Friday, September 12, 2008

The Last Cow Discovered?

My ignorance of the beautiful French language is on display in this post. To me, "Lascaux" sounds like "Last Cow". And, indeed the Caves at Lascaux do feature some cows - among the first known cow paintings. Perhaps the French should have called the place "First Cow".

Be that as it may, today is the anniversary of the discovery of the caves, on September 12th, 1940, by a dog and his entourage of four boys.
Pre-historic art, so called, is an endless source of fascination to the artist. Was the early artist a "magician" or "shaman", because of his inexplicable ability to represent the natural world by drawing? There are early man paintings in my own area, and what little kid wouldn't wish to be the first to discover a rock wall covered with something like that?

As I prepare to teach an upcoming class on drawing, I am asking myself many questions about the activity of drawing. Is it "magic", or in other words, reserved for a special person, or type of person? Or is drawing available to anyone?

Matisse, who is the subject of my current studies at The Colorist, has said that a drawing must "be decisive!" Does he mean decisive like in the use of the double envelopment (also first displayed on this day at the Battle of Marathon, in 490 B.C.) ? Or, does he mean to make marks with authority, and not tentatively or weakly?

So, today instead of Five answers for Friday, I have put these questions to my kind readers. What are your feelings about drawing, and how it should be taught?

Note: I want to give credit where credit is due. The earliest evidences of art, although muddled in with functional and craft objects, are actually ceramics, and not drawings or paintings. This could be due to archival reasons, but there you have it. Of some comfort to the pride of the painter, the earliest known art object may be a Venus figurine painted with Red Ochre.


Carolyn L. said...

I just discovered your blog last month and find it fun and educational. Two years ago I began drawing and last winter began using pastels. I attended classes almost continuiously at local art centers here in the Phladelphia area.
The best drawing class I had so far was the one that emphasized seeing in the sense of line,form, and value in an atmoshere of encouragement. The teacher encouraged me to suspend what I thought I knew in favor of relying on what my eye actually saw before it. Criticism was gentle and laced with specific advice. Assignments began simply and continued until the last benefit that could be wrung from a setup found its way onto my paper.
Anyone can learn to draw in the circumstances I describe if he/she is willing to work at it, practice and stop saying and believing, "I can't draw."
Drawing is only magic to those who haven't seriously studied it in the same way physics or chemistry is magic to the uneducated.
I don't know what Matisse meant by decisive drawing unless he means it should be done fearlessly and joyfully.

Casey Klahn said...

Thank you for your input and insight, Carolyn.

I learned to draw by myself so many years ago, and over the course of so many years, that I don't easily recall the sight-seeing type methods. I do read about them in instructional books, and I vaguely remember my own studies in measuring, proportion and perspective.

I do agree with the idea of having active critique.

Lisa B. said...

Many years ago, I had a beginning drawing class with a teacher who had us do "blind contour" drawings on large newsprint with a Sharpie magic marker.

We weren't allowed to look at the paper, and we weren't allowed to lift the marker. Just observe, draw, and hope for the best.

None of the drawings were completely accurate, but they were all interesting to look at. The set-ups were cluttered with unrelated objects.

Casey Klahn said...

I remember doing a lot of contour or line drawing as a boy.

I just got done reading "Drawing on the Right Side..," but am rejecting it as my textbook. I do see a good set of teaching parts to it, and the dissociative tricks can be part of the teacher's bag of tricks, I think.

I just have a hard time buying the hemisphere parts as a basis for what I want to do.

Thanks, Lisa!

vivien said...

I've visited several caves in that area with original cave paintings plus Lascaux II - such an incredible repro of Lascaux that you forget it isn't the real one.

The work is just amazing

At the Font de Gaume there is a bison painted with sculptural elements. They used the stalacmites and swell of the rock to create a separate front leg and the swell of the haunches. The cave is small and very narrow and you see it from very very close up - just amazing!

Hope you are feeling better now?

Casey Klahn said...

Thanks, Vivian. I am three steps forward, and then 1 back. All in all, on the mend. Fatigue is an issue.