In these circumstances, it is better to train your memory. You will find that it is much easier to draw an image just after you have seen it. The longer you leave the impression the weaker it becomes. Train yourself to look at people and observe what they do.
First, just let the image soak in without analyzing it. Then, without referring back to the subject, try and jot down what you remember while it is still fresh in your mind. With practice you will get better and better at it and you will find you are remembering things quite easily. Don’t force yourself to remember. Let it come spontaneously. You will find, also, that you will be able to note exactly what people wear, what their faces were like, what poses they took up. People move so quickly that this is the only way to get to grips with drawing them.
WHAT TO PUT IN – WHAT TO LEAVE OUT
The eye has a tendency to prefer little shapes to big masses. It also prefers to build up an image bit by bit. It tries to take in as much as possible, all at once; so that you can comprehend the scene immediately. This is the way the eye functions for the purposes of day-to-day seeing. The eye must be quick and alert and, in endeavoring to take in so much, it often gets confused. Consequently our picture of the world does not always tally with the real world. At best it is a makeshift picture we have in our mind.
But here lies the change which must take place when you start to draw outside. Once you slow down and start looking at the world in a more leisurely fashion, you have time to take in the scene, not only in its detail, but in its broader aspects. You realize that all the detail the eyes show you isn’t entirely necessary to build up a picture of reality. Even more so when you are drawing reality. Leaving things out in a drawing can be just as effective as putting them in.
A study of Chinese drawings will help you understand this. There, what is left out, is just as important as what is left in. They are counterparts to each other. Our eyes and mind cope with a vast amount of visual matter for the purposes of living. In a drawing, when there is time to look and digest what you see, too much detail can be irritating. The eye wants some rest, it needs emptiness as well as fullness.
Looking at drawings that are so cluttered up with detail that you cannot see the wood for the trees is not uncommon, and it is perhaps better to get over this phase by deliberately putting in as much detail as you can manage. Then, with practice, you will get to know what to leave out. You will know what will be confusing in your drawing.
This, I hope, will also help you to understand different types of drawings. Good drawings say more than is apparent at first glance (Fig. 24). Bad drawings say everything at once and become incoherent. A good drawing will, like nature, guard its secrets carefully, only letting out what is contained in it bit by bit. A bad drawing will disclose itself quickly. You will be bored with it just as quickly.
The same rule operates with drawings as with paintings. If you wish to pack your painting with all the detail you see, do so. But to control all the detail requires infinite patience. When you have completed the picture you may find the result doesn’t warrant all the labor spent. It is better not to have too strong a bias either way; one should strive for a nice balance between the effort expended and the finished result.
From this, we can infer that while it is an advantage to have something, it is also useful to have nothing at the same time (Fig. 25.)