I’ve been thinking about what makes a drawing a piece of art a lot these days.
What makes splotches of paint on a canvas artwork?
What makes strokes of ink a masterpiece?
To make a piece of art—a strong piece of art—there has to be an idea. It has to be communicating something, saying something. You could be a technical master and able to paint the human anatomy in perfect realistic detail, but if there’s no idea behind it, is it really art? To me, the idea is king, and the idea should be the focus in artmaking. Not how anatomically-correct you can draw the human body.
The Focus of Artmaking
There are thousands of tutorials on how to master your craft: how to draw a horse, how to paint fluffy clouds…But what about a tutorial on how to find the ideas that are meaningful to us? And how to use those ideas to inject our emotions, feelings, and unique voice into our work?
These are the questions I’ve been thinking about, researching, and exploring since I began teaching. Instead of focusing so much on technical prowess, I hope to encourage you to focus on the emotional and intellectual investment in your work.
I hope to help you approach drawing differently. Through doing that, you’ll be able to take your art to the next level, gain the confidence to step beyond studying technical craft, and start developing ideas to make the art that’s meaningful to you.
Mimesis vs. Feelings
According Wikipedia, the definition of art is:
“Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.”
Keep reading, and it states:
“Art may be characterized in terms of mimesis (its representation of reality), expression, communication of emotion, or other qualities.”
Mimesis! The representation of reality, an exact replica of the world! Why would we bother? We’ve got cameras for that.
I believe the idea—the interpretation of reality, the expression of self, the communication of feeling—is what elevates a drawing to a piece of art.
The Only Takeaway
So if you don’t get anything else out of reading my articles, seeing my drawings, or listening to me blabber on about whatever obsession I’m currently thinking about, I hope you just take away this one thing:
Drawing well—making art well—isn’t solely about how advanced your technical skills are. A strong piece of art comes from a strong artist with strong ideas.
So invest in being self-aware, present in the world, and always follow your curiosity. When you focus on those things, when you focus on improving the emotional and intellectual strength of your Self, and therefore your drawing, that’s when you’ll really level up as an artist and elevate your drawing to a piece of art.
“I’ve never seen a bad drawing destroy a good idea. On the other hand, I’ve never seen a good drawing save a bad idea.” –Paul Conrad, cartoonist
This is a big divergence from some typical ways of thinking about art. Maybe it’s controversial, maybe you don’t agree. Maybe you’ve never thought about it this way. Let me know what you think by commenting below!