This video shows a selection of drawings that I have done for a variety of artistic projects. I refer to my drawing style as “classical,” but the words “classicism,” “classical,” and “classic” get used in a bewildering number of ways. For me, the term indicates a language of design and representation formalized in ancient Greece and Rome. It is not itself a “style” of art. Still, it provides the underlying structural basis of most of the different styles and expressions of European art that manifested themselves over many centuries and in many countries.
The Greek philosopher Plato gave the written description of classicism in his theory of forms. He proposed that the physical world, as we experience it, is not “real.” It is a transitory and imperfect expression of an underlying reality that is pure and perfect. Plato calls this ethereal world “ideal” because it is non-physical, and we can only know it by being able to understand the truths that underlie and inform the natural world.
It is possible through geometrical drawing, for instance, to produce shapes such as squares and circles that represent “perfect forms.” Plato proposes that these forms are “templates” that nature uses to create the physical world. When we learn figurative drawing, teachers may suggest that we start our drawing with simple shapes such as circles, triangles, or squares. In classical drawing, this is not merely a technique but a design method. The underlying geometrical shapes express meaning and allow for proportional relationships.
By the end of the Italian renaissance, all of the formal and structural elements of what we now call classical drawing were in place. Specifically, this meant that classically trained artists were able to create drawings from life or from their imaginations with consistent and controlled use of proportion in both line and in tone and the ability to describe and compose images that communicated form and space to the observer.
Classical drawing remains a powerful tool for expressing the imagination and presenting a narrative composition that is compelling and realistic, as well as aesthetic and pure in its design.
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