Friday, August 22, 2008

Drawing or Painting?

I was going to start a post on my step by step process on how I approach my painting but got a little side tracked. Instead I will share a few of my thoughts on the debate over what to call a CP finished work.

Recently the debate about colored pencil painting verses drawing has surfaced once more. Through my many years as a member of CPSA I have struggled with the question, are my colored pencil pieces drawings or paintings? I admit in the beginning I had little doubt that my works in colored pencil were drawings. Now, I have little doubt that they are paintings.

In my search for the answer I started with the definitions.

Merriam-Webster defines the verb "paint" as: to produce in lines and colors on a surface by applying pigments. The definition of the verb "draw" as: to produce a likeness or representation of by making lines on a surface.

My search then turned to past exhibition statements of judges like this one by Kaywin Feldman, director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in the 2004 CPSA exhibition. Kaywin had this to say: "How appropriate that until the late 18th century the term pencil was used instead of the word brush and the word penciling could mean coloring, brushwork, or drawing. Even a quick survey of the drawings submitted for this exhibition reveals artists who are often able to manipulate their pencils as though they used brushes or chalks."

In 2005 juror Suzanne Folds McCullagh, curator of the Art Institute of Chicago had this to say: "Who could imagine the variety of technical effects that one can achieve with that most portable and apparently simple of tools - a pencil? Although drawing with colored chalks can be traced to the sixteenth century, the availability of colored pencils and the profusion of works in them is certainly a more recent phenomenon... The two highest prizewinners demonstrate the dazzling achievement of widely different applications of the medium and resulting effects: while the first could rival any watercolor, pastel, or oil painting in its lush layering of the medium on its support, the second plays off adept and colorful lines against a generous sheet of paper with a draftsmanship and imagination that is at once exciting and powerful."

In conclusion I don't think it much matters if you refer to your work as a drawing or a painting. For me, having worked in a plethora of different mediums, I use colored pencils more as if I were painting than as if I were drawing and I refer to them as fine art paintings. "You say tomato, I say tomahto". I leave you with the words of William Martin Jean, director of the Continuing Education at Cleveland Art Museum and juror of the 1995 exhibition: "The 1995 CPSA Exhibition will demonstrate the scope and range of colored pencil as a medium. As with other media, it can be concealed in the rendering of the subject or it can be used more expressively and show the marks of the artist. Works can be explosive or subtle, colorful or subdued, textural or smooth, realistic or abstract; its limits have not yet been reached."

The debate goes on.

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