Drawings from the Past, Part 1

drawing of an upper class roman man

I went to graduate school to study acting. But all through high school and college, when my acting dreams were what drove me forward, drawing remained the thing I would retreat to. Writing was, too, but not with the same gravitational force as drawing. Drawing was home in a chaotic, cold world.

In the spring quarter of my final year in grad school, I took a costume design course. I cared nothing for the mechanics of costume building; I just wanted to be able to speak with authority about the history of costume. I was set upon a course that would take me into teaching, and I wished to know what I was talking about when dealing with designers.

One of the requirements of that course was keeping a journal that would include both drawings and written notes about various historical periods of dress. The above is a drawing I did to show what Roman men of the upper classes would wear. It's based on a statue in The Louvre Museum.

Here's something that excited me when I dug this old notebook out of storage: I already understood the concept of lost and found lines. Look at the man's left shoulder. Although my drawing style at the time was heavy on line work, there are no lines connecting the folds on top of that shoulder. The reason for that, of course, is that that's the part of the man most directly lit by the sun. It's the viewer's eye that makes the connection. I don't know how, when, or where I learned that -- or if I just saw the work of artists who knew what they were doing and copied them -- but it's been a favorite technique of mine for longer than I would've guessed, based on when I drew this piece. 

It's also a testament to how effective drawing is for learning things. My professor, Gweneth West, is one of my best-ever teachers, and it seems she understood how much her students would learn through the careful observation that drawing requires.