The importance of drawing

Yesterday, I visited the annual summer show at the Royal Academy.  This is an open show, open to any one- thousands of people submit and this year, 1130 works were selected out of those.  The works of fine artists, sculptors, pop artists, photographers, and installation artists with people were drawn from all sorts of creative background such as tailors, ‘seamstresses’, architects and painters.  Some works mixed many genres such as collage, painting and photography.  There were deeply social and political works while others were simply to be enjoyed as ‘guilty pleasures’.

My friends, one of whom is a fine artist and the other an architect, who kindly treated me to this show, had been painting all day at nearby St James Park and Trafalgar Square.  They brought along their works and these also gave me great pleasure such as the one of different birds- ducks, swans, coots and pigeons.  They had been instructed to paint and draw quickly without much thinking and these kind of instruction appeared to have produced lovely fluid representations of the birds. The friend who is an architect, had been painting for a long time and so this marvellous work was not just a product of the day but of many years of effort.  This led me to think about the process of drawing and why it is important part of the visualisation, regardless of the final product or composition.  Apart from photography, all other creative arts require some basic sketches which form the basis of the final design.

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In an interview about how they think about their buildings, the Irish architects, Sheila O ‘Donnell and John Tuomey, who won this years RIBA Gold medal, say that both are influenced by drawing and painting.  Sheila says that she uses water colour to explore form and light and which could be a ‘way of summarising something about the feeling of what the building might be without having to go into detail’. She says that working with water colour is that you can ‘speculate about material and weight  and even almost texture, but in a kind of unspecific way, in a sketchy way’. John on the other hand, works with pencil drawing and says it is ‘a form of hand writing’.  Another set of Irish architects, Clancy Moore, also talk about drawing and say that they sketch and draw a lot for many reasons, but one of them is to ‘simply look with care at the world around us and the places [they] visit and build in which then describes the primary context of their work.  Such use of quick sketches have been used by not only architects but also sculptors and tailors/ couturiers.

My fine artist friend is now encouraging her younger students to paint, many of whom question the need to draw something on paper in the days of the computer screen. But she says that drawing helps us in many other ways, including becoming more articulate and expressive in our writing and speaking.  She also thinks that drawing gives us organisational skills because one is composing in one’s mind before putting the pencil and brush to paper.  Creative skills can be used in other areas of our lives too.  Also, as I have mentioned previously drawing can be therapeutic. Drawing or painting is a more deliberate and permanent act than doing something on a computer screen that can be wiped out and started again.  Will Kemp, a fine artist, says that people sabotage their own efforts by being to critical of their own work, labelling or categorising their word and finally by talking too much.  So I guess the main things I took away yesterday would be-

1. Don’t think or talk too much- just do it!

2. Do it little and often- build up a habit of drawing ideas out instead of writing or talking about it.

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