Freedom through Drawing / by Jeannine Cook

I am always interested when I read about artists' thoughts about the role of drawing in their oeuvre. As someone who believes that drawing, as a multi-faceted medium, is really relevant to today's art world, I find that more and more artists are voicing similar opinions.

In a review of a current exhibition at Messum's in London, David Tress:Thinking about Landscapes, Andrew Lambirth of The Spectator wrote about Tress' feeling that many admirers of his work see the "frilly bits around the edges, the layers and the vigorous handling", but don't think about how those effects are achieved.  Tress apparently believes that the freedom to create in that fashion only comes through hard work.

Tress maintains, "Unless you've been trained to draw - that good old solid background of representational painting (perspective, space, tonal relationships) - you can't do it..."

He apparently follows his "gut feeling" in creating his work too, something else that I too firmly believe matters.

David Tress, Oh Summer, Oh Far Summer, 2012
Graphite/paper
63 x 85 cm (24 34 x 33 12 in)

(Image courtesy of Messum's)

Each artist approaches creating work in a very individual fashion today, even if there is this important background of training and long hours of practice. The fact that drawing is a key part of the process is once more increasingly recognised. Even if it is only using thumbnail sketches to organize and compose the next stage of the work, the resultant "map" allows more freedom in creation. At other times, drawing can record aspects of the subject matter 
that might be fugitive - light, for example - thus allowing more serenity about knowing what effect might later be needed.  Many people take photographs of such aspects, but the actual action of drawing has subtle, important benefits. The brain filters and sorts out things about what you are seeing, thus potentially  strengthening the work being created.

David Tress,Grasmere Lake, graphite on paper,
401/2X593/4in. (103X152cm)

David Tress talked to Andrew Lambirth about the vital role of structure too. All that examination of subject matter by drawing it first helps build the layers of the work, so that the final result can flow more intuitively and freely. Sometimes, too, things don't work out as initially planned - more than sometimes, for most of us! - so resorting to more drawing can often help chart a new course for the work.

Burn Moor (Double Rainbow), 2013, David Tress

When it is the drawing itself which is the finished work, it rather depends on what you are using when it comes to freedom.  More forgiving media - graphite, charcoal, pastels, watercolours... - allow alterations and additions. Metalpoint is less flexible, given that you are working with indelible metal marks.  So doing some preliminary drawing, in graphite, for example, can free you up to launch into the metalpoint work because you have a clearer idea of where you want to go in the drawing.

Tress really does make sense about freeing up through drawing.  His work certainly shows what can be achieved by a dedicated, hard-working artist.  We can all learn from such examples.