July 17, 2006

From life to imagination

Filed under: Art, drawing — Brian @ 8:08 pm

I’ve gotten good enough at drawing people from life and from photos that I’m confident I can be good enough (for me) at drawing.

I really love to draw faces – kind of a shock to me, since I always held those up as the hardest possible thing to draw. I don’t get likenesses very often yet, so there’s still room to improve, and a very enjoyable challenge in that. I have a huge collection of portraits saved from and flickr to use for practice. It’s fun to look for interesting faces and poses – and there’s plenty out there to find.

But I feel like I’m stuck with drawing things I can look at. I don’t yet know how to invent an image in my mind. I can copy what I see, but I don’t yet know how to make up something worth looking at. One guy whose work I really love has intimated that he has a photographic memory for certain things. His example was the colors of a rainbow. He said he never memorized “ROY G BIV” – he just pictures a rainbow in his mind and sees the colors there. I don’t have that clear of an imagination. I can see a rainbow in my head, but not in that kind of detail.

I wonder if the people who make stuff up have a fully-formed image in their heads before they put pen to paper, or if it all just comes together as they work. How much is conscious planning, and how much is the benefit of the experience of having an artist’s eye for the world?

Maybe it’s just practice I need. I like the idea of “I’ll take care of the quantity, and I’ll let God take care of the quality” – I’m just not holding up my end of that bargain.



  1. As a spectator, I really enjoy portraits of people (not specific people, just people in general). My favorite painting is in my entry way and it’s nobody I know (hey, maybe I’ll post that when I run out of material again). What bugs me is people always ask, “who is that?” This might make it difficult to do portraits professionally without becoming a technician (painting good likenesses) instead of an artist. I don’t think artists generally set out with much conscious planning. There’s a lot of God’s work involved, whether the artist believes that or not (many, my mom included, frequently refer to “happy accidents”). ;-)

    Comment by Gwynne — July 18, 2006 @ 5:43 pm

  2. I shouldn’t have said that so generally, most artists surely start out with a conscious plan, my thought was that rarely, does it pan out exactly how they planned it.

    Comment by Gwynne — July 18, 2006 @ 5:44 pm

  3. I do like drawing portraits. I’m just itching to not have to have something in front of me in order to come up with a decent-looking drawing.

    I’m pretty sure it’s just practice I lack. Now that I’m learning how to really see, I have to build up a memory of accurate images of real things before I can pull them from my mind.

    Interesting distinction between “technician” and “artist.” I think you said something on your blog about preferring photography for realism. I agree, to a point. I’d like to be able to get a likeness, but wouldn’t spend the time to create photo-realism. (See – it’s not that I *can’t* do it, it’s that I don’t *want* to. tee hee.)

    “Who is that,” indeed. You should make up a story about who it is. Invent a distant relative, and make up stories to go along.

    Comment by Brian — July 18, 2006 @ 8:10 pm

  4. and make up stories to go along.

    Hey, that could be fun…good idea. ;-)

    I understand what you mean about getting likenesses without being photo-realistic…difficult! It seems like most artists prefer working with “live” subjects as opposed to drawing from “nothing” (or from photos)…you’re clearly not alone.

    Comment by Gwynne — July 19, 2006 @ 11:26 pm

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