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The Impulse to Capture Time

Dear Friends:

The following is a commentary on the September 12, 2004 New York Times article The Undressed Art:  A Passion for Meaningful Lines by EDWARD SOREL who reports that Peter Steinhart in ”The Undressed Art: Why We Draw,” reminds us that there is something ”innate and human” about the impulse to draw what we see.
Steinhart, a naturalist and former columnist for Audubon magazine, wants us to know that a renaissance of drawing has arrived, not only here but around the world. I for one feel that this renaissance has not arrived, for in fact the desire to draw has never left us.  Whether we scratch, doodle, or draw exactly the likeness of something, everyone uses drawing to connect in some way to something.


In Harold Speeds, “The Practice and Science of Drawing” we are confirmed that truly classical books for art students are still in print and that drawing is as necessary and as revered as it was with the Masters.   Perhaps equally important, as one review states, Speed’s book relays “a kind of philosophical courage about art and instruction that has otherwise gone the way of the Dodo.”


In fact, in the book, “Secret Knowledge” – rediscovering the lost techniques of the Old Masters, by David Hockney we learn the many fascinating ways the Master’s found to see and draw the third dimension and depict the world around them with such accuracy, including drawings of dodos (‘Didus Ineptus’ renamed ‘Raphus Cuculatus’) by Jan Savery (1589–1654) and Carl Clusius (1526-1609)!


Perhaps it is true that today many galleries and museums are smitten with the works of modern artists who replace color for form.  But this is not to say that realism or classical art is dead by any means.  Even colleges renowned for their computer animation require students take classical drawing classes and stretch their skills in the disciplines of realistic art.


So why then do we have this continuing compulsion to draw? Some artists claim that drawing is ”an immediate emanation of personality,” or that drawing “trains your eye to see, or that drawing helps to “find our own originality.”


Perhaps it is more than a compulsion that drives us to relentlessly pursue transforming our three-dimensional world onto two-dimensional surfaces.  Perhaps the act of drawing itself, at any level, rather than a waste of time or pursuit for perfection is as Steinhart says, ”innate and human.” Perhaps it is our natural impulse to capture time and pursue friendships in what we see in the world around us.  Because as Georgia O’Keefe says, “Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.”


As our holidays approach, I wish you all the impulse to capture time and pursue friendships. 

God Bless. OM

Book Buys


The Undressed Art: Why We Draw
By Peter Steinhart

Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters
 By David Hockney

Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters
By Robert Beverly Hale

The Practice and Science of Drawing
By Harold Speed

The Practice and Science of Drawing, Illustrated
By Harold Speed

The Natural Way to Draw:

A Working Plan for Art Study
By Kimon Nicolaides




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