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Painting- "Luxembourg Gardens"
"Luxembourg Gardens"
15 January 2004 — When Kimon Nicolaides wrote "The Natural Way to Draw" I'll bet he didn't realize it would go on to become one of the finest how-to books ever written. I once shared studio space with an artist named Frank Ingoglia, who studied with Nicolaides. And Frank would weave tales of wonder and delight about "Nick," as he was affectionately called. One topic of particular fascination to me was Nicolaides concept of the subjective and objective aspects of drawing and painting. Here's how it went.

If you draw only from memory, the results will be mostly subjective. That is, little of the real world will enter into the picture. On the other hand, if you blank your mind and only record what you see, your picture, while no doubt loaded with accurate observations, will probably appear more a collection of facts than a heartfelt response to a perceived event. What Nicolaides pushed his students to do was combine both left and right brain functions. That is, to marry the subjective impulses, which are unique to each of us, with the stimuli of "what's out there."

Nicolaides' book is a treasure trove of methods for accomplishing the above and it's a wise artist who thoroughly explores his many options. But the message underlying all of Nicolaides' teachings was the importance of working directly from life and confronting what you're drawing or painting first hand. By so doing, a very personal approach that's compatible to your way of doing things can't help but evolve. Perhaps tone interests you more than line. If so, washing in large passages of your composition with wet and drippy blobs that nevertheless provide the perfect groundwork for spontaneous elaboration will probably work better than trying to flesh out a rigid contour drawing. Or, you may need the security of a clean outline to launch into the process of development and completion. The best method is the one that works for you. And whatever your mode of thought, if you can keep the subjective fire that compelled you to want to paint the subject tamped down to just the right degree of heat to bend the objectivity of what your eye sees, you'll probably end up with something of quality. And how does one learn to accomplish this juggling act? Trial and error, experimentation, practice and risk, for starters, and dedication for the long haul.

I would have loved to have studied with Kimon Nicolaides. And I shall always treasure my recollections of stories my buddy Frank told me. Both Frank and Nick are gone now, But fortunately "The Natural Way to Draw" is still in print after nearly seven decades. A fine testament to a great teacher and original thinker.

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