Thursday, December 24, 2009

Technical skill versus artist's instinct

Please don't take this the wrong way - I'm not meaning to criticize another artist's work, but looking at other artist's work helps me think about my own approaches to art.

I was looking at some art today (by another artist) and it was a portrait of a baby. I was surprised that my first reaction to the drawing was to wince - The baby was probably giggling in the photo, but the baby's hands were scrunched up and I could see the veins through the baby's skin on his head. Because of the drawn up position of the infant's arms and the veins through the skin, the portrait was disturbing to me. At first look, instead of a happy baby, I saw a suffering baby. It should have been a happy pencil portrait.

The portrait brought a realization to me that an important part of being an artist isn't just technical drawing skill, it's having the judgment to know what to put in and what to leave out. Just because the veins are there doesn't mean the artist has to draw them. Seeing the veins in the reference photograph works out okay, because it doesn't dominate the image. In a black and white pencil portrait, however, those vein lines bring too much attention to themselves.

Artists get taught to "draw (or paint) what you see." I think this was an instance where the artist should have countered his/her training and done what felt and looked right - sometimes you have to ignore some things you see in favor of a stronger portrait.

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