top UK artists lament decline of drawing classes

Claude J Greengrass

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Skill regarded as vital by Peter Blake, David Hockney and others has today been eclipsed by conceptual art.

The demise of drawing in some of Britain’s most prestigious art schools has been lamented by leading artists. Their comments come as Sir Peter Blake, who is preparing for a new exhibition, and David Hockney recall the inspiration of drawing classes they attended at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in the 1950s.

When Blake and Hockney were students, they learned how to draw in classes that were initially compulsory. Today’s RCA students are offered “feedback” rather than classes.
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I really have mixed feelings on the process of "drawing". When most artists become upset regarding the lack of drawing skills, it is generally in regards to the creation of portraits, or figures, I believe.

I can draw from a reference photo, or a subject as well as the next guy, I believe, but I've always had difficulty with the drawing of portraits, as far as being able to achieve an accurate likeness.

It wasn't until I discovered the method that I call the Progressive Focus Method of painting a portrait that I suddenly realized that preliminary "drawing" (creating lines on canvas, or substrate) was actually preventing me from achieving an accurate likeness of the subject. Somehow, the application of paint to pre-drawn rendering of a face just did not work well for me. And, the concept of a human face somehow being drawn to some sort of "standard, pre-determined, or classical proportions" just does not work for me. Oh, I can proportion a face, and draw one to the classical proportions, but I quickly determined (when such an approach failed), that such an approach does NOT enable one to depict a likeness of a real person. This is because, contrary to popular belief, people truly ARE NOT proportioned all the same! If one only wishes to depict classically-built individuals, who pretty much all appear the same, then the classical proportions method will definitely work. But, if one desires to create a painting of a wife, or granddaughter, it falls miserably short.
 
I see what WFMartin is saying. And some of the greatest artists of all time don't draw people in proportion, by the way. It's the illusion of proportion...but I digress.

I too think it is a shame that some academies are failing to teach students the basics of drawings, or the fundamentals of art, but I have also seen many schools go through "phases" of pendulum swings, where they get too conceptual or even lazy about teaching that stuff, and churn out artists that get stuck not knowing much about drawing. They'll know a lot about art theory and contemporary methods only, which does them no real good--unless that was what they were solely after, in which case, money well spent?

I also think it's up to these students to do their homework. Find out which schools are stronger in teaching the classical, traditional methods, and which ones might lean towards being overly contemporary. Some have a great balance of both. It can depend on who the chair of the department is. I remember CalArts going through a lot of phases over the years. They used to be one of the greatest schools in the nation, then they hardly taught any skills during the 70s and 80s, now they have gone back to being better about it. They have better teachers I guess that are less obsessed with design and concept.

Sometimes, it's better to apprentice under a truly great artist or artists if you want to learn all that stuff. IMO. It is hard to teach yourself all alone unless you are already blessed with some skill to begin with. It's not impossible, but having some guidance must be nice (I'm guessing???).
 
I like drawing, and colouring in, etc., but I wouldn't liked to have been taught how to draw. But as my household are fond of saying. "Not everything is about you!"

Can that be true?

Edit. The artists in the article are of course talking about big boy establishments. If you want to get onto a college course in the towns and cities of the UK, you will need to show evidence of your drawing, painting ability. At least this is what I discovered when contemplating such an outlandish thing. The artists in the article are probably just pissed at not being shown the deference they believe they deserve when they enter those one or two establishments. Possibly. I don't know.
 
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I agree with them. I find myself rather suspicious of visual artists that can't draw. It is a very basic skill, and when you are not having it, how can you communicate your vision, even when you are working abstract?
The abstract art that I find interesting, is usually by artists that have also done (more often than not started out with) representational/realistic art.
 
I may have started out with realism--probably because that's what I thought I had to do to be an "artist"--but before that, I was a child and I just did whatever I wanted to do. I wound up going back to doing whatever I wanted. I mostly studied abstract artists because that was what I liked. I studied the heck out of the ones I loved. I felt I got a good understanding of the visual language of it. I don't know how one would know if someone was a great draftsman or not, or if it matters as long as you can communicate something that can make a great impact. But I am not a formally trained artist by any means, so maybe my opinions don't even matter, or don't matter to those that judge based on that sort of thing.

I have found that I've had to constantly show my older works to people (meaning other artists with this same viewpoint) in order to prove that my latter works had some kind of value or worth. Truthfully, it's hurtful and tiring. And lately, I want to forget about it. I don't care anymore. If people don't like what I do (and I seriously don't even expect anyone to), or feel it isn't "art" or isn't significant, then whatever.

I say this not toward anyone specifically, but just in general.

Also, I agree with Iain about the big boy artists from these academies just feeling pissed off. That makes sense to me. People go around with big measuring sticks, and not just to measure what art is. People judge others on a lot of things by many odd terms.
 
Ah. Let's make something very clear, nobody owes me any justification.
I do not, and would never demand "now draw me a picture of a horse first!" from someone before I 'approve' of his or hers abstract work.

And of course artwork is getting judged, by all kinds of standards, and the only way to avoid that is not showing it to anyone, which kinda goes against the purpose of it.
Negative judgements are valuable feedback too, even if you do not agree with them.

My remark that seems to have unintentionally touched a tender point was only about abstract art I like, and I find as I said often without knowing upfront that those artists are also skilled in realistic drawing/painting.

My measuring stick is rather small (no dick jokes please) , "do I like it?"
 
...of course artwork is getting judged, by all kinds of standards, and the only way to avoid that is not showing it to anyone, which kinda goes against the purpose of it.
Negative judgements are valuable feedback too, even if you do not agree with them.

This is very true. You are right. We are just having a conversation. No worries. You haven't touched any tender points with me. ;)
 
Sure. My sincere apologies to you and to those who were shocked by those words. I should have laughed off the words of someone who thinks that, by learning a few craft skills, that entitles them to know what art is. He has been giving subtle little digs through a number of posts, too. But end of, from me. 😷
 
Sure. My sincere apologies to you and to those who were shocked by those words. I should have laughed off the words of someone who thinks that, by learning a few craft skills, that entitles them to know what art is. He has been giving subtle little digs through a number of posts, too. But end of, from me. 😷
I appreciate what you're saying, and I actually meant to delete this post of yours, not attach it to my post addressing you to mind your manners. But we do need to be polite as best we can while still having discussions. It's just a little nudge. Thanks for playing nice. ;)
 
I started with portraits and have always wondered, how good did I actually need to be before I would be "allowed" to do abstract work? I may have tried both at the same time, but practiced a lot of portraits at first when I felt I wanted to get "serious" at art. I thought, that's what you're supposed to do, right? But then, how long are you supposed to hone that part of your craft if you truly don't enjoy it? It's a real question I have often thought about in terms of what artists think about other artists. Also, do collectors care about this stuff? It has never seemed so, at least not in my experience. I have never been questioned. Once in a blue moon I have been asked where I studied, but not usually by any collectors or potential ones.
 
I really have mixed feelings on the process of "drawing". When most artists become upset regarding the lack of drawing skills, it is generally in regards to the creation of portraits, or figures, I believe.

I can draw from a reference photo, or a subject as well as the next guy, I believe, but I've always had difficulty with the drawing of portraits, as far as being able to achieve an accurate likeness.

It wasn't until I discovered the method that I call the Progressive Focus Method of painting a portrait that I suddenly realized that preliminary "drawing" (creating lines on canvas, or substrate) was actually preventing me from achieving an accurate likeness of the subject. Somehow, the application of paint to pre-drawn rendering of a face just did not work well for me. And, the concept of a human face somehow being drawn to some sort of "standard, pre-determined, or classical proportions" just does not work for me. Oh, I can proportion a face, and draw one to the classical proportions, but I quickly determined (when such an approach failed), that such an approach does NOT enable one to depict a likeness of a real person. This is because, contrary to popular belief, people truly ARE NOT proportioned all the same! If one only wishes to depict classically-built individuals, who pretty much all appear the same, then the classical proportions method will definitely work. But, if one desires to create a painting of a wife, or granddaughter, it falls miserably short.
As I recall, Bill, Rob Howard was very, very good at this kind of thing with portraits--straight to paint, no drawing.
 
As I recall, Bill, Rob Howard was very, very good at this kind of thing with portraits--straight to paint, no drawing.
And, that is exactly from whom I got the idea. Rob had posted a thread called "Spray Medium Method of Painting a Portrait", in which he used a very elaborate rear-illumination of a transparency, imaged on ground glass. He began with an out-of-focus, projected image, and ended up working from a sharp-focused image. I modified his method to utilize hard-copy, color photos of various degrees of focus, created in Photoshop. Rob liked my idea so well that he had me post a little article on Cennini, describing my method. To this date, it has been the only way I can achieve an accurate oil painting of a portrait. And, it involves no drawing, whatsoever,....at least in terms of "lines".:)
Carol_Forum.jpg

"Carol", 16" x 20" oil on canvas.

Portrait of my wife, Carol, using my progressive focus method, and no drawing. I don't know WHAT those little images are that tagged along with it! I can't delete them!

This is a painting of my deceased Sheltie, Sandy, done by the same method......not drawing.

Sandy_Final_cropped.jpg

"Sandy"......16" x 20" oil on canvas
 

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Beautiful portraits. My maternal grandmother had a Sheltie, or Collie, as we knew it.

Your wife looks lovely.
 
Wow, amazing Bill! Just amazing.

I grew up with shelties and collies. Border collies too. Our first dog was a mini collie (sheltie).
 
Gosh,......Thank you, fellow artists! But, the true point here is that I wanted you to understand that I used absolutely no preliminary type of line drawing at all to accomplish these portraits.
 
I remember Rob's Spray Method. It's too bad about Cennini. Though I never did flat work in oils, it was an interesting place to hang out and on occasion I would post some of my work anyway. I was greatly flattered when Rob inquired about the price of one of my pieces. He could be a persnickety guy, but he knew what he was doing with paint. By coincidence, his Gouache for Illustrators just came in to our public library. Very good book.
 
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