Drawing Matters || Jane Stobart

This is a quite remarkable book, and one which has needed to be written for a long time.

The title is really rather excellent as it completely sums up what the author is trying to say. First up, drawing is important. In spite of what we’re often told (that you don’t have to draw to be able to paint), skill as a draughtsman is essential if you are to be able to understand the process of capturing an image in two dimensions. It’s no accident that the greatest abstract artists have also been the best draughtsmen: you can’t move away from the representational if you can’t represent in the first place.

Secondly, this is a book about drawing. No, it’s not that obvious, because most drawing books are about how to draw, not the process and practice itself. I’ve been banging on to publishers about this for some years, but I can’t claim any credit for the present volume – it came through pretty much as a complete idea and, apart from saying “yes, for goodness sake, go ahead”, I had no hand in it.

For a non how-to book, there’s sure a lot of the practical in here but, if you’re following my theme, you should be expecting that. What this is not, never will be, is a series of instructions; rather it’s a look at the whole process of seeing, conceiving, developing and recording an image, done through copious examination of the works of many contemporary artists. Jane explains the whole idea of artistic composition, the mental as well as the physical processes of getting a picture down on paper, how understanding both the subject and the act of drawing allow you to tell the viewer about what you saw and what they’re looking at. To adapt Fox Talbot, it’s about why painting will never be dead because a photograph can never come from inside the artist’s head in the way a painting or a drawing can (and I speak as a photographer).

This is also a very important book and sits well with some other very serious works on the A&C Black list. Anyone who aspires to any kind of graphical representation should read it. I’m going to stick my neck out here: I think it could be the best book on art ever written and ranks with Ruskin’s The Elements of Drawing as both a commentary and a guide for the practitioner. At a whisker under £20 for a paperback it’s not cheap in money terms, but it’s peanuts for what you’re getting.

First published 2006
List price £19.99


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