Having to report weekly for a month already has been an eye-opener for me. For one thing, it forced me to make sure something was being done outside of attending lectures and running around for various unrelated reasons. But most importantly, it quickly made me realize me how unfocused my personal practice was, particularly in regard to drawing. I don’t even have new watercolors to present today, because I already went into another direction. From these observations, it was clear that the concern was that of methodology. What am I practicing? How? And why?
Before answering all of that let us jump, say, ten years back in time.
Not a worry in the world (well, not artwise at least), only the pleasure of making images. The next thing I know, I’m studying at the Lyon School of Fine Arts (2005-2009), being asked to reconsider my process all over. Apart from a few excellent courses and teachers, like Gérard Gasquet, the trend was clearly oriented towards conceptual art. Being an illustrator at heart (still closeted though- let people think I’m an artist for a little while!), I lost somewhere in those years the simple joys of acquiring technical skills, and with it the patience and dedication it requires in order for it to be fruitful. While it seems obvious that a musician should practice his scales and his arpeggios in order to be able to play effortlessly, the requirements in the fine arts domain is often taken hostage by other concerns, be it of formulation or conceptualization. This would not be a problem if it did not become the norm whence all artistic evaluation derives, in an academic environment of all places.
I started to think I had ended up in the wrong school. The teachers must have been of the same opinion since I am the only one that did not get his Bachelor’s degree that year.
Now, fast forward to the present. I managed to regain control of my artistic decisions thanks to a five years break, but am still very lonely when it comes to methodology, even in the much more satisfying school I am currently in. How long has it been since the topics of composition, chiaroscuro, or even color relationship have been brought into the conversation? In a context where any art piece is valid, finding proper criticism is becoming more and more challenging. In the meantime I just look at classics and try to decipher them by myself. Getting closer to my fourth decade, I am giving up the question of why, focusing instead on the two essentials: what, and how.
- What: Composition. How: there is a lot of resources on the web a few clicks away, covering the basic rules. Kandinsky’s Point and Line on Plane is an essential reading. Visually, I find that Aubrey Beardsley’s and Gustav Klimt‘s works are already lessons in themselves. Utagawa Hiroshige, and in general ukiyo-e artists are also worth mentioning as they are using emptiness and sometimes formlessness as compositional devices.
- What: Color relationship. How: I found this book to be particularly instructive, and very practical, as it has a lot of exercises. Joseph Albers’ Interaction of Colors is another classic, aimed at painters.
- What: Portraiture. How: believe it or not, the human figure (literally and artistically) is still a huge challenge for me. There are a million ways to draw figures and portraits, and I still cannot figure which one suits me. I’ll answer this some day in the future, or maybe never.
That was a lot more than I thought, but it gives a framework for the reader and myself, a determined but struggling artist (there, I said it). And without further ado, some of my first exercises with composition.
Until next time,