History Of Drawing
The Art of Drawing
At first, we have to consider drawing as an artist whose purpose is to represent on a surface the figure of an object, whatever the technique used. Using products of fantasy also serves to express moods and spirituality, based on appropriate symbols. Its possibilities are enormous. Its language, like that of music, can be considered universal.
Now, every artist must have a technique that he will learn through a series of progressive exercises and which, in general, are within reach of everybody; but it also needs to be endowed with the artistic qualities to capture, represent and, if possible, create beautiful works. These qualities are not acquired, they are, by definition, innate.
The drawing appears to be linked to the human being from time immemorial and it would not be risky to affirm that the first trials of men in the art of drawing are part of the first cultural manifestations of humanity. The term to draw comes down to describing with extreme meticulousness, what the human word, above all things and despite its immense greatness, cannot express. That is why we can also speak of drawing as a revelation, insofar as it can make us perceive recondite aspects of things.
It is, sometimes, an escape valve for certain personal experiences that arise spontaneously through the features of the drawing, when this is not limited to being a simple natural copy of an object. Not in vain we give so much importance to the drawings of children because of their psychological content in the purest humanist line.
Within the panorama of the Fine Arts, drawing occupies a position of preference where ever the layout of the spaces is something fundamental; for this reason, it is irreplaceable in architecture, sculpture, and painting, with the exceptions that may be imposed by non-figurative painting or sculpture, which, however, can benefit from its expressive possibilities by applying the canons of linear perspective and a sense of relief with the appropriate play of light and shadows.
A simple trait on paper or a fortuitous spot can evoke images or arouse emotions. There is an easy explanation because our memory does not archive complete things in all their details and many of them can be completely muted. Looking at some vague strokes one can receive a definite impression, not because of the same traits but because of what the person affects deep inside. One can thus see a conjunction of possibilities that non-figurative art entails.
One of the most attractive aspects of art is, precisely, this power to open up new horizons to the contemplation of the human spirit. When art offers us a structured image, complete and indisputable, it arouses the emotion of the sense of beauty in front of the perfect, or the veneration in front of the beloved, like portraits, historical facts, or hagiographic representations. But when the artistic work breaks the boundary of the figure, it stimulates our fantasy and throws the imagination into other areas, so great that the human world is often unable to express it.
In front of a drawing, we are not content with the simple external formal perfection, which after all is the result of a mechanical, a technique perhaps sharpened by an accurate sense of observation. We always want to see in it the presence of spirituality, something indefinable, which is the splendor of the flame of personal genius.
An elementary figure, at first sight, it can contain a huge expressive load and a great deal of spirituality, while the surcharge with which many craftsmen decorate their works can drown with their foliage authentic great flames. We always want to see, then, the fusion of the two elements: mastery and material perfection in the drawing and the stamp of personal originality that comes directly from the true artist.
Perfect drawing is the work of geniuses but geniuses do not abound. There is no need to wait, then, for an abundance of perfect works in the domains of art. All in all, drawing is an art in which all temperaments can participate as means of personal expression, which although they do not reach great heights, do not lack interest. For everything that expresses human experiences has immediately a certain interest.
And even if it is not used as a vehicle for personal expansion, there is always the possibility of evaluating, analyzing, tasting, and assessing the content of artistic works produced by others better equipped or more determined. Many people have spent unforgettable moments, pencil in hand, letting their fantasy run over the cardboard, or contemplating what others have expressed. Children, on the other hand, do so with enviable ingenuity and spontaneity.
All the peoples and at all times have valued the drawing, although in diverse ways. As expected, the technique has been perfected to improbable limits. But from the babbling of certain elementary and primitive traits of men of prehistory to the filigrees of the great masters, we have witnessed a constant overcoming of themselves.
However, it must be recognized that the sense of observation and psychological penetration has always been present, without changing its essence even if the manifestations have changed and always endowed with enormous expressive force. In some primitive manifestations, we can see the drawing related to the magical meaning of some elements, even to attribute superior powers to the artists themselves.
Another interesting aspect in the study of drawing, in general, is the function of instinct. As a sensible tendency, the drawing always has an aim in mind, it looks for an object considered necessary or simply convenient but worthy of being desired. It involves a longing, it is something linked to the natural species itself and it acts through a complex system of reflections, which in irrational beings are automatic and uniform but in human beings, whose spontaneity can nuance and channel personal intelligence, are more flexible. And it is precisely this instinctive spontaneity filtered by intelligence that gives the drawing the possibility of being a channel through which rich personal experiences flow, the principle of great works.
Then, along with aesthetic values, we have a whole series of human values, to which we must add religious values, already perceptible in artistic manifestations of ancestral peoples who related drawing to the action of hidden forces. Among the historical peoples, from the Egyptians to modern Christian iconography, these same values have been maintained and maintained, giving rise to the creation of true works of art.
We must also highlight the relationship between drawing and human education. It is an element of education and it is a quality that needs to be educated. It is not a matter of emphasizing the importance that the artistic part has in the integral formation of human beings. Everything must be educated, no one is born with an “all-set” personality, everything must be brought to the surface. And educating is nothing more than externalizing the possibilities that are within us, giving them body and a utility. It is all about conducting this activity towards a concrete and acceptable purpose.
It can be compared to the act of raising a being, may it be a human creature, a simple-minded person, or simply plant care, always maintaining the degrees of analogy. And the taste, in general, being part of the qualities of a person and the artistic taste part of the taste in general and knowing that in a person everything has to be educated, let us conclude logically that the artistic taste also has to be educated so that it yields its own fruits.
Although a proverb says – I doubt very much that it is true – that “there is no accounting about taste”; it is an obvious error because a lot has been written about taste, or that philosophical saying that “there is no arguing about taste”. We should make it clear that taste is formed, deformed, and reformed and that good pedagogy teaches us to form – and if the case comes to reform – our natural taste.
It is, therefore, necessary to have a certain amount of historical knowledge that brings to light the evolution of taste of the expressive techniques of drawing. What others did in the past, serves as an example to guide us in what we should do in the present without falling into the servile and impersonal copy. Nor should we be very concerned that in some cases and people the artistic possibilities have atrophied. Apart from whether the exception confirms the rule, unfortunately, many human faculties have been lost.
It is regrettable but it is more positive to collaborate and do everything possible so that everyman can reach his own potential. Therefore, it is necessary for the aspiring teacher in the art of drawing to know and study the works of ancient and modern art. Knowing the schools, techniques, and possibilities, you can tune into the orientations that fit your sensitivity. Our historical scheme will serve as an orientation but it does not spare you the effort of the direct, detained, and repeated vision of the works of art. Good reproductions can provide you with the most difficult and distant works.
You must analyze them thoroughly, capture their distinctive notes, human values and assimilate everything without being attached to any of them. Nor should you forget that the mind can be quick but the hand only obeys well and rapidly after many hours of manual exercises. You must refine more and more your quality of observation, copying from nature to achieve total perfection.
There are multiple techniques: pencil, charcoal, brushes, pastels, gouache, watercolor, pen, etc. A special chapter of this course will guide you conveniently. The most important thing is that when choosing, consider the nature of the drawing you are going to make and the manual skill in which you have most exercised.
The technical aspect of a drawing is undoubtedly worthy of interest but beyond the techniques of execution, composition, meaning and writing, that means, the individuality of the artist from his writing, deserves to be studied.
Generally, a drawing allows knowing the artist’s mind much better than a painting because the slower and more elaborate execution of the latter ends up masking his personality.
It is important that as we move on in time, a growing number of artists prefer the pen to other drawing instruments since the cleanliness of its stroke gives more effectiveness and more personal results. To define the character and intrinsic value of a drawing, we must examine it considering, as far as possible, the intentions of the author, his personality, and the period in which it was created. We need to remember that a work of art, in addition to the personality of the author, also expresses the mentality, the habits, and tastes of an entire era, which constitute the aesthetic forms, called „style“.
The artist can change, within certain limits, the character of his works if he follows the influences of a stronger personality than his but the imprint of his time always remains in his work. The oldest drawings within the historical period place us around the year 5000 BC and are traced with a soft brush on papyrus in ancient Egypt. The papyrus is a Cyperaceae plant that grows on the banks of rivers, swamps, and ponds in warm climates and that reaches up to three meters in height. It was frequently cultivated on the banks and in the delta of the Nile.
Its marrow was cut into thin strips, which overlapped and stuck crossed, formed into sheets, which, juxtaposed with each other, gave rise to rolls or long roll-up strips; They were the precursors of the book. The papyrus served for many centuries as the main material for writing and drawing, excepting the commemorative wakes and codes that were sculpted or engraved in stone.
Gradually, the papyrus was replaced by parchment, a name it inherited from the city of Pergamum, where there was a large marketplace and which is obtained from the skin of untanned animals but smoothed. It would prevail, especially during the High Middle Ages.
The paper is a thin leaf obtained industrially by means of suitable vegetal fibers that during the last centuries has attained a great development.
Made in China since ancient times, the Arabs adopted it and introduced it to Spain around the year750, and from Spain, it went to Europe. To date an old drawing it is essential to examine the paper since the manufacturing process varied over time. It is particularly useful to proceed with the examination of the filigree, which is a visible trademark by transparency. At present, almost all filigrees are known with their dates of manufacture, making it thus relatively easy to determine to what time a drawing belongs.
Typically, before starting to draw, the paper was covered with a thin layer of plaster or color tempera to give it consistency and for better use of the pen. The tempera coat also allowed drawing with a silvertip that left a trace of a beautiful dark grey.
The ancient peoples often used the brush to write and to draw, except for certain peoples of the Middle East who used cuneiform writing, based on engraving on clay tablets that they later baked, or directly on the stone, as in the Code of Hammurabi. The Romans opted for the calamus or cane, with which they engraved on wax tablets, and thus it was easy for them to erase. The goose feather was introduced in Europe in the 6th century, which would later be replaced by the metal feather.
The pencil is just a thin cylinder of colored clay or graphite wrapped in wood. References of the same appear already in the16thcentury but it was in 1761 that Gaspar Faber established a factory of pencils, which, at the beginning of the 19th century, began to produce in series, the Monroes in the United States. The modern fountain pen is nothing more than an accidental variety that does not modify its characteristics.
The drawing or pastel painting uses soft bars, of different colors, which lend themselves to very delicate effects. This technique was already known in Germany during the seventeenth century and became very popular in Italy throughout the 18thcentury, especially for portraiture.
At the beginning of the 19th century, we found allusions to the fountain pen but its invention was due to Lewis E. Watermann around 1884, although it did not develop in multiple variants until the second half of the 20thcentury. After the fountain pen, the ballpoint pen has been imposed, a type of fat ink pen that constantly impregnates a ball; it turns when rubbing the paper, letting the ink run. All these techniques at the service of the artist allow us to achieve new effects that are always interesting.
Until the nineteenth century, the study of human beings was limited to the data provided by historical chronology. Therefore, art began not with a man as such but with a man as a historical subject. With the great investigations in the valleys of the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates, the artistic horizon was widened, going back several millennia but always circumscribed to the limits of history. A fortuitous event was going to change the knowledge of men before history. We enter the domains of prehistory.
When in 1879 the Marquis of Sautuola, accompanied by his daughter, a four-year-old girl, was busy looking for fossils in the Cantabrian mountains, the small stature of the girl allowed her, to crawl through some rocky outcroppings, to enter an unknown cave and discover a series of strange paintings. They were the caves of Altamira. A new, transcendental and fascinating chapter was opened for the history of art. The cave paintings as part of prehistoric art, whose existence corroborated many utensils carved in stone and bone.
These were impressive samples of the drawing of men in very remote times. Dates? Do not delude yourself. For such distant times, time does not count; what counts is the works that they have provided us with. Certain global calculations allow us to have a very general idea, an approximate idea that is however very significant. It is very interesting to know that the man who in the light of a torch scribbled in those grottos quite repeated subjects was an accomplished master of drawing and an attentive observer of nature.
Beginning with what is culturally considered the oldest, we find ourselves in the Stone Age, known as Palaeolithic, which extends over thousands of years and is subdivided into different periods, peoples, and cultures.
The prehistoric cave paintings belong to the group called Aurignacian, which, according to specialists, can be dated to c. 25,000 years BC., the beginning of the art of painting on the rock.
These drawings and paintings that take advantage of the entrances and protrusions of the rock in search of relief, represent animals of different species, preferably related to hunting and human nutrition. We can see the min various postures, sometimes violent, even though some superposed-on others, always demonstrate a great capacity of observation. Paleolithic painters were able to see with their eyes details that are unclear and that can be grasped only with the help of powerful means. The assemblages of the before-mentioned Altamira caves are famous in Spain, as well as those of Lascaux and Font de Gaume in France.
The works are carried out in places of such difficult access that it is necessary to discard any decorative purpose or aesthetic exhibition. The fact that they have not been exposed to inclement weather explains the exceptionally good condition in which they are. In the Cueva del Castillo (Santander) the figures of human hands – always the left hand – silhouetted in red are especially evocative and difficult to explain.
With a leap of not less than about ten thousand years, we reach the Magdalenian period, in which art changes its orientation. It stops being realistic to be schematized and it becomes a dynamic art that introduces the human figure into its representations. It has at the same time an informative sense since it is a sample of the illustration of the customs and clothing of prehistoric man. The paintings of Cogul (Lerida), in which the human figures make a clear allusion to the mystery of procreation, are very significant.
The Cave of the Spider of Bicorp (Valencia) gives us the schematic representation of a beekeeper who collects honey from a honeycomb after driving away from the bees. These paintings, unlike the previous ones, are made outdoors or in shallow shelters in which light penetrated. At the end of the Palaeolithic era, the figure of a horse’s head neighing, found in Mas d’Azil (France), was engraved on a reindeer horn. One wonders whether to admire the sense of observation of the anonymous engraver or the extraordinary fineness and quality of the drawing.
It can be said that the Palaeolithic, lasting for many millennia, developed the three fundamental forms of plastic representation:
– the one based on the imitation of nature, like Altamira’s paintings;
– the pictographic, which simply suggests, informs, teaches, like those of Cogul;
– ornamental or decorative, abstract type, found in certain incisions in bones or stones. Around the year 5000 BC. the great cultural revolution of the Neolithic takes place, also called the age of the polished stone. Man becomes sedentary, knows agriculture, and domesticates animals and instead of capturing his food, he will produce it. They built their homes, created pottery, and learned how to weave. In the art of drawing, they accentuated the schematism until it almost reached abstraction.
The human figure is presented as a circumference crossed by a vertical line that bifurcates to indicate the legs; It is also very characteristic how they represented deer, by means of a graphic in the form of a comb allusive to the antlers of the animal. The figurative schemes that the artist used could be subscribed to by many contemporary artists. Neolithic men have replaced the sensations of the changing nature with the permanent strength and firmness of concepts. As he has fixed his life, he also fixes his human experiences among which is art.
At the end of this period, the bell-shaped vase culture emerged, an extraordinary representation of a fundamentally Mediterranean way of life. It is a type of ceramic in the shape of a bowl or bell decorated with areas of geometric motifs, whose incisions are filled with white paste in a display of ancient craftsmanship.
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