Week 20: Ideas on Writing and Drawing

First posted May 23rd, 2016
Edited May 30th, 2016

Firstly, I could be totally wrong on this idea. I am not the greatest drawer. In fact I'm not very good at all. However, I am confident in drawing ideas for myself to understand.

I am also confident in scrawling writing for myself to understand. Sometimes in a lecture, I need to write fast to get my notes down. What results is messy handwriting. I can read the scrawled words. But nobody else can.

generic image of non-rigid 'messy' handwriting  [source]

generic image of non-rigid 'messy' handwriting [source]

Drawing is a skill that follows the language of 3d space. It can be learnt by understanding objects in 3d space, and knowing how to represent them graphically in 2d space. Drawing as a language is a huge topic and will not be further discussed in this post.

Both drawing and writing create marks on paper to be understood. They both have their own frameworks in which they exist. There are rules one must follow to lay within the realms of the skill.

For example, in the case of english, 'messy doctor's handwriting' still attempts to be readable within our language. Although marks such as 'B' may look rushed and scrawled- they are still the doctor's way of writing 'B's.

example of awesome non-rigid drawings  [source]

example of awesome non-rigid drawings [source]

Likewise, in the realm of drawing, there are some who drew messy, and some who draw neatly.

Depending on who you are, you may enjoy non-rigid drawings. Or you may dislike the 'messy' quality. It is personal taste. Both neat and non-neat drawings articulate the same language.

neat handwriting example  [source]

neat handwriting example [source]

The above example of neat writing was used when the author wanted to write their CV by hand. It seems to have taken much time constructing. I can only imagine how much faster it is to jot down thoughts quickly, rather than painstakenly craft each letter to be neat. Is there a tradeoff between being 'neat' and writing fast?

In Alla Prima, Richard Schimid writes: (As pointed out by Jeff Fan)

I can certainly work in a splendidly loose and simple way and still be exact. Why? Because exactness is about where I put my brushstroke, how large or small it is and what its shape is. Looseness or tightness is how I place that on my canvas — what my ‘touch’ is.
— Richard Schimid, 1998
Extract from alla prima [ source ]

Extract from alla prima [source]

In this statement Schimid denotes two ideas in painting. Looseness/Tightness and Exactness.

It is my understanding that looseness refers to how a painting can be imbued with life and energy. That tightness refers to completely accuracy. And exactness refers to how intentional each mark is.

When I use the terms 'neat' and 'messy' in handwriting, perhaps I am referring to Schimid's 'exactness'.

When you're writing fast there is less time to be exact. You pen is moving as fast as your arm can pull it through. You're thinking about the words, rather than the individual letterings. You rely solely on muscle memory in order to get the correct letters down.

alphabet practice [ source ]

alphabet practice [source]

Perhaps the reason why writing at very fast speeds retains any sense of legibility, is due to hours spent training the motor skill.

For sure, in primary school or kindergarten (for those academically trained) we have meticulously copied our individual letters. We have then practiced these letters in writing words. And only after much experience have we decided to try write as fast as possible.

Have you ever seen a kinder-gardener write legible words? They do so very slowly.

kid writing [ source ]

kid writing [source]

Perhaps we could do the same for drawing.

Are there exercises for drawing?

Yes! I think there are!

Perspective Grids. Master copies. Boxes in perspective. Colour studies from life. Value studies. Material studies. The list goes on...

drawing lines over each other 8 times. [dynamic sketching exercises from my own sketchbook.]

drawing lines over each other 8 times. [dynamic sketching exercises from my own sketchbook.]

In fact, one of Art Center College of Design's most famous courses is 'Viscom 4' (Visual Communication 4) [Now also known as Dynamic Sketching]. Originally developed by Norman Schureman, this course breaks down drawing into basics. Students are given homework such as drawing individual straight lines, curved lines, and circles. They practice the 'alphabets' of drawing.

Perhaps drawing legibly and fast is the same as writing. First we must practice the fundamentals individually until they are instantaneous muscle memory. Then we strand together different fundamentals together. And only then can we draw fast and well in a legible manner.

muscle memory [ source ]

muscle memory [source]

Generic image of a 'tight' line drawing made in computer graphics program rhino.  [source]

Generic image of a 'tight' line drawing made in computer graphics program rhino. [source]

There is a purpose when one writes. And there should be a purpose when one draws.

Some write for the beauty of writing. Calligraphy. Some draw for the beauty of drawing. 'Art'.

chinese calligraphy [ source ]

chinese calligraphy [source]


However, some write as fast as they can to get a message down. They are tipping the dynamics of neatness/speed balance, 45 degrees along the slope of the speed axis. They are hitting breaking point on being legible for the sake of writing quickly.

And that's okay for it's purpose.

This post wants to acknowledge 'messy' and non-exact drawings to be legitimate in their own manner. They are not trying to be neat or pretty. They are a quick sketch and scrawled attempt to get an idea down hastily. In turn, this combination of speed and neatness is unique to each individual. It creates everyone's unique 'style' for each individual moment and purpose.

And that's okay too.

Thanks! If you have any thoughts, disagreeing or agreeing, I'd love to know!