Drawing 101 – Again

In my last post I referenced an article by Trey Ratcliff on the 10 Principles of Beautiful Photography.  One of his 10 principles was to learn to draw. That really surprised me since I’ve never seen or heard a photographer suggest learning another medium. <Broad Generalization coming up> Photographers gripe about being accepted as artists, but then they never seem to include other visual mediums in their artistic processes. That is either because they are elitists, or they don’t have the skill to dabble outside of the photo world. That may seem to be a harsh statement, but in my case it is true. I’ve always felt that I took up photography because I didn’t think I could do any other type of art. I wasn’t  ‘talented’ enough. The draw of photography is the entry cost is so low. Especially now. You spend some money, buy a camera, point, shoot and you’re creating passable images. Yes, there is a great deal to learn and practice to really become proficient. But that first image doesn’t really take much effort to look decent.

Where as drawing a picture and getting a nice result on the first attempt is challenging. It takes more more time, concentration and effort to come up with something decent. The materials are simple and abundant, but the effort is much greater than snapping a picture.

I’ve always wanted to be able to draw. My first real exposure was in college. Photography was taught in the Design Department at BYU. So we sat through a bunch of non-photographic classes, which I loved. One of them was Drawing. The most important thing I learned in that class is that I actually could draw, if I made some effort. But I didn’t keep it up after the class – one of the bad choices I’ve made in my life.

So as part of my creative resurrection I’m going to learn to draw. I finally found a couple of books that hit the mark. The first one is ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ by Betty Edwards. It is a great approach to learning to draw, with practice exercises and lots of theories and quotes for those who want to pretend that they are learning by reading and never actually pick up a pencil. (That would be one of my challenges…)


At first I thought it was a book about being creative so I didn’t buy it.  Then I read a review on it and gave it another shot. Great book.

The other book I found that I love is my anatomy book. I’ve been looking for a good one for years and finally found this one:


Starts at the bones, adds muscles, skin and lots of great stuff. They include proportional systems for Heads, 3 quarter and full figures. A wonderful book.

Now all I have to do is sit down and actually draw something.

A few weeks ago I drew almost every night for a whole week. Then I stopped. On Sunday I was talking to an artist friend/neighbor, Anne Sorensen. She does beautiful water colors. In the course of the conversation she made/encouraged me to commit to draw a half an hour a day. So that got me going again. Two days into it and I’ve got a perfect record. Thanks Anne.

So, I’m working through the exercises in ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’.

Now, I’m going to do something I haven’t been excited about. I’m going to post my attempts. The thought of doing this is hard and humiliating, but mostly from the simple fact that nobody reads this thing, I think I’ll give it a shot.

And maybe I’ll actually show some improvement.

First exercise – a self portrait.

Just to show that I’m not completely hopeless, the first image is the self portrait I did in college. The second is the one I did last night. Neither are amazing, but I think the second shows I haven’t lost everything I learned 30 odd years ago.


Self Portrait_83

This is actually a copy of my Sr. picture from high school. My hair really wasn’t that long at BYU.

Self Portrait_10

I promise this is the same person. Both even look like the subject, I’m sorry to say.

Tonight’s exercise was to draw my hand:


I’m glad to say my middle finger isn’t actually broken.

But just to finish this off on a positive note, this last picture is my final project from my college drawing class:


I’ve always been proud of this. Over the years it has stood as a reminder that I can actually draw, if I’d apply a bit of effort. Yes, I have a long way to go, but it is a possibility.

This is Mr. Durer’s version:


Albrect Durer Original

What is Beauty? Part 2…

My last post by no means was the end all discussion/definition of beauty. Mr. Dutton’s comments were interesting, inspiring, defining, but they weren’t the full answer. It was one perspective. I’m going to continue this exploration by pulling in additional pieces and adding my two bits when it makes sense and I feel so inspired.

There’s a piece by Trey Ratcliff of HDR fame, among other things. His article is entitled, 10 Principles of Beautiful Photography.

Here’s an extract to whet your appetite:

Oh, look at that camera you have! It’s so tiny and slim and techno-looking. Look! It fits right in your pocket! Oh my, you can take it to parties and to sporting events and it’s so convenient. Oh – it does 10 megapixels too! Oh my. Well that is a good camera then!

No it’s not. It’s a toy – give it to your kids or the nearest Japanese gradeschooler (for whom it was designed) and get serious.

Check it out – some thoughtful insights, spoken plainly.

What is Beauty?

First – sorry for the significant gap in postings. I’ve been confused and depressed about what I’m trying to do and if I’m going to be able to do it. If it will matter to anyone else – and if that is even important.

I’m struggling again because I’m wondering if I can do what I want with just photography – and I don’t think I can. But that means to do what I want I need to do more than simply refine my photography skills. I need to develop my additional skills. I spent some time on that the last few weeks and made some progress. Then I let myself get overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of what I’m trying to accomplish.

Then there is a philisophical question that has been bouncing around in my little head: What makes a work of art beautiful?  I’ve posted here and in the comments on other blogs that it doesn’t matter how you get there – it is the final image that matters. The work should be judged solely on the merits of the image, not how it got there. That was my reaction to the debate on To PS or Not to PS…

It sounds profound, and pure and well thought out – and it’s a bunch of bunk.  I hate to say this, but I was wrong.  As I’ve pondered that statement I’ve realized that we really do admire and respond to the effort and skill that went into the making of the work. The digital evolution has made it so much easier to produce high quality, amazing images. That has raised the level of, maybe not of beauty, but of qualitative beauty. To be great and significant, the artist has to raise her/his threshold, push it further.

So back to the question – what is beauty. What do we respond to? Why?

And I found the following talk on TEDS by Denis Dutton:

Virtuoso technique is used to create imaginary worlds in fiction and in movies to express intense emotions with music, painting and dance…

One fundamental trait of the ancestral personality persists in our aesthetic cravings, the beauty we find in skilled performances…

We find beauty in something done well.


Denis Dutton Beauty

Denis Dutton Beauty