One of the most common shortcomings in the works of artists today is poor drawing ability. There is a perception among some, especially if working in the highly symbolic styles of the gothic, the iconographic or even the style featured recently, the Beuronese style, that the artist can hide his lack of technical skill behind the stylistic elements. I have heard people say that they signed up for icon painting classes for example, because they think that they don’t need to be so good at drawing.
The same thing happens in mainstream arts schools, students opt for Expressionistic styles because they know that they can’t be held to account for how bad the drawing is – they can hide the lack of skill behind wild and flamboyant brush strokes. Many just forgo the paintbrush altogether, pick up a video camera and go for conceptual art.
This may be acceptable in the context of 20th century art styles, but I suggest this is not good enough for sacred art, no matter what style we want to work in.
In fact it is more difficult to work within a particular tradition and retain accuracy in drawing. It requires the artist to understand both where he must be precise in reflecting nature, and where he must be precise in deviating from natural appearances in accordance with the demands of the style of the tradition.
Artists quite often show me their work and one of the usual comments I make is, you need to improve your drawing. It is great that there are more and more people who are looking to traditional forms as inspiration for sacred art and so I always want to be encouraging. There is hope, drawing is a skill that can be taught. Someone who wants to learn to draw can spend time learning the academic method of drawing – this trains the eye to observe nature and then to render it in two dimensions. Another thing to consider is an illustrators’ course, in which one can learn how to create new images without always having to set up a tableau of figures posing for the image. At some point the good artist does need to be able to go beyond simply drawing what he can see. He must be able to draw what is in his imagination too.
Here are two examples of faults that I often see. I don’t like highlighting what is (Read More)