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Book Review: Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson

Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson As some of you know, I have been busy this fall creating a curriculum for teaching drawing in a simple and straightforward way.  In all my researches, this is the book that gets to the heart of the drawing problem, and is also readable and uncluttered.

Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson (amazon link).

Many of the wonderful books about drawing that have come out lately seem to feel that more to the point of unreadable is better.  This book avoids that trap with clear and on point descriptions of the challenges of drawing.  My favorite part is right at the beginning where Mr. Dodson talks about focus on the subject rather than the self.  When I draw, I feel as if my self, my ego if you will is set aside in the service of observation.  He talks about this very well-- and reiterates the need to focus on drawing and observing, rather than on judging your own actions while you do them.

His book also celebrates rather than hides the errors and judgments that are a part of any good drawing and urges the draftswoman to include the palimpsest--the marks made in error as part of the story your drawing is telling.

In my classes, I try to teach many things, but these two ideas are the most important.  We are used to seeing art as perfect, but when you focus on authenticity, error and discovery, your drawings and paintings will speak to people, and have good stories to tell.   I once was asked to judge an art exhibit at which every single piece was created from photographic materials all taken by someone other than the artists.  In talking with the group about why they did not paint/draw from life many reasons were offered--it is windy/buggy/rainy/sunny/ outside.  Fruit rots, humans wiggle, plants die.  Finally one person posited that making the leap from three dimensions to two was really really hard, and that was the reason for drawing from other people's photographs.  I found it to be an insightful acknowledgement of the problem, and one this book answers in a cogent manner.  Enjoy!