Yup, at the moment of this article’s writing, I’m 40% through this instructional art book after some periods of intense drawing and some slack months. Starting in 2020’s…March??? If one was to adhere to the daily schedule listed in the book, strictly adhere to, one would take a year and a half to get through it by my estimations. Estimations which I did not follow through on. Oops.
For those who do not know about Kimon Nicolaides’s book, it is an art instructional book, with both theory and practical combined together. Nicolaides has put together a daily 3-4 hours of drawing schedule that ramps up and works on various drawing concepts. Gesture (so much of it, at least 4,000 gestures will be done by the end of the book), contour, weight, etc.
Without going too much into it/spoiling the book, Nicolaides essentially believes that we have to go back to the base senses like touch in drawing. Feeling like you are touching the figure or experiencing what the figure is doing/feeling in your own body. He cites a blind from birth sculpture artist doing a sculpture of a person playing the violin as an example of touch in creation, the sculpture was able to capture not only the correct pose but the details as well. His exercises build towards that as a core belief with gesture, contour, weight drawing exercises.
Being afraid of a scary dragon you yourself has drawn, that is that kind of level of… Surreal abstract concepts that one might appreciate, understand, hate, disbelieve, whatever, depending on how you feel about it. That this book promotes, abstract sense of touching something that you are drawing on a flat 2D piece of paper.
I went into this book personally believing that it can help one who is too dependent on references and cant draw from imagination achieve the ability or start on the path to be able to free more freely from the mind and not face a blank piece of paper and go oh I need reference to start drawing even the very first line.
So far, my premature 40%… Not-review opinion of the book is as follows.
It is worth noting that the book was finished by Nicolaides’s student/s as he died quite young before being able to finish the book himself, it is also worth nothing that this book may never have been finished for a very long time even if Nicolaides was still alive as he was already working on it for a very long time and felt like he couldn’t do the book justice.
Regardless, I find the book to have very interesting concepts all artists should consider trying at least once, I do think that the amount of exercises in this book is incredibly daunting and having to follow the rule of do one chapter before even reading and doing the next chapter which is the quintessential part of the book (as each chapter builds more and more on the previous one) may lead to some stagnation of oh man I haven’t actually finished the previous chapter, I am not following it properly if I dip into the next one and start drawing that one.
I do believe some exercises in the book have merit or help you see/”touch” more from life, as a lot of artists will say and attest to drawing is 70-80% seeing and 30-20% actual drawing, its how you see and how you interpret life into the style you want/need. The insane amount of gestures make you loose and not stiffen up your art too much, the contour drawing which I think Nicolaides touches on before Betty Edwards in her book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” did, helps you get a sense of “touching” the object you drawing, representing the object without any artifice or technique by with pure sense of seeing and touching and feeling the object.
There’s also elements of breaking away from reference to build your own visual/reference bank with, an exercise having your back towards the model and only painfully turning around to look and then turn around again and draw with the memory and not the constant looking up and down to draw. Remembering poses that the model takes for only a split second and then quickly capturing the sense of it down in gesture. The model taking 5 poses in a row and you try to remember your best what poses they are and drawing them back from memory.
The main problem is that this book was made pre-internet/assumes you will always have a in real life model ready to do all this stuff for you, and now with the internet, there’s gesture drawing tools that are not that robust, you can keep getting the same picture again over and over which doesn’t help if you just drew it yesterday. You won’t really want to invest the money and time to hire someone to come down and pose for you unless your loved ones are blissfully open enough to do that for you. I think with in real life models, the lessons will have infinitely more merit BUT also having your model come up with how many different poses for thousands of gestures, built up daily over the course of weeks seems insane.
The interesting thing is that although Nicolaides never knew of the future of computers and tablets and digital art, he knew that different mediums are there to give different perspective on the lessons that he wants to put forward in the book and he believes that technique is not important and that they are draftsmen that cover up their lack of knowledge and sense with artificial technique methods to mask the fact that they don’t actually know what they are doing maybe like always hiding hands and feet like modern artists do. 😛
He couldn’t have known about digital art and tablets but I feel like his philosophy still applies to it as a different medium alongside traditional means. In that way, his lessons still have merit even in this modern day and age of possible artificial technique of digital Photoshop covering up. Despite not having reached the end of the book, I still feel that this book is meant to be revisited even when you are finished to refresh on the concepts put forward and if you fall off it you can go back to it with a fresher, hopefully more knowledgeable mind in the future.
Personally, I will…try my best to power through the last 60%, its the one hour watercolour and pen stuff that takes time, effort and big brain energy. Have you tried Nicolaides’ book? Have you completed it per the book’s instructions and not skipping ahead when you are bored? I have been tempted to do that many times, after feeling like I have grasped the concept early already.