Sketches on location
Robert Genn

August 4, 2009

Dear Rodney,

One of the fun things about Blackberry co-dependency is the ability to send 
and receive emails pretty well anywhere. Up here in the Rocky Mountains, 
however, the little darling is as mute as a dead gopher. Missing those soft 
vibrations of the pocket, I sent my unit with a day-tripping friend who was 
off the mountain overnight. The machine came back fully revived, her tiny 
cheeks bulging with fresh seeds. 

Ed Abela of Markham, Ontario, asked, "Do you ever have the inclination to make 
pen and ink sketches on your travels? I find it a useful tool. A few felt pens 
in different sizes and a small sketchbook can reap rewards. The drawings can 
be developed into paintings once I'm back in my studio, but can also be left 
as stand-alone vignettes."

We've enclosed some of Ed's excellent drawings at the top of the current 

Thanks, Ed. No, I don't, not these days, and I'll tell you why. While I've no 
complaints with pen or pencil sketches, I prefer to cut directly to the chase. 
I suppose it's somewhat a commercial decision--my effort goes directly to an 
eventually more collectable item--but there are artistic considerations as well. 

When they make a drawing, many painters find that while they may gain a deeper 
understanding of the subject, they also lose some of the impetus for more 
ambitious work. I find worthwhile subjects need to be caught and held in a 
final, definitive form during the initial wave of connectivity that takes 
place during that "wow" moment. 

Further, the convention of line is much different from the convention of the 
painterly brush. One tends to be thin and delineatory, the other a 
juxtaposition of patches. Too much early attention to line can baffle the 
discovery of an effective pattern. Drawing can run interference on composition. 

Also, you may have noted that many seasoned painters simply don't draw, 
perhaps because they've done so much of it that lines and forms are more or 
less projected where needed. 

Looking back, I've been through all kinds of drawing phases. There's nothing 
like a beautifully rendered drawing. Many of the not-too-bad ones I did thirty 
years ago are still in dealer's drawers. Maybe someday I'll get them all back 
and put them into a book. Maybe that's a good place for them.

Best regards,


PS: "Drawing is not the same as form." (Edgar Degas)

Esoterica: It may come as some satisfaction to readers that most everybody 
disagrees with me. "Drawing is the basis of art," said Arshile Gorky. "A bad 
painter cannot draw. But one who draws well can always paint." And Robert 
Henri notes, "The sketch hunter moves through life as he finds it, not passing 
negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them 
down in the shorthand of his sketchbook." Also, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: 
"Drawing contains everything except the hue." And Sir William Orpen: "A 
painting well drawn is always well enough painted." But then, none of 
those guys were in love with Blackberries.