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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.

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Phil’s Rants #5:
Beginning drawers often think drawing is about duplicating what one sees. I find that, in fact, drawing can’t be about duplication. We see partially and can spend a lifetime noticing more and more about any subject, hence can never duplicate a subject’s entirety in any given drawing. However, the act of connecting observing with making leads us to see and experience far more of what we are observing than we would otherwise. So drawing becomes a tool that helps us connect more profoundly with both the world and ourselves.

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Phil’s Rants #4:
When I first began to draw I worried about the drawing itself. Was it right? How should I fix it? Now I see the drawing purely as partial residue of a process of listening. By listening I mean trying to see,  trying to more deeply experience the subject. It is very much like the stages of human speech. As toddlers, we listen and try to make noises representing whatever we comprehend about speech. The sounds we make are approximate and improve over time as our comprehension and skill grow…

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Phil’s Rants #3:
People often unconsciously assume that if they sneak up on their drawings, by either being tentative or very careful, they’ll get better results. I find that being terribly careful or tentative doesn’t give better results at all. It simply gives fewer results. Being super careful and tentative boils down to trying to draw one’s future, that is, trying to make the drawing you will be capable of when you are more experienced. That is not the drawer’s job. Never has been. The drawer’s job is to leave frank evidence of the present, where the drawer is now, at this precise moment.

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Phil’s Rants #2:
I grew up being perfectionistic. I believed that only by being ever vigilant and brutally critical, would I make good work. Drawing captured me because it helped me challenge and ultimately demolish that perfectionism. The way one masters drawing is by drawing, simple as that. In the beginning one is unavoidably clumsy just as we were when we were learning to speak or walk. As we practice, we accumulate an experience base that allows us to accomplish more…

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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…

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Who gets to draw?
These days, our culture is moving more and more toward the attitude that one only gets to participate in the expressive arts if one is expert,  that is, you only get to sing if you have a great voice, you only get to dance if you are graceful, etc. Our culture didn’t used to be that way and shouldn’t be that way now. I believe that drawing is enriching for anyone interested in it, regardless of whether or not they ever make a drawing that is impressive to anyone else. The study of expressive drawing will change how you see, radically change how you look at art,  and will introduce a vehicle for emotional expression and a means of profound escape from day to day concerns however you rank as a drawer relative to anyone else…

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