped. After grad school I was still producing work with some regularity. Not setting the world on fire but making honest progress. I guess real life catches up with you and other things are put first. Actually, I think that is a bit of a fib. Every person has free will to make their own decisions and it is obvious that I chose not to put in the time and effort to develop my skills. “Other things get in the way”…. that is an excuse to validate laziness. If I put in as much time drawing and painting as I do other in “more important” things….. That’s just “stinkin’ thinkin'” as well. One has to put up or shut up and it is never more true than for an artist (though I don’t think of myself as an artist, thank you very much, Odd Nerdrum),  So the little charcoal drawing is pretty bad but I decided to post it anyway. It’s not a great work of art or even an exceptional drawing. It’s a failure in most ways, as most things I make. Lets be honest, most “artists” make stuff but only rarely make something that can be called Art. So, a poor drawing but an honest one. The proportions are off, the angles askew. The value patterns woefully inaccurate…. but it’s still important, to me at least. This terrible little drawing helped me get focused. With every proportion that I measured and found wrong I learned a little more about where I am as a draftsman. Bent over my drafting table, fingers dusty with charcoal, that dried out feeling in your nose from the charcoal dust, putting that drawing against the wall and getting back a few feet only to say to yourself “This sucks. What have I been doing for the last three hours?”…. Nietzsche talks about loving something so much that you want to experience it being done excellently even if it’s not you doing it (that’s a pretty bad paraphrase). I kind of get that. Despite the fact I am a mediocre draftsperson and painter I really love seeing it be done well. Hence….learning how to see, to think, to draw like those artists I admire. I guess I love you, my ugly little charcoal drawing, because hidden inside you is the artist I want to be….

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~ by Kelson Barber on February 20, 2012.

One Response to “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly…”

  1. You are to hard on yourself. I’m not an artist as the whole world knows. But I darn well have enjoyed watching one improve over the years. Keep it coming.

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