I love the wildness in these preliminary sketches by illustrator Bernie Fuchs:

They were done quickly, and with some violence:

They look completely unfettered.  Not a traffic light in sight.

 Yet, these are not random spasmodic brush strokes.  If you look closely, you can see the fruits of years of discipline and technical skill.

Fuchs spent his first years out of art school working in a small studio in Detroit learning to paint tight, highly realistic car illustrations.  Eventually he left that world behind, but decades later-- working with the palette of Bonnard and using free, spontaneous brush strokes-- Fuchs still retained all that hard earned wisdom about how to convey the weight and volume of a car. 

Fuchs' apprenticeship taught him lessons about form that Bonnard was never forced to learn.  Look beneath the apparent freedom of his brushwork to the subtle treatment of those purple hubcaps (with no wheels), or his reduction of the shapes of light and shadow, or his highlight on the corner of the fender, and you'll see that Fuchs was in full control the whole time.

There are a dozen subtle choices in that "freely" painted sunset.
Similarly, Fuchs spent two years in art school learning to draw the human form.  Years later, when roughing out a human form at lightning speed, Fuchs didn't need to pause and think about the way fingers bunch together, or the way an elbow works.

Look at the way his apparently free line captures the character of those wooden chairs.  This is a line that has definite opinions about its subject matter.

Some like to think they can save time by skipping over the long hours of basic exercises and turning straight to abstraction, or to copying photo reference, or scanning material into Photoshop.

But those dues we pay, they build up equity for us.  And they pay off not just when it comes time to paint that 100th car, or that 500th elbow, but also when it comes time to paint the nameless and formless abstractions as well.

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