Mark Fleming (detail) I don’t always have the patience to sit down and draw from observation, but whenever I can manage to glue my butt to the chair I am rewarded with an increase in appreciation for the world around me. For me, to see clearly is an active practice of discovery, curiosity, attention, acceptance, problem solving, flexibility, and focus. The more I practice, the easier these skills come to me. I used to say art is always difficult, no matter how long you work at it. But not all of it stays difficult, not all of the time. Some things really do get easier. As part of our first exercises in the recent “Figure in Interior” class, we did a drawing approach I called Pathways. This was another idea that I adapted from Fran O’Neill. The idea is that instead of drawing the outline of things, you focus on making pathways across the page, as if you were an ant, walking across the surfaces of things. Artists were encouraged to leave things unfinished, and focus on the pathways. The goal is for the pathways to describe the surface that they’re on, and lead to the edges of the paper. The pathways build a sense of texture, surface, and depth as they wander along the objects, and then when touch the edges of the paper, three things happen: The pathway lines become entry points for the drawing, allowing the viewer to pleasantly meander through the drawing as if they were on a garden path.The lines, now connected to the edges of the paper, form shapes in between them. Those shapes become clear compositional elements. Surprisingly, looking at and altering these shapes is an excellent compositional exercise. You don’t even have to know rules of composition – if you’re looking at the shapes as shapes, you’re naturally going to improve your composition skills. You begin to make decisions based on what the drawing needs, rather than obeying the visual input of your subject matter and putting it on your drawing whether it needs it or not. You see that the drawing needs something in the lower left corner, so you go back to find something that will give you an excuse to make a mark there. If you look at the scene and see that it’s blank there, you have to look harder, and (gasp!) you might have to get clever. Mark Fleming, working to get off the figure and onto the pathways I asked Mark Fleming what it was like to draw this way in the class. I appreciated his response: “I’m experiencing an interesting after effect. I’ve had something similar from painting classes, only with color instead of line. After painting, I’ll find myself staring at various shades and tones and reflected light and shadows. Sometimes it’s even the “pull the car over” kind of interest. Now, I’m watching the impeachment hearings and noticing that the microphone lines up with the lapel and I can follow that line up around the collar where it meets the chair and the line from the chair is even with the head of the person sitting behind and I can follow that line to the paneling in the back of the room and out the door. It’s the “ants to the edge of the paper” style of looking at things. Much more satisfying than the impeachment hearings. What I learned in the class is that it is going to be a lot more difficult to unlearn my drawing technique. Cars look like this, shoes like this, trees like this, etc. I knew that I suffered from that condition, which is why I took the class. It was a little frustrating to find I could so easily fall back in to that even during exercises designed to make my standard technique difficult. It felt like my ability to really look and really render was limited to a few minutes. I know what needs to be done, so hopefully it’s just practice, practice, practice.” I think it is mostly just practice practice practice. And practice practice practice does make a difference. Everyone’s focus improved tremendously during the course of this class. The length of time everyone was able to focus lengthened, and everyone was able to go farther with their drawings. As a result, their drawings became more interesting. It was incredible to see. It was an incredible class. We’ll do it again in 2020. Tip: There’s a “Draw Like Diebenkorn” workshop coming up in April. We’ll be using a clothed model. I haven’t published the workshop online yet (sorry!), but if you find this drawing style interesting, you’ll want to get on the invitation list for this one day workshop. I’m sure the workshop will sell out, so let me know if you’re interested so I can send you a special notice. Diebenkorn (see the pathways?) DRAW LIKE DIEBENKORN / Ruthie V.$125. One Day Workshop, Saturday, April 1110:00am – 4:00pm This post was part of the ongoing series on Figure in Interior: The Most Unusual Class. Thanks to Connie Pierson, Lucy Garnett, Dorothy Gleser, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mimi boothby, Priscilla Schultz, Karl Dyer, Mark Fleming, Arni Adler, Siobhan Wilder, Carolyn Zick, Lendy Hensley, Alex Walker, Kate Harkins, Liz Clagett, Hannah DeBerg, Marina Vogman, Lauren Kent, and Kathy Paul for their drawings.