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Phil’s Rants #6:
Students often ask, why change an existing drawing? Wouldn’t it be better and more efficient to start over? I find that starting over rarely helps. More often than not, the student spends an extra 45 minutes to arrive yet again at the same place. The hope is that the second time through, one will make better decisions that won’t arrive at so compromised a version. I see two problems with that hope. The first is an assumption that a great drawing only results from a stack of great decisions. If that were the case, very few great drawings would exist, because we humans rarely make consistently great choices. Our inconsistency comes in part from the fact that we are coming to a greater understanding of our subject by struggling with it through drawing. For us to make consistently great decisions we would need to already understand our subject. If we already understand it, there would be little reason to draw it. The second problem is equally inescapable. Our drawing at any given point, represents a snapshot of where our seeing is at that given moment. Our seeing has developmental stages that take time to move through. What students often see as accidental or meaningless errors in their drawings, are, in fact, accurate reflections of how they are presently processing what they are seeing. With practice, our seeing changes. However, if any drawer draws ten versions of the same subject, one after another, all versions will share some peculiarities that are characteristic of that developmental stage of the drawer’s seeing. The drawer’s job is to leave frank evidence of how he or she sees now. That is all we can do and all we need to do. To do more would be to be able to draw one’s future. So, commit to the drawing that’s being made and see what it becomes.

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

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