Central Saint Martins Short Courses tutor, Guy Noble, has written a brand new book, Drawing Masterclass, Creative Techniques Of 100 Great Artists is available to purchase now in all good book shops! To celebrate its release we caught up with Guy to discuss the new book and what he hopes readers will take away from it.
What inspired you to write Drawing Masterclass, Creative Techniques Of 100 Great Artists?
Primarily it was the experience I’ve gained over the last 10 years of teaching Introduction to Drawing and Painting and Personal Inspiration at Central Saint Martins. But there are a couple of other things that played a part in making the book. I’d been working for over 20 years as a full-time professional artist and when I started teaching I needed to put some of my ideas down in writing. One of the things I give to my students is a PDF summary of each of the sessions. At first I found this a real challenge but after a while it really helped me become much clearer about what my ideas and insights are. The PDFs turned into the live online courses at CSM, then a digital book (which never got off the ground) and finally Drawing Masterclass.
You teach a number of drawing and painting short courses at CSM, how has your technique evolved over the years?
This is an interesting question because for every artist, or every serious artist, the most important thing is what their intentions are, not what techniques they use. Technique and the artist’s materials are always the servant of their intentions – if it’s not then it is craft. Many art schools encourage experimentation, rightly so, but when this is taken to an extreme it can dominate to such an extent that the student never really gets to grips with any one medium – each new medium having no more than a novelty value. Although from time to time I have experimented with different mediums, I spent about 10 to 15 years almost exclusively painting in oil and drawing in charcoal or pencil building up an intimate and instinctive relationship with the materials. It was only when I found oil paint couldn’t do what I wanted, I started to use acrylic and mixed media.
Is the book a good companion piece to your courses and if so, which ones?
Absolutely. All my students love going to galleries and looking at drawings and paintings. However many find it oddly difficult to connect what they do in the studio to what they see in the gallery. I sympathise with this because when you see a beautiful Raphael drawing it looks like the hand of a God has done it. The book makes that connection – each of these great artists is to some extent working alongside the student, they are fellow artists with many of the same concerns. Although this is a book about drawing and would most specifically relate to my drawing courses; drawing is a large part of how I teach painting.
What is the most effective “first step” for any aspiring creative?
Pick up a pencil and start to draw. It really is as simple as that. Go and buy a small sketchbook and every time you think of checking your phone do a drawing instead. Drawing helps you see things and those things you draw can help you develop your imagination. Eugène Delacroix thought that a good draughtsman should be able to complete a drawing of a figure falling from a fifth floor window by the time they hit the ground.
Do you have any advice on how to approach a non-creative career with a bit more creativity?
This is a difficult question to answer without sounding glib or trite. I get a number of office professionals on my courses and they often say they want to be more creative but when I start talking to them it seems that they just mean that they want to actually do something physically creative. Most people I know (and they are by no means all artists) are very creative.
Do you think finishing a project is important?
Yes. However, knowing when to stop or to bailout is also a big advantage. I’ve wasted weeks and weeks on paintings or projects that in my heart of hearts I’ve known are not going to work. Sometimes it’s just good to experience failure because it equips you to make a better judgement next time.
What is the most important tool for the artist?
Okay, if you can call it a tool it is definitely your imagination. If you want something more practical, a pencil.
Which piece of creative work, in any discipline, do you think everyone should see and why?
Surprisingly I’m going to choose a painting by artist who, as far as we know, appears not to have done very little drawing. Go to the Prado in Madrid and take a long look at Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez. This is one of the most miraculous and extraordinary paintings ever painted and should be seen by everyone. We are not transported back in time but it is these figures and this reality that is bought forward into our time. But a word of caution, don’t listen or read the twaddle about this painting (excluding this of course). Don’t worry about all the narrative brouhaha about the court and the characters; those things are not key. Try to see the painting as a group of people in a space. The space is a dark voluminous presence that holds the forms of each of the figures in a very haunting and particular way. The four figures in dresses seem to hover over the floor weightless and yet their forms are held still by that space. The object that has a very concrete presence and can really believe is the painting that Velázquez is working on – it is planted solidly on the floor.
When you get close to the painting you can see extraordinary control and skill but you can also see that Velazquez thinks of these brush marks as the most extraordinary abstract inventions. By abstract I mean they are elements of visual reality that have been taken out their context and recreated or repositioned in a new reality that is the painting. Velázquez never gives you more detail than you need – so many artists who have this kind of skill will show every detail without regard for the context in which those details are placed.
Can a non-creative become creative?
They are already – but can a creative mind create? …Have a go – do a course!
What’s the best bit of advice you have received?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – just learn from them.
What advice would you give to an aspiring creative?
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – just learn from them.
Feeling inspired? Guy’s Contemporary Drawing and Painting (Online) and Introduction to Drawing courses both have spaces available to book now. Guy also tutors Evening Painting, Figure Oil Painting, Introduction to Drawing (Online), Painting and Personal Inspiration and Painting the Life Model. You can check out the full list of short courses available upon the CSM Short Courses website, and don’t forget to pick up your copy of Drawing Masterclass, Creative Techniques Of 100 Great Artists today! Keep up to date with Guy via his website, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube channel and his very own blog.