Building Patience: Quality Drawings Take Time
Part of my work with my clients is convincing them it is expected, necessary and acceptable to take many hours to create artwork. Quality drawings take time. An artist is nothing without building patience. It is not generally going to be instant gratification. We live in this era of faster and bigger = better.
Drawing is an ancient technology – it is old fashioned – working with your hands. I often compare it to the lengthy process of building a house – it is literally moving matter around, albeit on the flat piece of paper. It is a slow layering of graphite that builds to the final layer that we all see, but all the stratums underneath contribute to the final image. It is common that a professional artist will take 40+ hours to complete a final drawing, as in the case of Karmel Timmons’ horse drawings. Even more commitment is needed in the case of Larassa Kabel’s horse drawings, who takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete a drawing! Larassa admits “she can’t bear to keep track” of how long it takes, because it would be too depressing.
Another fact I often site is from the movie Tim’s Vermeer, a movie I highly recommend to all art aficionados. In the documentary, Tim Jenison painstakingly recreates a model of a room that is depicted in one of Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer’s paintings. He then uses a variation of the camera obscura to recreate the oil painting of the room- a process that basically only involves mixing oil paint to color match a hue he sees in a mirror. Tim doesn’t have to worry about proportion, placement, perspective, scale or accuracy of anything but the color matching because of the way he’s using the camera obscura to basically copy what he sees throughout the room. This process is extremely simplified in comparison to drawing or painting by hand with the naked eye.
And it still took Tim
ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DAYS TO COMPLETE THE PAINTING.
Hondertachtig dagen (Dutch for 180 days!)!
The reality is harsh. Drawing is a practice, surely not a quick fix or adrenaline rush.
I, too, wrestle with this lengthy process, mostly because I am aware of my need to cultivate patience in my students (and their parents), while honoring that they are paying for their time with me. I am sensitive to the expense that comes with my students’ investment of time with me in the studio. I know that over the weeks, their efforts will pay off, if they can develop a distant future approach to their craft.
One of my adult students, Bern, is building his understanding of this long term – slightly unpredictable – approach. He recently shared his celebration of this with me, in his blog, Impasto, when he was really excited about the “instant gratification” of a lesson in which I taught him how to draw the eyes of his dog. This lesson on eyes works for both animals and people (although with human eyes, it usually takes another lesson or two to master the areas around the iris – including the sclera, tear ducts and eyelashes). You can see in the image above the one eye we completed in the hour lesson, as well as his first (or maybe three to five) passes of layering the texture of the hair of his dog. He still has to add layers to the hair, and add in values to create the depth of the structure of the dog- but this will come soon – with more time! It was pretty rewarding for me to read about his trials, errors and successes in his blog – and I’m guessing it will be inspiring for you to follow along, too.
Another recent success is the completion of a long project from a young 11 year old student, Ananda, who over the past few months worked tirelessly to create a likeness of the anime girl of her dreams.
Unfortunately I don’t know how to credit the original artist as this was an image Ananda found online and brought into the studio, but above is the original image, with our color testing surrounding it- so you get to see a bit of the process we went through to create the final masterpiece.
Because drawing takes so darn long, it is essential to live it up a bit when a small step is acheived or a larger piece is accomplished! I am always honored by the trust and patience I witness in my clients- and the reward for me is seeing these baby steps turn into something we are all proud of – their ever developing confidence and skills.