Monday, 3 December 2007

Holiday annoyance

I enjoyed my holiday. I really did. I went to Barcelona and saw plenty of Gaudí buildings, which I adore, and I learned several interesting and rather inspiring things about the architect's approach to his work as a science, craft and art. Needless to say, I came back home with a biography (I'm one third into it) and three books with pictures and analyses of his work (more pictures than analysis - I couldn't find anything more technical in a language that I read, unfortunately) - an introduction to his oeuvre and specific books on Casa Batlló and Park Güell. The trip reminded me of the fact that I would have loved to become an architect, a dream that I could not possibly realise because I am useless at maths. Gaudí, I am told, as a boy had low marks for just about everything except mathematics. Me, I managed to get a 2 out of 10 for maths in my second year at primary school -_-. I wonder whether my problems with perspective are related to my hopelessness with numbers and geometry, and the fact that I had to opt for a course of study that precluded any lessons in solid geometry...

Anyway: on to the annoyance. One of the things I don't like about going on holiday is the fact that travelling means that I don't get any drawing done. The worst of it is that I know for a fact that for many artists the opposite is true. They end up publishing their travel notebooks, and lo! they are full of wonderful sketches and watercolours of sights and people. My notebooks either come back as blank as they were when I packed them, or they contain a few rubbish scribbles. It is very frustrating. What is the reason behind this inability to make my trips pay off?

Off the top of my head, I can think of two things:

  1. I am very slow in everything, including drawing. In order to draw, I have to be able to sit down quietly and work at my ease. I am so envious of people who capture a pose or a sight in mere minutes - apparently I haven't got the necessary skill to do so. Also, I rarely travel on my own. That means that whenever the fancy takes me to sketch something, I have to make my companion(s) wait for me, or to split up with them, both being arrangements for which said companions have so far never cared.
  2. Apparently I need a lot of time to digest things. I am just not the impressionist type, not a person who finds inspiration on sight and is in her element when working in the open and on the move. When I see something that interests or impresses me, I take it in, mull it over, and sooner or later it will crop up in what is possibly a totally unrelated context. I will have an idea which I want to express, and somehow I will be reminded of something I have seen, probably research it, and use it.
I really think I should learn to study more in art. My modus operandi seems to be: this is what I want, now what do I need in order to get there? - and so I learn, but not methodically. That seems to be, at least partly, what gives me trouble now with War in Gaul: I suddenly discover that the project requires a whole vocabulary that I lack because I am not in the habit of starting at the beginning. And I have become so set in my habits that I find it hard to try and acquire some that more professional artists find quite natural and self-evident, such as sketching whatever comes into view, or immediately posing an interpretation/style upon sights or people that surround them.

Another thing I wondered about recently is reference. I very, very rarely work from a live model, or use a photo as reference for an entire pose. It seems that many professional artists use models or reference photos for almost everything. I only do so when I find something problematic, in the sense that I can't see its precise mechanics in my mind's eye. It seems very limiting to use reference for everything, because often enough I can't find exactly what I want when I look for it. Then again, it probably avoids many of the mistakes I make, and I would probably be able to draw anatomy, bodies in space, colour and perspective better if I were a bit more observant of outer rather than inner life.


the comics expert said...

Wow. I'd expected this on LJ actually. As always, you're WAY too hard on yourself! I think you see too much of how you do things as inadequacies (sp?) because they are not present in the artists you butter up to or because it's a different technique from, say Craig Thompson. Honestly? I like your art better.
As for the reference thing... It CAN be limiting. And it is. I'm not an artist, but I think I'm pretty observant, and a lot of the stuff that is reference-heavy (as in, you could google a little and find the actual picture the pose was taken from) is technically good, but lacks soul. Not always, but frequently enough. (I'm thinking about a step-by-step I saw a while ago)
So you can't draw on the go. Big deal. Despite all your 'amateurish' 'insecurities' :) I'd say you've more of a work ethic than half the 'pros' out there. And that (combined with your obvious talent, dear heart) is at LEAST as important.
Mark my words.

the comics expert said...

I guess with 'amateurish' I mean more, stemming from you considering yourself an amateur, which, strictly speaking, isn't the same thing.

ampersand said...

I did post it on LJ in the meantime, but since it's strictly art-related, my first thought was that it belonged here...

I was thinking of James Jean, really. His Process/Recess is full of sketches made in the street, on the plane, on the train, in the airport - you name it. And it's true that this is just a very useful thing to do: it forces you to observe and analyse very quickly.

I do find reference stifling, but I thought that was me. When I copy from a photo, I always have to rework the picture - entirely redraw it without looking at the photo much - because the first drawing will always be stiff and soulless. But other artists are more than once capable of creating a powerful image from the reference source. I don't know. I guess my greatest concern is that I am not as big on observation as a visual artist can reasonably be expected to be. It doesn't seem to work for me :/. It's funny how I seem to draw more on, and get more out of, other people's pictures (without plagiarising them, I daresay) than from real life.

the comics expert said...

And how is that bad? Whatever works, I say. So reference ain't yer thing. Big deal. I find it hard to believe that Mignola or Darwyn Cooke are big on reference (from photos at least).
And damn, you do love selling yourself short.

ampersand said...

LOL! It's not masochism - I just want to progress! (perhaps a little too impatiently... *g*)

Cecilia said...

There are many ways to produce art, not just one :-) Me, too, I'm not much into quickly sketches from life. As I usually draw my own characters, dreams and fantasies, I draw at home, not in the street. But I too envy artists that *can* do both things (I was thinking too of Craig Thompson and of Hugo Pratt). I once did a very distant imitation of a carnet de voyages from my journey to Black Forest, but the ideas were lately transformed into a story completery realized at home (and set into an imaginary Middle Ages, as always) (btw, the story is here if you're curious
I suppose it depends not only from the technique used, but also on the subject. You usually draw HP fanarts, War in Gauls and other similar things, for what I know, so it's pretty clear that quick sketches from life don't match well with them.
As for photo references, I use them as less as I can. For anatomy, in case of doubts, I look myself in the mirror or ask my mom to pose for me ^^

ampersand said...

Yes, I use the mirror a lot too - but that is only helpful to a certain extent. For example: when I need to draw a hand in a certain pose, I look at my own, but that means that all my characters end up having small, girly hands XD. Likewise, I have narrow shoulders, and so most of my characters end up having narrow shoulders. Now I am studying from an excellent book of anatomy for artists, by Gottfried Bammes. It's very helpful; I hope I'll be able to show off some results soon...

I haven' so far found anyone who wants to pose for me. nobody in the house is willing and/or patient enough ;-). Even my cat isn't helpful: she always tries to attack my pencils when she sees it *g*.

Aww, I love your watercolours... I'm also curious to see your Lindgren painting progress :-).