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Phil’s Rants #1:
i heard an amazing interview with the actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, this year. He was asked if his characterization of truman Capote was an imitation. His answer was essentially, “God, no. no one could do a convincing imitation of truman Capote!” His point was that an actor doesn’t do an imitation. He/she creates a character based on some basic truths of the person being portrayed. He stated that if the basic truths come across, the character becomes convincing and the audience buys into the characterization. this struck me, because it is exactly the same with drawing. one doesn’t simply duplicate the reality of what is being observed. one doesn’t create an imitation. What the artist does is create a version of the subject observed, based on the handful of qualities that that artist has noticed. thus “right”, in terms of imitation, is both impossible and irrelevant. the original is “right” in far too many respects. a drawing is by its nature selective, in fact reductive, and the only guide that makes drawing even remotely manageable is the expressive sensibility of the drawer. Expression both begins the process and simplifies it in a way that is absolutely necessary. Without expression, drawing is, in fact, impossible. this is a huge deal for beginners because it means that they not only get to be artists from day one, but actually need to be artists from day one. Being an artist from the beginning is the key to making drawing possible. the side payoff is that being an artist from the beginning also makes drawing way more fun.

(A draft copy of Phil’s book, Introduction to Drawing, is available for $15 per copy.)

The Drawing Studio—Essays/rants

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