Apologies if I appear at first to have slipped into early onset anectdotage but all will become clear(ish) by the end of the post.
I once had a job as an illustrator (all right 'community programme' scheme placement) with the local history/research project in Falmouth. As was the way of these things some of us were there because we had relevant skills and an interest in the subject, others because the Job Centre wanted them off the books and needed to put them somewhere. Anyway, having spent two days (yes, two whole days!) roughing out a very complex compostion to illustrate the famous 'Falmouth Mutiny of 1810' (Google it, Wikipedia etc, it may or may not be there, it certainly wasn't that famous by the mid 80's even in Falmouth). I was transferring the rough sketch to a piece of illustration board (by the time honoured method of covering the back with a thick layer of 6B pencil and then tracing from the front) when I heard, 'That's cheating, I thought you could draw!' coming from the very large and usually taciturn would-be child-minder who'd been parked with us for the last few weeks. No amount of arguing on my part could convince her, in spite of the fact that it was my initial drawing I was transferring, that I was not somehow 'cheating' and could not in fact draw. Therefore, I had obtained this highly valued government sponsored stipend through a deception and must be reported the Job Centre and dismissed immediately.
Setting aside the fact that the accuser in this particular case was thick as two short planks and delusional to boot, this is a surprisingly common attitude. One which I ascribe to the fact that nobody these days is taught how to draw. Don't get me wrong, I'm not on a rant about the decline of the life room in Art Schools or the apparent inability of those 'modern' artists to produce an acceptable likeness of anyone or anything (that's why they do those abstracts isn't it?). I mean that drawing has long since ceased to be seen as a desirable or useful accomplishment and therefore is no longer taught or valued as such. As a result the number of people who appreciate exactly, or even vaguely, how time consuming and downright difficult it can be has diminished to the point of almost non existence. Instead it has become something that one can either 'do' or not, the gift of that strange being known as talent who bestows her bounty on the chosen few and leaves the rest bereft. Therefore heaven help the artist who actually knows a thing or two about the craft and chooses to take the odd short cut (two days I spent on that sketch, did I tell you? Over thirty separate figures in authentic early nineteenth century costume and the buildings architecturally correct down to the drainpipes, all rendered from an aerial perspective). Why, well basically it destroys the 'talent' myth and shows that drawing is a craft like any other and can therefore be learned, which requires patience and concentration and hard work.
Unfortunately this is an attitude that also affects some 'experts' who should know better, a case in point being the reception given to David Hockney's book 'Secret Knowledge' http://amzn.to/jnM5aD which posited that artists had long used optical devices to aid them in the production of their work and that the use such devices (coupled with other innovations) crucially altered the 'look' of Western European art. The glee with which both some members of the 'art world' and some 'proper' scientists leapt on Hockney's thesis and proceeded, to their satisfaction at least, to 'debunk' it was not pretty to behold. The attacks seemd to be twofold, I won't bother detailing them here but the two 1 star reviews on Amazon seem to sum up the two camps quite succinctly http://amzn.to/kZBI1E Essentially, Hockney is a talentless hack who can't draw and is jealous of the old masters and must therefore denigrate them, or Hockney is not a scientist and makes claims that are not backed up by the research (setting aside the fact that 'the research' had not and was not being done before Hockney's book). I'm not particularly interested in the specific rebuttals of Hockney's claims or indeed in the specific claims themselves (he cites particular passages in particular pictures), that's for researchers with the requisite skills, time, equipment and funding. What bothers me more is the way the central ideas behind Hockney's book were and are being sidelined. Namely that artists have known about and used lenses and optical devices in the production of their work for centuries and secondly and most importantly. It doesn't fucking matter! The paintings are still the same and the artists made the marks that make the paintings. In other words, it's not cheating.
And finally, to the point of this post. Yes, I can draw (trust me, I've spent years doing it throughout my life and I have the mental and physical scars to prove it) and yes, I cheat. And as an exercise in loosening up my painting style (and making things quicker) I'm going to start cheating even more by eliminating drawing altogether for a week or two and painting directly onto a printed image. So here's the start of experiment number 1, a frame from 'Tawny Pipit' as put through an edge filter (and printed directly onto a textured 'canvas' paper which, traditionalist that I am, I will stretch before using).
Work in progress and other stuff that happens.