Drawing, because

I’ve had studio visitors lately, and sometimes when that happens the flat files get opened to a collection of drawings in a variety of mediums, some that have rarely seen daylight in years. This accumulation is to the point where I now am regularly  surprised to uncover pieces I’d forgotten about.

Drawing was my first love in art. I imagined just “drawing”  as a profession long before painting began to come into the picture, and I return to it as often as I can in some  form or another.

Often if there is an emotional upturn or downturn in my life, I’ll eventually find myself  drawing somewhere.  Alone with a tree, a person, or other subject, drawing centers my attention outside and away from myself.  That’s a very good thing, a creative and constructive place for that sort of emotional energy, and it leaves something tangible that may be of value to others.

DSC_0015 Tree Study               Conte Crayon on paper

Trees are great subjects for learning to grasp the large shapes (something I  struggle with) and for experiencing as beautiful, living forms.  I draw them out of  a desire for the discipline that accompanies outdoor drawing, done carefully but not with tedious detail. When one draws something with a certain degree of fidelity, it’s most certainly not “slavishly copying” but absorbing the subject, bringing it into cognition at an intuitive level.  Inside one of my watercolor palettes, I have written a three word maxim: ” Suggest, don’t explain”, which applies to drawing as well as conversation.  Don’t we all know the person who, when asked a question, offers far too much information in response,  to the point where you’re sorry you asked?  To be able to distill a paragraph into a sentence or two has so much more gravity. I think it works that way in drawing and painting.

Here are some other examples I hope might be of interest,  graphite pencil on Strathmore drawing paper, 11 x 14′ or so, and drawn from nature for various reasons.

The ocean pieces are especially challenging because it’s moving, and you have to harness that somehow, make it intelligible by giving it direction. The values are pretty high, and the usual line conventions can’t tell the full story. Homer (Winslow, not Simpson) worked wave themes out in black and white on toned paper, as painters so often have.


With enough practice, you begin to anticipate certain characteristic motions in the sea, and once it gets under your skin a bit, your ability to recall it increases. I don’t know that you can develop that sense with photography. I’m reminded (and invigorated) by that great story about Frederick Waugh being able to draw a wave at any point in it’s progression convincingly out of his head, the result of the effort he put into studying them while living on the island of Sark in the English Channel.


Architectural subjects are always great to sharpen my eye, almost the opposite of the wave drawings.  The visual measuring was a real difficulty, but I love this old steeple and wanted to work it out with a “loose correctness”. That required a lot of seeing past and through the details,  finding the big blocks they’re covering.  Just like the figure, come to think of it.


Speaking of which, here’s one of a number of the figure drawings that I work out in my figure classes, and there’s no end to what can be studied there. Just showing up, as in so many things in life, puts you on the right track, and the incremental investment over time of studying the live model is invaluable.

Last night, I was just rereading the Drawing chapter in Birge Harrisons’ classic “Landscape Painting” (1910) where he wrote the following:

“…you will find it difficult to place your finger on the name of a really fine landscape painter who is not also a fine draughtsman…inquiry will disclose the fact that the best of them have devoted at least four or five years exclusively to the study of drawing. This is none too much. But the best place to acquire this knowledge, even for the landscape painter, is not out of doors before nature; because it is so much easier to study drawing indoors from the nude.” (p.81)

So, I guess we know what we have to do. It’s endless, thankfully.

Drawing from life- some pieces from Linekona


I love drawing.

I love the discipline mingled with the exciting possibilities, the reminders that occur as I examine how wonderfully we’re put together.  The lines, shapes, the unbelievable functions, and how they complement one another.  The economy of it all. We’re vessels in many ways, vessels that house a soul and spirit as well as mechanisms.  What better use of time than to spend an evening each week  drawing the figure of an enthusiastic model?

My usual practice is to use a good quality paper,  and draw the sequence of poses on one or  two sheets. This can result in a more interesting final piece, if  things work out. That’s the point of using a decent paper, I want something archival for those times when I get something truly worth saving. One never can tell when that will happen.


For the gestural poses, those five minutes and under, I look for the relationship of the three main masses and a line of action. Sometimes I use block forms, sometimes not. I compel myself to do things that are not the usual, like beginning with the placement of the feet and working up the figure. or making all of the quick poses tiny, and creating a montage of them in serial form, arranging them to create a pattern on the page. One can do whatever one wishes, and for a professional artist it’s great to be able to play with no strings attached, no public to please.

For longer poses, those up to one hour, I simply do as much as I can. “Seeing the whole”, measuring well, finding better ways to express a form,  and hopefully creating a  palpable image…. these are my goals.

Here are a few of the things I’ve done in the last six months or so.  The bad ones get tossed, and  believe me, they are plentiful.  But some evenings, you pull something together with some quality that you are pursuing, and it’s delightfully rewarding.




If you’d like to join me and some like minded enthusiasts, I conduct  a life drawing studio class at the Academy School at Linekona.  Call 808.532.8742 to get enrolled. It’s great, and it’s open to you.