Lines and Colors art blog

Line by Line, James McMullan

Line by Line, James McMullan I have long been a proponent of the idea that drawing is as much of a natural potential ability for human beings as writing.

I’ve often wondered about that odd demarcation somewhere around puberty where an unspoken law seems to take effect and “all children draw” becomes “only some teenagers and adults draw because they’re artists”.

Somehow, drawing has acquired the cachet of a magical gift, “talent”, with which one is endowed or not. While this can be fun and advantageous for those of us who are on that side of the divide, it’s basically nonsensical.

Drawing is a skill, a skill that can be taught (or at least learned), like playing a musical instrument.

The most popular example of this is the tremendous success of the techniques championed by Betty Edwards in her book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. See the examples on her site for the leap adults make from “childlike drawing” to “realistic drawing” with about 40 hours of training. See my post on Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain for more on the subject of drawing as a teachable skill.

I was delighted, then, to see illustrator and poster artist James McMullan begin a series last week in the New York Times called Line by Line, in which he encourages anyone interested to explore the fundamentals of drawing.

He starts out in the initial installment, Getting back to the Phantom Skill, pointing out that drawing is a pleasurable activity and open to any of us. He describes the structure of the 12 week series, in which he will teach fundamental drawing skills and use art, his own and examples from art history, to illustrate points and move the reader/student deeper into the process, understanding and appreciation of drawing.

During the 12 weeks in which he is working on the column, he will be working on professional assignments doing posters for Lincoln Center Theatre and illustrations for a children’s book, and may include work in progress as it applies.

He states: “My overall goal, apart from helping with specific information, is to communicate the enthusiasm I feel for the immediacy of drawing.”

This promises to be a basic short course in drawing for those who think they can’t draw, and a nice kick in the pants for those who can but have forgotten, for one reason or another, how much fun it is.

The required materials? Pencil and paper.

(Images at left, shoe drawing from the article, others from James McMullan’s website)



7 responses to “Line by Line, James McMullan”

  1. Although I think I fell on the same side of the divide as you did, I think this is a wonderful idea and I applaud him for taking this on. You are correct – somewhere in the ‘growing-up’ process, there are those who are discouraged rather than encouraged in this pursuit.

  2. Marguerite Thomson Avatar
    Marguerite Thomson

    Thank you for informative and interesting read

  3. Hurrak for Lines and Color

  4. hurrah for lines and color

  5. I deeply hope that I can get to these lessons. I’ve saved them all so far and never seem to be able to give myself the time. There’s a story yet I feel I can’t even take the time to tell it. It includes war, dislocation, illness and an unfortunate attitude about drawing in English schools. One can be ruined early when teachers have opinions that infect the naturalness of drawing. The English school system taught me to love literature but were not so good about a child with some originality.