Monday, 1 August 2011

Research Point - Line Drawing

Find an artist who uses line drawing often. What are the strengths of working with line? What can you learn from the way this artist works?

Matisse used line drawing a lot, mainly drawing figures but also plants and still life. I've concentrated on his still life drawings for the sake of this section. Below are some examples.

pen and ink on paper
20.9 x 25.7 cm.
c. 1900
G1 of Themes et Variations
ink on paper

Bouquet with Hellebores
A Straw Hat
pen and ink

Still Life on a Table
Still Life
brush and ink on paper
19.5 x 23 cm.

Still Life with Apples
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
Jug with Pumpkin
pencil on paper
20.3 x 26.6 cm.
Private Collection

Matisse produced many drawing in this style. He often drew these as a preparatory step prior to a painting, to work out any compositional problems. He felt that drawings should be a quick and gestural and be able to capture the emotion that the object evoked in him.

He would simplify the objects with a few elegant fluid lines but would often add flourishes and details when depicting the patterns in the background. At first glance it can be a bit confusing leaving the viewer unsure of the central elements of the picture. I think by doing this he was making the pattern as important as the objects themselves to the drawing.

Here are some of his quotes which I think are a fascinating insight into his thoughts and explain a lot about his style of drawing and why he did this.

"I have always considered drawing not as an exercise of particular dexterity… but as a means deliberately simplified so as to give simplicity and spontaneity to the expression, which should speak without clumsiness, directly to the mind of the spectator."

"Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence."

"If I trust my drawing hand it is because in training it to serve me, I forced myself never to let it take precedence over my feelings."

Matisse is known for his mastery of shape and colour. Although not a drawing, his famous Blue Nude cut-outs  are the culmination of his style of paring objects down to these simple elements. The lines in his drawings are free and expressive. He wasn't interested in imitating the physical world, rather he seemed to concentrated solely on the objects essence and his feelings about it.  

I found some clips on you tube showing him painting and they described how completely unaware to him, his hand would trace out the lines he would draw before the brush actually touched the paper. I'm not sure if this is something we all do but he was apparently astonished by it.

To answer the question above, the obvious answer is that line drawing simplifies an object into its basic elements without the clutter of shading and form. The artist has to really look at the subject and pick out only the important aspects. Additionally however, line drawing is a way of describing an object, not only by it's shape but also its feel. The line itself can convey many emotions without the viewer even realising they are being affected. A thick bold line or zig zag line will descibe anger and aggression while soft fainter lines will convey sadness or quiet. In this way an artist can influence the viewer and add a new facet to his/her work. I think this is what Matisse was trying to achieve, maybe without the outcome of influencing the viewer but certainly he was trying to depict his feelings.

I think trying to draw like this would be actually very hard. It would require a whole new outlook on drawing and what I am trying to achieve when putting pen to paper. I have tried to paint in an expressive style in a previous course and found it very interesting but I don't think I managed to let myself go enough to express my feelings. I love the expressionist artists and would love to be able to do this but much more practice is required (and possibly a few vinos to aid the procedure!).
It seems couterintuitive to analyse exspressive art with an end to trying to figure out the key to painting in an expressive style because then it would become contrived and the artists expression would be lost. I guess it just has to flow naturally.

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