Monday Mood: What Are We Really Representing?

Updated: Apr 20


For those of you who know my work, you know that it features the human figure to some degree pretty much exclusively. If you don’t know my work, which is probably the large majority of you, now you know it features the human figure a lot. With the week long Plebeian content freeze last week I finally had some time to sit back and do a little bit of drawing/painting and I had to shake the cobwebs off a little bit. Rarely do I go several weeks without drawing or painting so I had to reassess my process in some ways, but coming back to making with a really clear mind allowed me to push what I’ve been doing a little bit. I’ve been experimenting with heavy linework over the past few months, predominantly depicting singular body parts like faces or hands but I wanted to go one step further and try to depict the full body. I don’t have the money to pay for a model and I’m sure there are ways for me to get in front of one for relatively cheap but I just use online references so I was really struggling with things not looking quite like the photo.

I’ve always worked representationally but at the same time I’ve also struggled with liking my work because at the end of it if it didn’t look exactly like what I was referencing from I’d just get furious. But over the last week as I was forcing myself to sit down and just draw, draw, draw, I had a major break in that I finally said, “fuck it. Close enough.” I was getting so stuck on trying to “accurately” represent the model that even if the drawing looked good, I’d find one little flaw and despise the piece. But when I had my “fuck it” realization, it became clear to me that no one was going to see this person in the exact pose, especially not in the same space as the drawing itself, I can be a little loose with the drawing because I’m representing what I see. Shit, the drawing itself is just a pile of lines at its core so why is the chest muscle being a little bit more rounded in my drawing than it is in the reference bothering me so much? It was crazy, once I actually loosened up and started going for it in my drawings they actually got better.

It reminded me of a conversation that I had with Brian Booth Craig while we were at his studio. He was telling us about his process and he said that since he sculpted his models in person and he had to pay them, once he got to a certain point he didn’t need the model anymore. My first question was along the lines of how do you remember what they look like? But his answer blew me away in that he wasn’t worried about that. He wasn’t going for a one-to-one representation, he was representing his perception and experience with that model. That blew my mind… but I finally got to that point in my work and it’s been magical. My drawing has gotten so much better, well in my opinion at least.

Artists! Let this rambly blog be a lesson to you, don’t get too tied up in what you’re representing! Unless you’re a hyper-realist, you don’t have to be one-to-one with your representation, we’re not cameras. Artists should be striving to represent their experience, their version of what they saw. Being loose with what we see and allowing the mind to be creative in representation has given us some of the greatest artists, art works, and art movements throughout time. I’ve benefited greatly from being more loose in my process and I know that there are artists out there working representationally that need to hear this. Let the camera be a one-to-one representation, when working representationally show your experience, your relationship with what you’ve represented, be loose when you have to and be rigid when you want to. At the end of the day you’re working to show your vision and if that’s a slightly augmented representation of what you were referencing then that’s fine.