Thursday, January 08, 2009


At the University of Canterbury’s Ilam art school, drawing from the plaster cast stopped in 1966. The bits of Greek and Roman sculpture – hands, legs, feet, heads – were dumped in an old stables near the school prefabs and from there moved on out to student flats to wear hats, have fags rested behind their ears and have their toe nails painted.

Is learning to draw an essential skill for artists? It certainly has the power to teach what Michael Kimmelman calls ‘the care and intensity with which people need to look at things they want to remember well’ - so, probably. In our experience some people have a natuaral ability to draw well, and most of us don’t, although even the ability to draw skillfully doesn’t mean that the drawing itself will be of long-term interest. And that is what we were talking about as we looked at academically trained Chinese artists drawing portraits for sale on the streets of New York.