The Drawn Out Debate – A Happy New Year in Drawing

30 Dec

As a draftsperson working in the modern world (although ignoring a considerable chunk of its visual culture) I am regularly considering the significance of drawing in relation to other media and how drawing itself is being pushed and often re-imagined by artists. The debate has been clearer than the problems that have spawned the debate.

The debate is anchored in two deeply held beliefs. One, that drawing is a practice utilizing traditional materials and built on an observational craft typically grounded in the acquisition of representative drawing skills. Those skills based on well defined western ideals. From a foundation of traditional skills, the artist can then depart on one’s own and develop into an art maker with a singular voice.

The other belief is that drawing is indistinct from all other art making activity. Where the previous belief puts drawing at the center of the creative process, (or at least an independently important endeavor) they see drawing indistinguishable from installation art or painting and see it as fluid, above and perhaps beyond the limitations and restrictions of craft.

While this is an oversimplification of an important debate, it does show the inherent problems with both arguments. While the traditionalist may believe that the contemporary approach to drawing is resulting in half-born art, lacking in a fundamental understanding of form and therefore a mere exercise rather than a grounded piece of the art continuum, the contemporary artist sees that as an archaic limitation to a more expansive view of drawing as the delineation of just about anything and that this perspective expands the art and practice of “drawing for drawings sake”. Either way, both parties, stuck in their ideological camps, are failing to see the bigger problem. That problem is quality.

I could talk about quality and the guardians at the gate, (seemingly asleep at their post) but I am interested in something else. As we are getting warmed up in the twenty first century, I propose that drawing take on more important matters. For one, I believe it is important to look at drawing as a distinctive activity bringing a level of personal expression and communication that achieves what no other medium is capable of; an encapsulated autobiographical record (Berger) of the artists thoughts and intentions. Whether that is in the form of a line of bricks in a gallery installation or a pencil drawing on a napkin in a bar, we need to renew our love of a media that is, at its core, profoundly human and filled with the surprise and invention that result from the mysterious connection between mind and hand.

I say we re-dedicate ourselves to pushing our media and make the power of drawing self evident.

 Drawings above are from recent trips to England and Spain.

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One Response to “The Drawn Out Debate – A Happy New Year in Drawing”

  1. C. Ousley October 2, 2011 at 3:12 am #

    Great drawings! Googled “reportage drawings” and got here!

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