There is always too much information

I love a good aphorism, the quick hit of a haiku (I have a poor attention span and worse memory) and there are a couple that are constant companions whether in the studio or out drawing. Here’s one by Scots poet and artist Thomas A Clark:

“Nothing coincides with its representation/ Stop, look, wait”

And here’s one from William James, psychologist and brother of Henry: “The world comes at you as if fired from the barrel of a revolver”

These are both relevant to the process of drawing. Every time attention is paid to the world we are overwhelmed by sense data, an infinity of tiny differences.

It would be pointless to attempt to revisit the theories of how we might systematise  this hurricane of information, partly because it would take too long and partly because I cannot even pretend to know much about it.

Enough to say, in the present context, that the process of drawing is just one way of describing what we believe to perceive. And as such is only going to be partial and doomed to be always a fiction. So, should that fiction be judged on its elegance,  its conformity to commonly accepted standards of quality or skill? Or through a notion of authenticity, by manifesting an internal truthfulness?  That maintains something of the crude, stuttering honesty of the “real”?  I suppose what I am asking is – just what makes a good drawing? Is all representation inadequate in the presence of reality?


Walter Sickert (1860-1942) He Killed his Father in a Fight  Pencil, 24 x 30 cm, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester This featured in the wonderful exhibition The Primacy of Drawing curated by Deanna Petherbridge, in 1991, when she was professor of drawing at the Royal College.There is a much larger and deeper study of drawing by her and of the same title, published by Yale in 2010

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