The Importance of Process a Reflection after Studio Practice at LASALLE College of the Arts
My experience during studio practice mirrors that of a somewhat debatable topic; whether an artist’s ability to draw realistic forms is more important than that of an artist’s ability to conceptualise a creative idea in which he/ she would like to represent their work. During which, I was in the constant struggle between having a better grasp of proportion and placement, while my mind questioned every stroke my pencil made due to a pre-conceived idea of how the subject’s form looks like etched in my mind. This led to the quest of deciphering the importance of the LaSalle sessions, and the benefits in the development of an artist (myself in this case) as a whole.
The Artistic Process | Square One
“It’s all about the coordination between the brain and the hand.”
“Observe, that’s all you ever need to do.”
- Dynn (art instructor), 2014
Drawing by observing was the main gist of the entire drawing segment of the classes at LaSalle. To master the control of the pencil, and to draw the subject as is. Take, for example, drawing a curved edge of a cup, not by bringing any old curve for the sake of a curved line, but observing the exact angle in which it is. This was put in to play during the drawing exercises: blind contour drawing and contour drawing.
Figure 1 Blind contour drawing Blind contour drawing, as seen in figure 1, requires participants (myself in this case) to draw an object without lifting our pencils and without looking at the paper. As you can see in the photos above, the images drawn were led solely by what I thought I saw, and my ability to orientate myself around the canvas.
Patience played a massive role in this exercise. As you can see in the photo on the left, the fingers varied in size and width. Rushing oneself for the sake of drawing caused this. Consequently, disorienting myself knowledge of where my pencil was at that moment in time and eventually resulting in a mutated figure drawn out. To master this would take constant practice and the innate awareness of slowing down so that both the hand and mind are at the same pace.
Customary perception: using a small amount of visual information to decide how the subject should like. (Torreano, 2007)
Aesthetic perception: seeing the three-dimensional world concerning the two-dimensional space of drawing. (Torreano, 2007)
Figure 2 Contour line drawing a majority of our accidental distortions in our drawing is due to the conflict between common and aesthetic perception. Hence, this struggle I faced during class is universal, but with practice and understanding, it can be overcome.
Contour drawing, as the name suggests, is similar to that of blind contour drawing except for having the privilege to refer to the paper/canvas as I drew. After learning the importance of observing and the added benefit of knowing where my pencil was, I was then able to draw my hands to scale and define the central creases and outlines of the subject.
My artistic process so far in a nutshell
Figure 3 Shading and Tones exercises
Lines and shades// Light to Dark
Soft to harsh
They all may sound the same.
But come on let's take a look,
At the wondrous things, pencils can do, (or so they claim).
They can accentuate high and low points,
Show if a side is curved or straight,
But the most intriguing of them all is making things fade away.
Form and Depth// The Face
Figure 4 Portrait painting in Chinese ink Light flickered and made a new friend;
Her name was shadow.
Defined and poignant they made people look.
Shadow leant on faces, and Light glistened in their eyes.
Together they gave them life.
Colours and paint// The Colour Wheel
Figure 5 Colour Wheel, four colour scheme adaptation of Yoshitomo Nara's girl [above], Chromatic and Monochromatic scale [top right]
The primary players Red, Yellow and Blue,
Birth secondary colours…hmm – orange works too.
Tertiary colours red-purple alike!
Gives paintings their vigour, strength and might.
Monochromatic scales like the cool one above,
Accentuates sophistication that I love!
Triadic scale purple, orange and green,
Might be the weirdest colour scheme I’ve seen.
John Berger, an art critic, once said that “the relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled”(Berger, 1972) and this holds the absolute truth in the challenges faced while practising the visual arts. Only once I as an artist comes to a truce between the two, then would I be able to control the images that I am producing to the best that I can. Therefore, the mastering of fundamental skills such as these is vital in the artistic process.
Figure 6 Design I conceived through imagination
Drawing based on what I perceive things to be in my vision has been the driving force of how I drew things in the past. This aspect of bringing through imagination was momentarily debunked for the exercises in class, and what I’ve learnt so far in the studio has begged to differ. Therefore, once the freedom to draw freely was taken away, I felt slightly uncomfortable. As if I was holding the pencil for the first time, I felt crippled.
In an interactive book entitled The Drawing Mind, Deborah Putnoi encourages the readers to use their senses to invigorate the production of images based on imagination and feeling. Even stating, “drawing is a way of being”(Putnoi, 2012). This puts into question whether the artistic process should be driven by feeling or technicality, and if both, which one should play more predominantly.
Whilst this is true, there are limitations of drawing without actually being able to replicate how an object is in real life.
Figure 7 Hesse's sketches before construction of sculptural works. (Vartanian I., 2011) In Dave Liebman’s article Reflections On The Artistic Process he mentions, "artistic breakthroughs have been accompanied by technical innovation"(Liebman, 2009). This struck an accord with me as I too believe that for the artistic vision to arrive at a revelation moment, one must have mastered the skills to carry out what they have envisioned. This level of capability coupled with the artist’s self-actualisation will come to pass over time.
This can be exemplified in the picture above where Eva Hesse documents the original works. Followed by the actual execution of the artwork be it sculpture, drawing and painting. Hesse once made an account entitled Inside Process, found in a book Artwork: Seeing Inside the Creative Process, where she mentions “The sketches are direct lines to the process of art making” (Vartanian, 2011).
Unlike our fellow course mates enrolled in the performance skill classes, the sessions in the studio embody only the initial stage of the artistic process, establishing foundation skills, and have yet to enter the phase of creative exploration in an individual’s style. Similar to that of improvisation in dance, we have yet to be given the opportunity to delve into the second stage of the artistic process, which I believe we are going to learn in the following sessions by learning different art disciplines in place of the fundamentals and I’m looking forward to that.
Figure 8 Me drawing my self-portrait. (Chong, 2014)
The painting has always been a form of getaway for me, as such; I found the drawing and painting sessions thoroughly enjoyable and insightful. It puts my mind at ease and excites me from the time I mix the different shades and tones to the time I brush the colours across a blank sheet of paper.
However, time played a huge part during studio practice sessions. The class is like a vacuum of space and time, boxed in by all white walls, with the “500 days of summer” playlist looping in the background. Time is taken up in just a blink of an eye. We are required to practice several exercises before executing the final product for each class. This gives us s somewhat limited time range in which we can complete each activity.
Consequently, I found it extremely challenging to finish the exercises. And when I do feel as though the time may be up soon, I usually feel rather tense when completing each task. This has positively jilted my involvement in this stage in the artistic process, as I was unable to absorb the entire experience.
But perfection only comes after practice, and I believe with practice the fluency in which an individual can draw and paint would be cultivated over time. It is also said that “Certain technical and conceptual skills are learned quickly, but the more subtle aspects take time and perseverance”(Liebman, 2009), where the essence of it relays the ability to hone artistic intuition is through time and practice. Ultimately, through this experience, I have learnt that having a greater technical understanding of art, allows the artist to better execute their works in a way that they have envisioned it to become.
Berger, J. (1972). Ways of Seeing (1st ed., Vol. 1). London: Penguin Books.
Chong C. (2014). Me drawing my self-portrait. [photograph]
Liebman, D. (2009). Reflections on the Artistic Process. Retrieved January 1, 2014, from http://www.daveliebman.com/earticles2.php?DOC_INST=2
Putnoi, D. (2012). The Drawing Mind (1st ed., Vol. 1). Massachusetts: Trumpeter Books.
Torreano, J. (2007). Drawing by Seeing (1st ed., Vol. 1). London: Laurence King Publishing.
Vartanian, I. (2011). Artwork: Seeing Inside the Creative Process (1st ed., Vol. 1). San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Vartanian, I. (2011). Hesse's sketches before construction of sculptural works. [photograph]