Saturday, June 27, 2015

Add Value: take fewer photos and draw more

This is a video from The School of Life which is well worth watching if you've ever wondered what's good about drawing from life and why photography can get in the way of appreciating what we see.

It focuses on:
  • how cameras get in the way of looking
  • how drawing enables us to see more in the world around us
Study of Gneiss Rock, Glenfinlass by John Ruskin
Pen, brown ink, ink wash (lamp-back) and bodycolour,
47.7 x 32.7 cm.
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England
You can find the text of the narrative here On the Importance of Drawing page on their website
‘Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane, and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that yo u went down such and such a lane.
John Ruskin, quoted in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
I think Alain de Botton is also narrating The School of Life video.


  1. Take FEWER photos and draw more.
    Otherwise, I agree.

  2. Oddly enough I had "Take fewer photos" first time round and then tried out 'less' - and 'less' sounded better with 'more'!

  3. I know this is true, and then I take my camera out with me everywhere I go just in case I miss something, when in fact I miss something every time I get the camera out and operate it.
    Often when I have no camera and no sketchbook I make a point of looking carefully, and then, when I get home, draw whatever is in my head. It's not super accurate sometimes but I've done the very important act of looking properly.
    Now all I've got to do is persuade my techno savvy grandchildren to leave their devices at home.

  4. Couldn't agree more! I had a related conversation just yesterday about a similar subject, trigged by Coral Guests recent post on photography in botanical art. I know I'm sick of seeing work that's obviously from photographs or iPads. It results in characterless pieces and is fairly obvious with tell-tale shadows and even distortion. Maybe I'm old fashioned but observational drawing should be the foundation of work, I'd much rather see an observational drawing ( albeit slightly flawed) than a piece of photo realism. Yes maybe photo realism is a technical achievement but is as dull as hell! ( to me) Also it's been shown that the way we look at a 3D form and interpret it when drawing differs, this skill isn't developed using photographs, there are a number of studies published on this. I couldn't believe that portrait programme on TV last year - artists had models yet painted from an iPad! Personally I think that there is too much emphasis on producing finished work and competitions - it's resulting in shortcuts to get to the finish line as fast as possible.


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