Saturday, 6 November 2010

THE TRAINING OF ROBERT FAWCETT

This is an unpublished student drawing by illustrator Robert Fawcett at age 19.


Sketch from 1922, approximately 5" tall.

In his introduction to the upcoming book about Fawcett, Walt Reed wrote, "He'd had rigorous training in draftsmanship at the Slade School in England and learned to make it almost a science. Within the discipline of drawing the figure with a hard 4H pencil, with no erasures allowed, students learned to record proportion and perspective by eye."

The Slade School was renowned for a tough and relentless approach which quickly weeded out the unfit. Fawcett was given 10 minutes to complete this sketch, but on another occasion he was required to spend a full week drawing a single figure on a sheet of plain paper using a hard graphite pencil -- a form of torture that that forced him to focus on every nuance of the model and of drawing.

Later in life, Fawcett would entertain artist friends with horror stories about the grueling regimen of his two years at Slade. "I did nothing but draw from the model eight hours a day for two years.... They gave us discipline, discipline, discipline."

Unlike most artists, Fawcett never took a class on painting or perspective or technical drawing or any other traditional subject. Instead, he extrapolated from the powers of observation and the discipline he acquired from life drawing.

Some people believe that if you learn everything about one subject, you'll understand something about every subject.

Despite his jokes about his ordeal at Slade, Fawcett must have concluded that the process was worthwhile. Long after he arrived at the top of his profession, and for the rest of his life, he continued to set aside personal time each week to draw from the model.