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“Focusing on the Individual”: Notes from short essay by Ishbel Myerscough

I’ve recently picked up “Ways of Drawing: Artists’ Perspectives and Practices”, which I got really excited about to the lead up of it being published. It seemed a perfect book to not only try and verbalise what it means to draw, but also to look at the practices of drawers, in search for similarities and awaiting lessons about the acts of drawing.

[featured image: Isobel Neviazky, untitled, 2016, pencil on paper, from: Bell, J., Balchin, J. and Tobin, C. (2019). Ways of drawing. Artists’ perspectives and practices. Farnborough: Thames & Hudson Ltd., p. 31]

So, these are just a few notes from one of the chapters called “Focusing on the Individual” by Ishbel Myerscough.

What drew me to it first was the title obviously. I started reading with the intention of expanding my knowledge about portraiture drawing, now that I am looking at how life portraiture can help me connect to my heritage, history and family.

“A blank piece of paper creates such excitement, so many possibilities –

images that are held but not seen, more felt or smelt than visualised.”

Bell, J., Balchin, J. and Tobin, C. (2019). Ways of drawing. Artists’ perspectives and practices. Farnborough: Thames & Hudson Ltd., p. 30
  • there is a clear fear of putting down marks / drawing – for fear of ruining the material – for making the wrong mark – for the image not depicting the likeness of the object – for people’s judgement and opinion – for not matching our own expectations with which we naturally go in, expecting “brilliance”
  • what needs to be done in order to enjoy the act of drawing and embrace it to its fullest is we need to forget about any expectations and impressions we would like to make on the paper, on ourselves and on other people who would potentially come to see the drawing

“Drawing is the purest form of art. It is the primary, the start line. For me, it is

a means to explain things that cannot be explained with words.”

Bell, J., Balchin, J. and Tobin, C. (2019). Ways of drawing. Artists’ perspectives and practices. Farnborough: Thames & Hudson Ltd., p. 32
  • drawing in my opinion is the most ideal method of capturing experiences – it’s just as the artist said – drawing produces the most raw and authentic representations of our realities
  • all else can be based off of a drawing – even in my case a drawing which appears more finalised and painterly, and where it looses some of that authenticity
    • which is something I’ve just realised for some reason – the fact I’m trying to improve the aesthetic of the drawing – isn’t that kind of counteractive to my intentions??
    • because surely what I should be doing in order to achieve my aims is to draw as much from observation as possible –
    • perhaps trying to gain a simple understanding of composition and space on paper is sufficient to let me carry on with recalling and connecting?
    • so what I will be doing next term, after I am done with developing and understanding the artistic and materialistic techniques I want to practice – I shall move onto a full term where the experience is my sole focus (!)
  • it is the purest because it’s so rapid and automatic – once done correctly – which would go back to the first quote and my comments on it – once we let go of expectations and intentions – and rather let the scene / experience dictate the marks
  • drawing is essentially a very primal language – which like nothing else translates thoughts and feelings – whether conscious or unconscious – into something palpable – something that we can begin to comprehend – something we can exchange more easily with others

“Life is so complicated […] I try to break it down, capture some of that confusion, hoping to simplify but contain all that I have observed […]

I want the viewer’s brain to say the unsaid.”

Bell, J., Balchin, J. and Tobin, C. (2019). Ways of drawing. Artists’ perspectives and practices. Farnborough: Thames & Hudson Ltd., p. 32
  • summarising what we see
  • investigating it
    • but the investigation is essential rather than materialistic – meaning that what drawing can allow us to do is to capture an essence of a thing rather than focusing on its physical properties – the marks we lay down can be direct correlations of our experience of and with the object – showing a reciprocal relation between us
      • very useful to think about ESPECIALLY in drawing portraiture from life – where we have the opportunity to experience the person AND their personality – observe the way they talk, react etc.
      • they are already a moving and living being – which might be quite hard to capture – but with the right marks and mindset, the drawing can end up quite free and liberating – which is essentially what the essence of a human being is – unique, free and inconsistent
      • generalised marks can help with that – it’s sort of like translating our first impressions of them
      • the likeliness isn’t therefore in the amount of time and detail we put into their physical attributes – but is held within our reactions and responses to being in their presence
  • what may seem like an unfinished drawing or something very abstract in its form is actually a way of engaging the viewer – not allowing myself to put too much of our own associations onto the figure, but rather allowing each and every viewer to have their own experience and encounter with the person, of whom I have only collected and investigated the essence of
    • once we go into more of the physical details then the figure looses character and becomes an object for observation and spectation
    • everyone sees the object differently

“If we allow ourselves and the object, to shake off feelings of expectation or embarrassement or indeed our own hope for brilliance […] remove the fact that we are looking at a nose or an eye […] if we concentrate that hard, not making judgements […] then magic is made.”

Bell, J., Balchin, J. and Tobin, C. (2019). Ways of drawing. Artists’ perspectives and practices. Farnborough: Thames & Hudson Ltd., p. 36

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