Drawing revisited

by Brian Crean

Call me old fashioned, but I’m not very impressed with artists who can’t draw worth a crap. I’m not very impressed with musicians who can’t come up with a decent melody either. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I’m just being honest.

For me, drawing is the beginning of art. It’s the foundation of two-dimensional design, and it either shows us how disciplined and accomplished an artist is, or it gives away his or her secret weakness.

No matter what medium an artist chooses, if he or she can’t draw well, it will inevitably show up throughout their work in other subtle ways. Light, perspective, proportion, composition, value, shape and line are all elemental components of most every piece of 2-D work, and the exercise of drawing helps develop them all. Creating depth and leading the viewer into an image or around a picture is pretty hard, and it takes practice to do it well.

Which brings me to the current exhibition at the Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art. Entitled DRAWING REVISITED, the show is excellent.

With almost 50 artists represented, the exhibition offers something for just about everyone. There are large and small works; realistic and abstract works; colorful and not-so-colorful works. And if you’re the type of person who doesn’t mind expanding your definition of “drawing,” there are even a few 3-D or sculptural works being shown as well.

Some of the work is ultra-traditional and some is modern, but most all of it is representational. The human form is explored in a variety of styles. Eric Olsen’s pastel drawings seem part cubist and part homage to Giacometti. Betty Watson’s elegant line drawings look like they were torn from a Matisse sketchbook and Michael Northuis’ Mythological Scene is essentially a late Picasso in disguise.

Tony Griffin, Tamie Beldue and R. Bruce Shores all offer up strong figure studies with few effects and distractions. John D. Gail and Isaac Payne successfully place their figures into engaging environments. Gail’s pencil-and-ink-wash images are wonderfully clever, playful and well-depicted. In them, we seem to enter into the workings of the artist’s own thought process and mind games.

Payne’s charcoal, conte crayon and ink drawings are quiet, lonely compositions. I found Green Building particularly well-balanced and engaging.

Other drawings worth mentioning are Mathew Micca’s serene Return Series; John Maggio’s micro-architectural Hadrian Series; and Kiki Farish’s secretive and sensual graphite drawings.

In my mind, the very strongest work in the show is the Imposters Series by Jason Watson. Trained at UNC-Asheville and at the State University of New York at Purchase, Watson is the real deal. His knowledge of the human form and his ability to render it with the utmost sculptural 3-dimensionality is startling and jaw-dropping. This is one of the rare artists who understands and implements a thorough understanding of perspective while drawing organic forms. “Radio Elephants,” “Under Bed Head” and “Parthenon” are local masterpieces as well, since they were inspired by objects found in Greensboro’s own Elsewhere Artist’s Collaborative.

wanna go?

First Friday Art Hops happen the first Friday of each month in Greensboro along Elm Street and in Winston-Salem emanating from the corner of 6th and Trade streets.