Who says it’s gotta be photorealistic to be a good drawing? That’s what phones are for. It just needs to express, engage, & speak.

– December 4, 2015

On Drawing & Design, Part II

It happens sometime in grade school. We we start to leave the notion that all drawing should be representational: the more a drawing looks like it’s subject, the better the drawing.

Lies! It’s all lies, I tell you.

There is a lot of technique involved with drawn representationally. Technique can be learned, even though it comes more naturally to some kids growing up then others. I was one of those kids.

I grew up in the town is population was less than 1000 people my grade school classes had about 25 students per grade. I was the third best “draw-er” in my class. (Talk about being a larger than average fish in a very small pond…) Anyway, for what ever reason I mastered draftsmanship at an early age.

By the time I reached high school, we had moved to the city, but somehow my peer level artistic ranking increased dramatically: I was now number two in a much larger pond. Perhaps the only thing weirder than my childhood propensity to rank myself among others is the fact that I still remember it today…

Nonetheless, my technical mastery served me well for the first part of my career. In the days before Photoshop we created all the graphics with markers and colored pencils, and I could render a happy couple picking out carpeting with the best of them.

One time we pitched a series of newspaper ads to a local dress shop. Unable to pay an illustrator for the pitch, I sketched loose fashion illustrations in marker. The client loved the concept, we hired the illustrator, and the client then fired the illustrator. She preferred my sketches instead.

Despite my “talent,” I never really drew outside of work. Drawing was a part of my job, but it was not a part of my expression. It took about 10 years – until I experimented with abstract expressionism and action painting in my garage – for me to rediscover that visual voice.

As good as I was, I still approached drawing through the lens of photorealism, and that was my stumbling block. To everyone else, it appeared that drawing came naturally to me. In my eyes however, it wasn’t so natural. I could never attain the standards that I set for myself. Photorealism became like this domineering stage parent whom I could never please. In order to get back to drawing expressively, I had to take off my photorealism blinders. I had to loosen up. Yes, I had to create that God-awful mess in my garage…

The light bulb came on.

OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that immediate, but drawing became fun again. From that point forward, the pressure to make every rendering look like a photograph gradually lessened. I came to realize that my drawings could be “good” on their own merits: valid simply as expressive marks on the drawing surface. Unfortunately it is technique, not expression that garners the greatest praise as we grow up. Photorealism is rewarded.

The kids who are decent draftsman are given the label of “artist” while most of those without the technical mastery simply give up. Heck, even a lot of the “artists” give up over time. Curiously a small minority soldier on and continue drawing simply because they just enjoy it so much. They either don’t care about for they don’t buy into this whole drawing as defined by photo realism idea.

As a guy still wearing the label of a “good draw-er,” I continue to feel public pressure to make each drawing look like a photograph. This is coming from someone who has the chops. I can only imagine how much more intimidating the act of drawing must seem to those who do not feel that they are a natural draftsman.

Don’t give me wrong, there is absolutely a place for photo realism in the art world. But drawing itself can and should be so much more than the flawless reproduction of a subject. Besides, there’s this handy little device that you may of heard of called the camera.

You’ve got one in your pocket…