Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Taking a line for a walk

Paul Klee's famously described his work as "taking a line for a walk", this was the favourite phrase of one one of my art school teachers and although we sighed because we'd heard it time and time again it is a pretty accurate way to describe drawing.

Yesterday evening I went along to a meeting of the West Suffolk Embroiderers' Guild – I'd been asked to teach them to draw (in an hour and a half!!!!). I came up with a list of quick taster exercises intended to make you think and look rather than worry about the actual drawing . . .
• drawing everyday objects from memory
• drawing without taking the pen off the paper
• dividing a photo into simple shapes
• analysing the colours in a picture
• using a frame to select a composition.

Henri Matisse said "Creation is the artist's true function. But it would be a mistake to ascribe creative power to an inborn talent. Creation begins with vision. The artist has to look at everything as though seeing it for the first time, like a child. "

So why can drawing be so scary?


  1. Love that line you took for a walk!

    I think drawing scares people because they think of the end product not the process - they worry about what's on the paper, rather than concentrating on making their eyes see what is really there.

    I learnt this gradually, when I went regularly to a life class. After a year or two, I was apt to see everything in terms of a pencil or charcoal line. I still can't draw "properly"

    I'm going to try your exercises


  2. It was only this year that I began to draw without worrying about what my drawing would look like. Like many others, I was certain that I couldn't draw. So many of us seem to learn at an early age that some people are 'good' drawers because they can reproduce objects more accurately than other children. They are encouraged along while the rest of us try hard to emulate them. As with lots of other things, children give up when they feel that they aren't good at something.

    Your exercises are good ones - I found drawing without taking my pen off the paper and not looking at what I was drawing was great. It helped that our instructor pointed out interesting things in each of our drawings. We all seemed to bloom in that class.

    The embroiderers were lucky!

  3. I love that idea - taking a line for a walk!

    Your posts always make me think. Thanks Celia

  4. That took me back to art college where we were told to put our non-drawing hand into a large sock and then to draw the object that we found within. It was an odd thing to do but the results were astonishing!

  5. Ah-ha! NOw I see what you were getting at in your comment at my blog!And, yes, those embroiderers are lucky to have you.Another fun exercise is to colour things differently. Very kindergarten, but oh so instructive.

  6. I just love that sketch. I find the thought of drawing scary, but I do take on board your five points. I may try your line for a walk theory, maybe there is an artist within me somewhere? x

  7. taking a line for a walk is a wonderful phrase ... personally I like dividing photos into shapes. You would be a marvelous teacher.

  8. I like the line :) "taking a line for a walk". You selected some ideal exercises. You know I think people worry about drawing for a couple reasons:
    Some may be simply because so much in life is black & white or right or wrong. People are more conditioned to follow a 'path' rather than forge their own.
    For others the reason may be the fear of judgement, especially at trying something that doesn't have a "paint by number" set of directions and lines to follow. Maybe.

    Wish I could have been there -- I'd have enjoyed that.

    PS: This time I got to see a few more of the previous photos and was thrilled to see one of your hens -- I love hens.

  9. I love the artist quotes, I hadn't heard Klee's before. Have just found your blog via Louise's Oz pics and have enjoyed my first visit here very much! :O)

  10. Thank for all your thoughtful comments

    Joanna - you can always learn more about drawing, and you're right about not worrying about the result.

    Kate - it's sad how most people become so inhibited about drawing and lovely to hear how you now enjoy drawing.

    Thank you CS

    Toffeeapple - I wonder what was in the sock! what a fun exercise.

    Dinahmow - changing colours can really make you look - a good tip.

    Louise - do have a go and don't be scared - you'll be surprised!

    Becca - simple techniques can make drawing less intimidating.

    Diane - how perceptive you are - it's so easy to become conditioned to certain ideas.

    Gina - welcome to my blog!

  11. While reading a book today I came across this quote "Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake." This context was along the lines of the favourite phrase of tutors at Uni. "Taking a line for a walk." My tutors weren’t any different. So, I was off to find out where it originated from when I ran across your blog.
    After a year or so, I am about to pick up the sketchbook again. Thanks for the excersize!



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