Saturday, September 24, 2005

Practice piece

I've been given good advice by an artist friend that if I wish to take art seriously, I should carry a sketch book with me everywhere I go and to make it a habit to just sketch anything in sight. I have not been faithful to this advice and only take to the pen occasionally. I bought various grades of pencil and did make attempts to use them to record what is within my sight whenever I could. However, I discover that ink is still my best medium. So recently, when my daughter's studio project was an assignment to draw white tigers and to situate them in a tourist place, I decided to borrow some of her reference materials on these tigers to try my hand at drawing.

Nothing beats drawing as a method of observation. Now I begin to understand why in Biology class we were made to draw the bits of bones, feathers and whatever we were taught in the Biology lab. Pity the teacher never explained the rationale for the necessity for every student to draw regardless of talents. She did not explain that it was a lesson to sharpen our observation powers and did not matter if the drawings were not artistic renditions. Some of my classmates who could not draw to save their lives depended on me to do their drawings for them so that they could live till the next biology lesson. Seriousy...drawing is not just about the product but also what you learn in the process of studying the subject you are drawing. I had thought that it might be cool to paint a tiger at the end of my sketching that had enabled me to understand more about the build, shape and feel that tigers invoke in us. At the end of my sketching, I felt that the tiger, although a beautiful creature, is nevertheless a cruel animal. As I sketched its perfect form I could not help being awed by the potent power beneath those stripes. Every single stripe was in place to accentuate that power - on the the face like the mask of a Chinese Opera warrior, on the neck to show how thick it was, on the body where every line and curve accentuates an attitude of confidence and menace. The tiger's stripes looked as if they had been carefully hand-painted by an artist who had the gift of mesmerising a tiger into docility so that he could do such a magnificent painting job to instil fear in all who set eyes on the tiger.
I felt a power that was not benevolent but capable of destruction and I imagine that if I were to look at this creature face-to-face I would be a meal within seconds. So, I have changed my mind about painting the tiger because just doing these drawings have sent shudders up my spine.

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