What is drawing? What is good drawing?

I am not really good at drawing. I used to be considered to be good at it, at school and I did well at Art and as a kid I drew a lot. But I stopped.

However, it’s clear that Drawing is one of the first and most deeply embedded human acts. The first time the tiny hand takes some kind of stylus and makes a mark. It happens to everyone, everywhere, across history. We do that.

And we all draw. We call it doodling. At work, while listening to a lecture, on the phone. Even tablets and smartphones have drawing programmes (not very good ones: a Biro and an old receipt is more satisfying to draw with).

notebook doodles
notebook doodles
notebook doodles

If you Google “drawing” the images you get tend to be realistic. Using the pen or pencil to recreate the real, often a person. As well, I’m familiar with the great drawings of the past, just as you are. Raphael’s glorious heads (his drawings much better than his paintings); Da Vinci’s wondrous machines and astonishing anatomy; detailed and intricate botanical drawings, weirdly more fascinating than the actual plants; the sensual monsters of Aubrey Beardsley and the harrowing experiences depicted by Kathe Kollwitz.

But drawing as contemporary art is really a puzzle to me. Scanning and invitation sent to me by a London gallery, I saw a photograph of some weak, faint pencil on paper, totally undistinguishable, accompanied by the following passage (an excerpt):

This most recent series of drawings takes as its starting point, the axonometric grid. Through a process of division and sub-division, [the artist] dismantles the axonometric grid to reveal a series of equally diminishing equilateral triangles. These triangles are employed in a subversive manner by [the artist] to shift the grid away from its original intention – understanding three-dimensional space through a linear form of projection – and instead layers and overlaps the grid to reveal dimensional arrangements constructed from perceived tonal shifts brought about by the relative proximity of one shape to another.”

I am sorry, but I am not going to cross town for this. I am not interested in “dismantling the axonometric grid.” THAT is what I used to do every day in Math class confronted by the gridded notebook, I’d skip to the back pages and demolish the grid by drawing over it, forcing the lines into curves and often sticking a pair of confrontational eyes on top of the whole.

This is a kind of curator’s-wet-dream art, boring and intellectual*. Unengaging. Yes, of course I’d rather go play on my smart phone.

* And I am what would pass in most circles for an intellectual.

This what I think of as a good drawing:

drawing by Glenn Ibbitson
drawing by Glenn Ibbitson

and this:

bedtime drawing by Nazir Tanbouli
bedtime drawing by Nazir Tanbouli

One comment

  1. Kindred spirit as ever; just the response which wells up in me everytime I am invited to a show where,”The artist seeks to address..” or, “attempts to investigate liminal states..”bleaah! It’s the same old three B’s stratagem; -“bullshit baffles brains” and the art-going public still fall for it.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s