“Drawing is a skill that must be learned . . .”

Richard SchmidI found the following quote on drawing by Richard Schmid in his book “Alla Prima.”

“There is a popular notion that artists are born with an ability to draw, but that isn’t true.  The impulse to draw is there, but no one arrives in this world endowed with the capacity to graphically depict reality.  I have never known a painter who was just naturally good at it and could do it without serious training.  Drawing is a skill that must be learned, but it isn’t like swimming or riding a bike.  Once you get the knack of it, you can’t relax and just let it happen by itself.  It takes constant practice and presence of mind.  Why?  Because it is not a physical skill; it is a mental discipline.  It deals with continual variables rather than the repitition of memorized shapes.  I always have the fond hope that someday it will get easier, but it never does.  Sound drawing always demands great care right down to the last dab of paint.

“For most of us “drawing” brings to mind an outline of something.  This deeply ingrained assumption originates in childhood when we learned to use lines to make pictures.  Yet in real life there are no lines around things.  Line drawing is only a representation or diagram of our visual world.  Painting, on the other hand (the kind I am dealing with here) attempts to create an illusion of that world.  Consequently, when I use the word “drawing,” I mean the size, shape and arrangement of all the patches of colors that collectively make things look the way they do (and which also constitutes a painting).  When you render those patches their right size, the right shape, and with their distinctive edges and color, your painting will look like your subject.  If you don’t, it won’t.  It will look different.”

“Drawing is simply measuring. As it applies to direct painting from life, drawing comes down to nothing more than figuring out the width and height of color shapes and then fitting them together.  Still, drawing remains difficult for nearly everyone, which is odd when you think about it because drawing is the only visual element we work with that seems to deal with a measurable and definable aspect of the visual world.  The other three elements:  color, value and edges, are relative qualities with generous room for interpretation.  Drawing is about specific dimensions.”