The latest issue of Drawing features an enlightening Q+A with Don Gale, a sculptor and draftsman with decades of experience teaching and making art. Here, you can read some of the wisdom Don shared in that interview and see a few of his drawings that didn’t make it into the magazine.
Drawing: Your figure drawings possess a tremendous sense of gesture. What is the importance of the gesture, and how do you capture it in a drawing?
Don Gale: The gesture is a representation of the total figure, and drawing is all about the total figure—learning to see the total figure and find how the parts relate to that whole. If you can conceive of the total figure and keep it in mind as you’re drawing the individual parts of the body, you can’t miss.
I draw the gesture as a line of action that comes all the way up through the figure. It’s almost an abstract line; there’s not definition to the form yet. But that line has a rhythm, and it gets at the total figure. I then add the definitions of the figure on to that initial line.
Drawing: Is drawing for sculpture much different from other modes of drawing?
Don Gale: There’s a difference between how sculptors and painters draw. Sculptors such as Michelangelo and the Florentine artists drew in line that defined the form. They were interested in where the form began and ended. Painters define form through light, through shades, so a lot of the time they don’t show the whole boundaries of a form in their drawings. When sculptors sculpt, they have to make the whole form—they can’t create it just with tone.
Drawing: How do you define “skill” with regards to art? How do you think it should it figure into an artist’s education?
Don Gale: Skill is applied knowledge. It’s when you know something and can apply it over and over again. People understand it in regards to music better than in regards to art. A musician has to know how to press the keys, how to position the fingers, and so on. And to really understand that knowledge, one has to apply it again, and again, and again. It’s the same with something as simple as learning to type or as complex as performing surgery.
When it comes to drawing, you have to have knowledge of how light hits the form; how to model it. Those are programs that you learn—a little like programming a computer to perform certain functions. That’s skill. Some teachers are opposed to skill because they feel it kills creativity. But in fact it’s the opposite—skill gives you the capacity to create.
Take quick poses, for instance. You wouldn’t be able to create them without applied knowledge—the different programs your hand learns through time and repetition. In these drawings, you move at such speed, without thought, that the drawings just come out. And that speed and absence of thought is what the drawings are about, in a way. They show the emotion that comes through the hand, and they also show something beyond the emotion; something unknown. And the core of creativity is the unknown.
Drawing: What advice do you have for artists who are studying drawing and have in interest in sculpture?
Don Gale: You can do it on your own, but you can arrive much faster if you find the right teacher. It’s possible to figure out how sculptures, paintings, and drawings were made just from looking at them. However, an instructor can tell you what to look for in the analysis of the old and new masters. Magazines like Drawing are also a good place to start—especially for drawing. All these articles have an abundance of knowledge.