Al Dorne on the Importance of Drawing

In the Winter 1963 issue of Famous Artists magazine, Al Dorne wrote, "To me, drawing is the most important consideration in making pictures. Unless you know how to draw, you won't know the security of being able to express yourself clearly and fluently as an artist. I am not speaking primarily of the academic concept of figure drawing, how the "perfect" hand, for example, is constructed but rather the structure or "architecture" of picture making. It is also the art of observation and communication. It includes knowing the principles of form, composition, value, line. Being able to draw is as essential to the artist as the craft of writing is to the writer."

I suspect some readers of the last week's posts have dismissed Al Dorne as nothing more than a shrewd businessman out to make a quick buck at a lucrative racket. A commercial artist whose chief concern was with the "commercial" half of that title. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listen to Dorne's philosophy on the importance of drawing and what its true purpose is:

"If you are able to draw you can devote yourself to saying what you think and feel. The more you know about drawing, the more productively creative you can be. You are no longer concerned with "how" to draw, but rather with "what" to draw. You are only concerned with art, and your knowledge and skill in the craft of drawing thus become the natural working extension of your artistic and creative self."

Al Dorne, who was always too poor to go to art school during the younger days of his life, began drawing when he was five years old. Rather than feel self-pity over circumstances that had him working round the clock to support his mother and siblings, Dorne considered himself incredibly lucky because, "we lived within roller-skating distance of the Metropolitan Museum and I haunted the place from the time I was ten years old."

"I drew every sculpture and piece of armour in the place. I even copied the figures on the Grecian urns. I played hookey from school and would go to the museum every Monday and Friday for over two years. I found out later that my teachers knew all the time what I was doing and condoned it. Actually I was probably the youngest person ever to be given a sketching permit by the Met."

"In addition to providing me with so many wonderful subjects to draw, the Met had a profound effect on me. I was able - in this marvelous environment - to saturate myself with great art of all ages. It affected me for the rest of my life."

"And I sincerely believe it taught me to distinguish between the mediocre and the worthy. Those early years in the Met shaped my values in art."

* My Al Dorne Flickr set.

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