I would like to share with you one simple piece of advise that was given to me by a very talented illustrator. I feel it may just be the secret to successfully producing creative works. It was a statement simple enough to easily comprehend, but deep enough for me to continuously reference over the years since:
“Pay attention to the entire page; don’t let any one thing develop first.”
It was a creative drawing class at the BostonArchitecturalCenterwhere I first met Mr. Alex Neiman, a successful artist and educator. The fine arts were not my specific background, and it showed fairly early on. Our very first assignment was to stand across from a fellow student and simply sketch their face. I diligently started by drawing my partner’s eyes, thinking to myself how I had accurately captured the eyelids, the eyelashes and even my own interpretation of the tear duct. Moving on to the nose, the mouth, the outline of the head, and all the rest of the bits and pieces (all to varying degrees of detail) I finished in the allotted time and stood back to admire a very sad, very flat caricature of a face that looked like a reject from the local kindergarten class.
What had gone wrong?
Alex came over and just sort of shook his head. “You’re an architect. You understand building a foundation first. Drawing is the same way. Pay attention to the entire page; don’t let any one thing develop first.” He went on to ask me how I thought I should spend time drawing eyes and ears and noses and mouths when I didn’t even know how to draw a face?
Well how do you draw a face without drawing all those parts?
“Until you know how to draw an eye or a nose or a mouth, just show me where the parts go. Show me the shape of the head first. Where are the eyes from top to bottom? How do they wrap around the head? How wide are they on the face? How wide is the mouth? How far below the eyes?”
He went on with each element of the face, drawing nothing but quick, sketchy lines. No tear ducts, no eye lashes, just general information about my partner’s face. Locations, widths, general shapes only. He worked the entire page at once, not pausing on any one area longer than another. By continually moving back and forth between the overall information of placement and the specific information about each element, he quickly captured the three-dimensional face staring back at me.
I remember this lesson as it has popped up again and again, not only in my time spent drawing, but also in my other passions; from music to writing to architecture. You can’t create a song without letting the larger groove inform the song’s phrasing and vise versa.
I’ll offer that this alone won’t likely produce a work of art, but at least now I can draw a better face than my three year old nephew.