There’s a common piece of wisdom that you’ve probably heard of, and it goes like this:
‘Don’t meet your heroes.’
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, it goes for anyone we see larger than life, someone we admire, perhaps want to respect or emulate. For me, my default has been to think about this in terms of writers (my heroesss).
Maybe for you it’s a famous person in history - if you can pull up a chair and have a cup of coffee with anyone, dead or alive down through the chronicles of time, who would it be, and why? (Mind you, sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to meet a villain and bonk them over the head asking, ‘Why, why, why you moron!!’ Hitler for example. He could’ve gone to art school but got a slip of rejection. ‘Didn’t you know Van Gogh dropped out? Don't you know you can try again next year? Did you really have to… bonk + facepalm. But that’s another story).
Anyway, I started the year committed to drawing daily, to improving how I see. Having a mind that wants to study everything at the same time (oh look! A bird! A bee! A bear! A bear….? Really? Really.) I did a little jumping around.
Anyhow, I love the impressionist period, and particularly Edgar Degas’ dancers. There is something so emotional about them and the mark making is so soft. So to take it back to basics, I pulled out a beautiful book from the library called, ‘Drawings of the Masters: French Impressionists,’ by Ira Moskowitz and Maurice Serullaz. I think it is out of print now, but if you find it, it’s worth flicking through. It’s full of drawings and sketches that give an intimate glimpse into how these artists gathered notes, sort of a behind-the-scenes if you will.
I did a few master copies of some of these drawings from the book, including work by Degas, Renoir, Cezanne and Delacroix. It was such fun and a satisfying challenge. I also did a little snooping around to learn about how some of these guys lived, and was not thrilled to find out that Degas was difficult to be around near the end of his life. On the other hand, the more I read Van Gogh’s writings, the more I would have liked to have met him in history. But that’s another story.
Here are a few master copies from my sketchbook. I just love how some simple shadow shapes and a few carefully placed lines can create such soft and emotive images, forming the foundation for paintings.
What hero would you like to meet? Or… who are your heroes that you’d be happy to keep ‘as they are’ in your mind and heart and can live happily passing up the opportunity of meeting them? (It’s a fun and hypothetical question, just go with it ;).