Cameras stop action for a second and record it as a small moment in the long life of the chosen subject (running, jumping, water waves, etc.). Drawing living things from direct observation records the life of the subject over a longer time frame, capturing the life of the subject.
When an artist draws from direct observation, their eyes scan every single detail and centimeter of their chosen subject. Painting is a time consuming endeavor, and drawing is even more so. The artist devotes several hours to the drawing process and focuses on the subject for several days in order to achieve their desired result. Proportional mistakes are evident in a painting when the drawing hasn’t been resolved completely.
In my experience, I have come to these conclusions about drawing from life:
- A drawing informs the outcome of a painting.
- The artist will learn a lot about their subject.
- The artist becomes an active participant: drawing what the eyes see, and the brain interprets. Passive participation: translation of the subject relies on what the lens sees and the camera interprets on a flattened 2D plane.
- The artist makes decisions about what is in front of their eyes: the details to include or not include for a finished work. With a camera, what you see is what you get: basically all of the information.
- Details, proportions, color, value--all is clear with direct observation. Cameras can’t process the darks and lights the same way the eyes and brain interprets the visuals (image output relies on the type of camera and the sensor). Lens distortion exaggerates angles and ellipses.
Imagine honing the skills of observation in everyday life. What would improve in our lives with a keen eye for detail and observation?
I believe there are so many benefits from drawing from life, both art and non-art related. My drawing students are warned prior to completing a drawing class: you will begin to notice things you haven’t noticed before, not just value or composition, but observation and improvement in other areas. Focus improves. Decision making improves. Observation improves. Carefulness and Intentionality improves. Creativity improves and informs problem solving.
If you are interested in learning the skill of drawing, my drawing class is offered entirely online, learn at your convenience! Contact me for more details.