Why We Draw
by Peter Steinhart
Alfred A. Knopf, 2004
Unlike other books about drawing that focus
on the mechanics of the art, this one goes to the heart of the matter and
seeks to explain why people draw and the satisfactions they derive from
"Drawing is a way of communicating with
the world, of listening to what the world has to say and answering back,"
author Peter Steinhart suggests. "I doubt anyone has done the research
to prove or disprove this, but I'd guess many children who contrive to
draw naturalistically doso because there is something in the world that
they have an intense intrerest in, something that is not shared enough
by those around them to be the subject of conversation and so is something
they get to know privately."
Drawing may be a private art, mostly, but
Steinhart's book also exposes readers to nude modeling and what it's like
to be a model or an artist in a modeling session, and he profiles a number
of formal and informal drawing groups that meet to sketch models and discuss
A writer who specializes in natural history
and environmental affairs, Steinhart previously published The
Company of Wolves and California's
Wild Heritage: Threatened and Endangered Animals in the Golden State.
His drawing has always been an avocation, not a vocation, but he finds
parallels between his career as a naturalist and the urge to draw.
"The naturalist and the artist are alike
in their watchfulness," he explains. "They are both servants of their eyes.
A naturalist learns to look intently at things, to listen to them, smell
them, touch them, to wonder what they are made of, what they do, how they
are like or not like each other, what they mean."
Back to the Book
It could be said that a kind of
renaissance of figure drawing is occurring. It is not something you'd note
in the galleries or museums, for it is practiced, more often than not,
Drawing from live nude models used
to be something one had to enroll in an art school to do. Today, one does
it in community art and recreation centers, in fine-art museums, in privately
operated ateliers and in home studios and living rooms. The number of places
that offer classes in life drawing seems to be steadily increasing. In
just about any city and in many suburbs you can find a drop-in drawing
session, where, without advance reservation, you can pay a modest model's
fee and draw from a live model for two or three hours. You can draw this
way, for example, at the Minneapolis Drawing Workshop, the Truro Center
for the Arts in Castle Hill, Massachusetts, the McLean (Virginia) Community
Center, the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center in Maui, Hawaii, the Northwest
Area Arts Council in Woodstock, Illinois, the Tampa Museum of Art, the
Art/Not Terminal Gallery in Seattle, the Art Museum of Missoula, Montana,
the Community Hall in the Boulder Crossroads Mall in Colorado, the Creative
Arts Center of Dallas, the Scottsdale (Arizona) Artists' School or the
City Market of Raleigh, North Carolina. David Quammen, who models in Washington,
D.C., knows of two dozen drop-in groups in the Washington, D.C., area.
In New York City, there are Minerva Durham's Spring Studio, the Art Students
League, the Chelsea Sketch Group, the Salmagundi Club, the Society of Illustrators,
the National Academy School of Fine Arts, the Tompkins Square Branch Library
and many others. You can find drop-in drawing groups in Canada, the United
Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong, Bali and Jakarta-indeed, all over the world.
There are at least eighty different
drawing groups meeting weekly in the San Francisco Bay Area. They range
from small, very private gatherings of four or five artists in someone's
living room to large public drop-in sessions meeting once or twice a week
in community centers.