Can Anybody Still Draw? January 15, 2013

An English curator who wrote a recent  book about the history of drawing posited that the newest generation of artists can't draw because they are suffering from the effects of Disney, Japanese kitsch, video games, and the inevitable decline in original and critical thinking in public education.

I believe there is still quite a bit of original thinking among young artists, but they do often suffer from a lack of skills manipulating traditional media. Drawing, as a subject for serious study has been dropped from many university and art school curricula in Great Britain, according to the author.  If this is the case, it would equal removing the study of anatomy and dissection of cadavers from  medical school curricula. Because: drawing is the skeleton for ideas, for the composition, for the realization of the artist's intentions. The result, without this structure, is a superficial image. It is only to be expected in a time of overload of two-dimensional digital images from TV, computers, I-phones, ad nauseum. Art seems to be feeding on the vaccuous, materialistic imagery of contemporary culture, and not one's own imagination.

Some artists are returning to the academic rendering of visible reality, and occasionally, in inventive ways. Unfortunately, using photography through copying,  as the basis for seeing the subject makes for a de-humanized image. To interact with the model or the subject, directly, seems to be a lost art, with the vision which could result, with a drawing that is alive with the artist's action in response to the subject. One only need remember the visceral quality of Picasso's work.

But the freer execution of gesture is found in the works of some senior contemporary artists, for example, the German artist, Anselm Kiefer, who has treated painting as drawing for decades, sometimes incorporating photographs on which he has drawn or painted. He has proved that works on very large surfaces can be made using drawing and even printmaking media.

The intimacy of a direct drawing is, perhaps, too intimate for a generation who has not taken the time to establish the necessary understanding of how the marriage of medium, support and idea works. The advice of a  "drawer" with over 60 years of experience: slow down, look, feel, and love the material, and the subject you work with. And imagine something all your own.