There is nothing quite like checking out a few books from the library and learning how to do something. We all love to learn and read and be entertained. But picking up a new skill or refining an old one is something very special. The Library has it all: home repair, building a canoe, raising goats, etc. …and knitting. I don’t think there is enough yarn in the world to make every project or idea available on CLP’s shelves.
Lately for me, it’s been all about drawing. There is something so wonderfully simple about it. You just need a pencil and some paper. No expensive set of paints or easel to buy, no special equipment necessary, nothing to it. Transitioning from a lifelong doodler to an amateur illustrator hasn’t been easy, but it’s been fun, and CLP has tons of titles to help us along. I have flipped through at least a dozen titles learning basic techniques, perspective and anatomy.
One of the unexpected benefits of this reading splurge is the encouragement to draw from life. Most of us don’t have the luxury of taking art classes in our spare time and it can be difficult convincing someone to stand naked in the middle of a room for long periods, especially now that temperatures are dropping. But books like Figure Drawing Without a Model by Ron Tiner recommend drawing whoever and whatever is around. So far, no one on the bus has caught me. For the basics, I have been gravitating toward older titles like The Art of Pencil Drawing by Ernie Watson and Wendon Blake’s Starting to Draw and Landscape Drawing Step by Step. There is so much to choose from on the shelves. The humble pencil is capable of great things, as evidenced by artists like Paul Calle.
At this point, some of you out there are wringing your hands in frustration, crying out against cruel fate and bemoaning a perceived lack of artistic talent. “I can’t draw!” you say. Well, you are wrong. Few of us will become great artists, whatever that means now. But drawing is a skill, and skills can be learned. Ultimately drawing is a trick, representing a three dimensional object on a two dimensional plane. Lines don’t even exist in reality like they do in many illustrations. But our brains can figure it out. So for the hard cases out there and the non-believers, start with this book: The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. This groundbreaking work breaks down the nuts and bolts of seeing, perceiving, and drawing based on hard science. Anyone can learn once the veil is lifted. In a similar spirit, I will go ahead and admit that I could probably get better at math if I worked at it.
Once the gears are oiled, I highly recommend this book The Art of Urban Sketching by Gabriel Campanario. This book was an amazing eye opener about the power and potential of field sketching in an urban environment. With pencil and sketchbook, the environment around us is potentially transformed and made more meaningful. The book even includes a “manifesto” for the budding urban sketcher. I hold manifestos to a pretty high standard. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels really set the bar high. Unless you are systematizing a new way of analyzing history, I think it’s better to call it a “guidebook.” That’s just me of course; the book is a can’t miss and will open your mind to the artistic possibilities of all the space and form we take for granted on a daily basis. So, get to the library and start drawing. Oh, and any urban sketchers out there with a doodle of CLP-Main, please send a copy to me. It’s an amazing building and I am very curious what people have done with it.