Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Worth a Look - John Ruskin

Graphite sketch of Orson Welles from a photograph in the New Yorker

I've been doing so much experimentation with acrylics and unusual surfaces lately that I felt the need to do something realistic, hence this version of Orson Welles, done in my Moleskine journal. I had been reading The
Elements of Drawing the past week, and Victorian writer and critic, John Ruskin made me want to pick up a pencil.

I was impressed by Ruskin, though his ornate Victorian language might put some readers off. His love of nature, his knowledge of both artistic technique and of art history are impressive. I copied out some notes for myself, and thought some are worth sharing here. The book is short, structured as three letters to beginning artists. He suggests a series of exercises to train the mind and hand, and gives advice on how best to proceed. Here are some quotes I liked.

"Do not think that...you can learn drawing...without some kind of hard and disagreeable labor. But do not, on the other hand, if you are ready and willing to pay this price, fear that you may be unable to get on for want of special talent."

"Bold, the the sense of being undaunted, yes; but bold in the sense of being careless, confident, or exhibitory, --no, no, and a thousand times no; for even if you were not a beginner, it would be bad advice that made you bold."

"...good and beautiful work is generally done slowly; you will find no boldness in the way a flower or bird's wing is painted..."

"....there are all kinds of art - large art for large places,, small work for narrow places, slow work for people who can wait, and quick work for people who cannot - there is one quality...in which all great and goof art agrees; -- it is all delicate art."

"understand that no detail can be as strongly expressed in drawing as it is in reality; and strive to keep all your shadows and marks and minor markings on the masses lighter than they appear to be in Nature; you are sure otherwise to get them too dark."

"...for a beginner, it is always better that his attention should be concentrated on one or two good things and his enjoyment founded on them, than he should look at many with divided thoughts. It is one of the worst error of this age to try and know and to see too much: the men who seem to know everything, never in reality know anything rightly."

"In a great man's work, at its fastest, no line is thrown away, and it is not by rapidity, but the economy of execution that you know him to be great."

"All merely outlined drawings are bad, for the simple reason that an artist of any power can always do more and tell more, by getting his outlines occasionally, and scratching in a few lines for shade, than he can by restricting himself to outlines only."

"A good artist habitually sees masses, not edges, and can in every case make his drawing more expressive...by rapid shade than by contours; so that all good work is more or less touched with shade, and more or less interrupted as outline."

1 comment:

Sharon said...

This turned out great, Sherry. It looks just like him!