Before their time

Before their time
Pencil on paper
May 28, 2008

In art class, my junior year of high school, we were asked to fill up a 100 page sketchbook over the course of the semester. This was the year when I starting thinking seriously (as seriously as a 16-year-old can) about art as a career. I remember sitting at my antique writing desk, staring at the objects on it – a stapler, a pencil, the hinges of the desk flap – as if they would they would start talking and tell me what to enter in my sketchbook for the day. As I gazed intently at them, they began to flatten out. I composed a drawing of these objects completely of shades only – no lines. I was astonished at the photographic rendering when I finished the drawing. I realized that what separates objects visually is not lines, but values. What makes dimension is not the shapes themselves but the proportions, the relationships from one change in value to another, that make up those shapes. Lines have their purpose as a shortcut but they aren’t what really define things. Now that I’m older, I understand how that “Eureka!” moment of seeing – of seeing physical objects and relating them to the mind, which is internal, and processing them back out again to the world as a drawing, something that is experienced externally by others – informs my outlook on life and people.

I made this portrait of my uncle in the 1980’s the other day to see if I could still draw, really draw. It took about 30 minutes. I’m a little out of practice but what was bizarre was that my proportions were dead on. I didn’t really have to measure anything. Nonetheless, when I double-checked my foundations of the drawing, I found everything was 99% accurate. I think this comes from doing so much graphic design over the past few years that I can now find the middle of the page or line up elements without having to measure them. Of course, I always verify my work by using the align/distribute tools in Adobe, but it’s kind of shocking when I realize I’m only one-hundredeth of an inch off.

You grow up but you don’t.

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