Thursday, February 26, 2009


Dave King, one of the few, the happy few, readers of Lugubrious Drollery, is the author of a terrific blog called Pics and Poems. Recently, Dave posted an article about Picasso's creative process, with a series of sketches of a bull, demonstrating how the artist went from realistic to abstract by reducing the drawing to a few essential lines. In a subsequent post, Dave challenged readers to do the same.

I found the idea interesting, and decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, my formal art education is limited to Mrs. Phend's art classes in elementary school, but, as usual, I will not let a lack of training or knowledge stand in my way.

I chose as my model a picture of a bull bison in Nebraska from Wikimedia Commons. Ironically, the bison figures prominently in the seal of my home state of Indiana, shown above. There are still a few bison on farms and in zoos around the state, but, thanks to the work of heavy-handed pioneers like the woodsman pictured in the seal, they no longer live in the wild here.

Here's the original photo.

My first sketch might laughingly be called realistic. It only looks like I drew on the back of a paper grocery bag. The paper was white, but I photographed the drawing with a point-and-shoot camera under incandescent light. One thing I noticed as I started to draw is that the bison's rear hooves are concealed by a burdock plant--a hardy weed I have written about in multiple previous posts (see link at the end of this post).

Next I started substracting details and using more straight lines. The burdock leaves are now triangles.

Next, fewer curves and further simplification.

Finally, I reduced the drawing to mostly straight lines. I noticed as the drawing became simpler and more childlike, I used bolder, darker strokes of the pencil than in my original "realistic" drawing. The internal critic was turned off, and I was enjoying the process. I decided the burdock was superfluous and excluded it from the finally version. In exchange, since no self-respecting bull should be without two cajones, I added the one not readily apparent in the original photo.

Thanks, Dave, for an suggesting an enjoyable exercise.

Link to Pics and Poems
Link to posts about burdock


beardog321 said...

The last picture looks like one of the drawings on cave walls by our early ancestors, some of which we have here in WY. I thought it was an interesting exercise, almost a reverse of how art progressed. Nice drawings though, and I hope I didn't come off as a wise ass, as that was not the intent. It was just the first thing that popped into my mind, because I have a desultory mind. (Like how I used the word desultory? That's one of the reasons I read your blog, to educate myself.) I am familiar with the bison, as there are many here in WY, and we even have some at the city park, which is only a couple of blocks from where I currently live.
Nice post David.
Best wishes always,
PS- I have found Bison to be quite ornery, and I'm always baffled when I go to Yellowstone N.P., and the tourons are walking up to them like their dealing with Bambi. It seems like every year tourons get injured, maimed, and even killed by these majestic animals, and I don't blame the animals at all, as there are rules about animal contact in Y.N.P.

David C. said...


I appreciate your comments. I think there was some great art in those ancient cave paintings, so no offense taken.

Nice use of "desultory." Aren't you glad I looked it up?

You're lucky to have bison so close. I think they are awesome animals and deserve to be left alone by jaspers who should know better.


Dan said...

Very cool....I think the third one looks more like a Picasso than the fourth. The fine line between modern art and cave art, I guess.

Also, note the subliminal typo before the fourth pic (referring to it as the "finally version") :)


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