Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New feed reader

Google Reader will be closing down soon and after looking through the alternatives I decided to try Feedly. It integrates perfectly with Google Reader such that the two of them are now running side by side in sync. I like Feedly, in fact am beginning to prefer it. It gives you a straightforward list of unread posts and also allows you to keep a post unread after reading it and to save a post for re-reading later. It may be that Google Reader had these functions too, if so I didn't find them. I also find the absence of scroll arrows in Google Reader (and other Google pages) highly annoying -- I wonder if this is just in Chrome or is it the same in other browsers? The only thing I haven't figured out is how to delete a feed. I have way too many and need to prune the list.

Mary Adam, A sketchbook page

Sunday, May 5, 2013

What is drawing?

Today I went looking for a definition of drawing on the internet. I knew deep down that it was a futile task: there is no satisfactory definition of drawing, and no two people have the same idea of what it is. I have my own idea but will save it for later.

Here are some of the definitions I found:

Wikipedia: "Drawing is a form of visual art that makes use of any number of drawing instruments to mark a two-dimensional medium."
[Too vague for me and needs a definition of "drawing instrument"], Marion Boddy-Evans: "In a narrow definition of the term, a drawing is an artwork created from lines or areas of tone created with a dry medium on a piece of paper. For example, graphite pencil, charcoal, colored pencil, pastel, or silverpoint. In a broader definition of the term, a drawing is a two-dimensional artwork created from lines or tone that is dominated by a dry medium but can include wet mediums such as ink, and washes of paint."
[The definition implies that drawing is a function of the medium used which I don't agree with but that's just me]

Merriam-Webster: the art or technique of representing an object or outlining a figure, plan, or sketch by means of lines
[Drawing is not only a linear medium, tone is an important part of it as in the drawing by Piranesi below]

Piranesi, Helmets, dagger, quivers, poker,  signs from the pedestal of the column of Trajan, 1756

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia:
"Art or technique of producing images on a surface, usually paper, by means of marks in graphite, ink, chalk, charcoal, or crayon. It is often a preliminary stage to work in other media." (from
[Again, this implies that drawing is a function of the medium used]  to create a picture by making lines with a pen or pencil
[As above] produce (a picture or diagram) by making lines and marks, especially with a pen or pencil, on paper:
[ditto] a graphic representation by lines of an object or idea, as with a pencil; a delineation of form without reference to color; a sketch, plan, or design, especially one made with pen, pencil,or crayon.
[ditto] The art of representing objects or forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines.

And finally the Google definition:


A picture or diagram made with a pencil, pen, or crayon rather than paint, esp. one drawn in monochrome.
The art or skill or making such pictures or diagrams.
design - draft - sketch - picture - draught

By this time I was getting the picture. In fact I'm beginning to think that there is no such entity as drawing after all, or that the word has lost its meaning in the 21st century; or at the very least, that it's not useful to separate drawing from painting. However I do feel that there's a thing which artists do, me included, for which it would be useful to have a word. That's where my idea of drawing comes in: I think of drawing as the art of representing three dimensions, usually but not always on a two-dimensional surface. That's the essence of drawing. The medium and surface are immaterial. The  greater the skill, the more convincing the three-dimensional effect will be. But this is only my personal understanding/definition of drawing, it's of no relevance otherwise.

Prehistoric drawings in Lascaux caves
Piranesi, interior view of the Parthenon commonly known as the Rotunda

It was a relief therefore to leave definitions behind and read the following. I love how this is put and the rest of the article is equally good.

"Ancient and timeless, the practice of drawing cuts across all art disciplines and has a broad and crucial role to play. It exists outside the constraints of fashion and art history, making startling links between the past and the present and reminding us of the continuity in our common humanity. Drawings from the past can look surprisingly modern because, technically and conceptually, we recognize in them qualities that are respected in our own time: spontaneity and simplicity, directness, rawness and expressiveness."
Anne Howeson at;/

[And three dimensions].

Some more links:

TRACEY: What is drawing for?

Some more drawings:

Giacomo Quarenghi, Design of a triumphal arch, 1814

Hokusai, Cranes from "Quick lessons in simplified drawing", 1823.
The minimal marks show the orientation of the birds in space. Not as easy as it looks.

Egon Schiele, View from the Drawing Classroom, 1905

MC Escher, Hands, 1948


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