‘To draw a line is to have an idea. Drawing is a way of tuning and honing the eye. The more I draw, the better I see, and the more I understand. There’s always been a correlation between the strength of the work and the degree to which I am drawing. There is no way to make a drawing – there is only the act of drawing.’ (Richard Serra, “About Drawing”)
I was asked to blog about drawing. I happen to be a fan. I am also new to Michigan, and since my job involves bringing seemingly unrelated subjects together, I felt discussing Chris Laporte’s work was a good way to discuss the matter and how it relates to both Art and Design.
I met Chris and his girlfriend MJ McCabe a couple of weeks ago during Art Prize 2011. Chris and MJ are local Michigan Artists, and they hosted a group of us from Austin at their studio. MJ is an amazing painter, and Chris is pencil master draughtsman. He is also happens to be the winner of Art Prize Grand Rapids in 2010.
For Chris, drawing is more than penmanship; it is a commitment to a craft. Drawing is not what we see, but the process of editing, digesting, and interpreting an image to the point where it reads as a word, a sentence, and or a poem. Chris’s work is of epic proportions. It is successful because it harnesses the madness and compulsion of an artist into sympathy and admiration from an audience witnessing the end product.
Developing the stamina and discipline to commit to a piece of work such as his life-size drawing of a US Cavalry Company from 1921 is an impressive feat on its own.
No question Chris loves to draw. It says so on his website, but it is important to note it also states he’s drawn over 85,000 portraits to get to this point. His love equals commitment, and that commitment translates to hard work, constant iteration and improvement towards achieving a purpose. His story and body of work moves us because we immediately understand as viewers, that we are not just in front of soulless reproductions of an image.
For most of us who draw for a living, drawing is simply a way to organize our thoughts. “We draw to see” (Carlo Scarpa), but drawing is also very much like writing. “I began to write with drawing, the images which I learned about now presented themselves to me like realized dreams. There is so much to see and feel here which can influence anyone.” (Luis Kahn).
Some of us have better or worse penmanship than others, some pursue calligraphy, chose to write in shorthand, cursive, or in block. Handwriting comes in all shapes and forms. So does drawing. In this, the computer serves just as another aid for the draughtsman. It is to the designer/artist what the word processor is to the writer.
But be it by hand or by computer, communicating is hard work. No matter what our field of work, we are expected to be flexible enough to deliver. Drawing is just one of those things that make it easier for us to perform.
The skill set required in the past was more defined by drawing, so perhaps the reason artists and designers who’ve been active for many years tend to draw better than people who just started. Practice makes perfect no doubt, and diversifying your set of skills with tools such as the computer may sometimes makes you run the risk of appearing less skillful at specific traditional tasks such as drawing.
I’m in no way trying to make an argument for or against the level of drawing skill required to be a designer or an artist. I’ve been drawing for many years, and I don’t consider myself a draughtsman, but as I explained, drawing is is a means to an end very much in the way writing is a means for me to document and clarify what I mean to say. We should all draw! Meeting Chris simply makes it clear to see what is possible beyond our day to day.
Learn more about Chris and his piece, Calvary, in the video below.