Friday, May 2, 2014

Reading vs. Seeing

Back in art school, used bookstores were pretty much the only places to find great instruction books from the early part of the 20th century.  Even some of the standards--those by the greats like Andrew Loomis--had yet to be re-issued.

Luckily, there must have been quite a few artists in Denver who had personal libraries. These ended up in old bookstores that were scattered over the city; and as many as I could afford landed in my bookcase.

I've owned, read, and re-read John Vanderpoel's The Human Figure since art school. 
The key to this one, like to many older art instruction volumes is in the reading. These days, there's much visual information from which to learn, and it is awesome, but sometimes there are riches to be discovered in the texts--often taken right from the lectures--of great teachers like Vanderpoel. Check out the following excerpt:

The inner corner of the eye is farther forward than the outer, so that a section of the exposed portion of the eyeball from corner to corner would slope backward from the center of the face; this enables the eyes to swing sidewise for observation without turning the head. The outer corner also is somewhat higher than the inner.

My powers of observation were not keen enough to give me this kind of info. 
How many times did I hear a teacher say "Just draw what you see."?  
How many times is it still said in art classes? It sets my teeth on edge! 

Maybe some artists can learn that way, but I had to hear or read this stuff before I could 
actually observe it. And frankly, that information wasn't being offered in any 
of my college art classes.

So I found it in old books. And I try to pass it on when I teach.

The Dover paperback edition of Vanderpoel's book is identical to mine, 
with the exception of the cool cover and this decorative title page.

I still haunt the few remaining used bookstores in the city, and there are still treasures to be 
found in them for a lot less than online sources. And it helps to actually read them.

Thanks for reading this!

For more information on John Vanderpoel:

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