Lori Sokoluk Art

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The Value of "Drawing Well"


I may be stepping into a minefield here, but I want to talk about accuracy vs expression in art and the value of “drawing well”.


You’ve probably heard artists say “you can’t possibly paint well if you can’t draw well”. By ‘well’ I believe they mean ‘accurately’, and by ‘accurately’ I believe they mean rendering an image something as a camera would - with detailed observation and without interpretation.


I do believe that being able to do this has value. I do not believe that it necessarily makes great art nor is it necessary in great art. Here are some examples to consider:



1. Rembrandt. Portrait of Nicholaes Rutse, 1631

2. Da Vinci. 
3. Egon Schiele. Self Portrait.
4. Alberto Giacometti. Tall Woman II, 1960.
5. Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Dora Marr, 1941.
6. Henri Matisse. Naked, 1949.


All of these pieces are by famous artists. Rembrandt and Da Vinci’s figures have ‘camera accurate’ proportions and carefully rendered details. Schiele and Giacometti distort proportions, but their pieces have huge emotional energy. Picasso distorts ‘reality’ in a different way, giving us multiple perspectives simultaneously. Matisse’s drawing of a nude woman has very little detail and is probably not proportionately accurate to the measuring eye, but is so simple and incredibly expressive.


Some great artists, like Rembrandt, combine measured accuracy and wonderful emotional expression. Some artists are so focused on capturing what I'll call "measured accuracy" that the feeling that complelled them to paint this thing in the first place has fallen by the wayside. Other artists deliberately move away from measured accuracy in order to strengthen the emotional expressiveness of their work.


In summary, I believe: 

  • drawing with accuracy of proportion and detail teaches us to see
  • bending or distorting proportion and detail expresses our individuality and may more accurately express feelings or emotions

Which do you value most - accuracy or expression?

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