Considered to function among the most intimate, personal of all arts drawing is often defined in many different ways.
Drawing appears to be an act of mark making, a product of that act, a vehicle for visual expression, a skill of seeing things as they are (copying reality), extracting an essence from a drawn object, creating fiction (eg. drawing from imagination) and many more.
What differs drawing from other means of expression (especially from painting) are materials and techniques used but also the function and purpose.
When it’s quite popular among artists, designers, architects to make preparatory sketches in a “trial and error” approach leading usually towards a finished piece; its much less recognised to produce eg. a painting as a purely introductory material made towards a drawn piece (I mean a drawing as a finished artwork).
The history of art is partially “responsible” for that. While art colleges widely recognised drawing as a “foundation of art” and a very useful excercise in eye/hand training, the products themselves remained often unsigned and were never understood as equal to paintings, sculptures or prints.
Today’s position of drawing is even worse. Discovery of photography, cinematography, mass-media and more recently multi-media made a paper-pencil based art a sort of an old-fashioned, hobbyistic interest useful for kids, some artists (“some” because there’s quite a number of professionals dealing with drawing only marginally) and people who just don’t have a camera or computer around the corner (and they’re in a need of recording/processing something visually).
There are art colleges (my college is one of them) where drawing as an independent subject doesn’t exist, no compulsory classes are functioning and students who finish their degree are at considerably various levels in terms of drawing.
One may ask — why to bother at all (as we, in the 21st century, have sophisticated electronic tools and processes for image making, recording etc)? Lets take a modern cityscape — Isn’t a photo of it (obviously in colour and enhanced on the Photoshop) or digitally manipulated design (again fabulously colourful and “busy”) a more accurate account, than a B&W modest sketch?
In our times — we like an option of “an instant life” (think about instant coffee — quick, more or less the same each time, requiring no skill or knowledge to make it, an imitation of a “real” coffee); we’re stuffed with images which are just perfect (think about the National Geographic breathtaking photos); we have no understanding and/or experience of a slow, sometimes laborious and non-efficient craftsmanship (like eg. goldsmith’s or shoemaker’s craftsmanship).
That all combines towards a model-modern-man (an average man) who doesn’t even consider himself drawing (writing) not because he thinks he’s got no talent (that’s more “advanced” thinking) or that drawing is “for artists” (writing for writers). He doesn’t even consider himself drawing (writing) because he’s got no need for translating reality that surrounds him into a meaningful and insightful set of lines on a sheet of paper (an insightful set of sentences).
We draw what we want to familiarise and to understand (that’s the main purpose of children’ drawings). Rejecting drawing doesn’t mean that we understood everything, but more that we chose another mode of functioning in our world — that of simplified, defensive, focused on symbols, stereotypes and mass-images rather than on real subjects with their real nature.
This is a point when drawing starts to shift towards its deepest meaning. Drawing as a visual voice of a particular philosophy of an individual’s life.
Philosophy of being constantly conscious, insightful, skillful enough and ready for multiple interpretations and translations of objects, settings, situations and phenomena.
This kind of drawing is a life-long challenge, understood more in terms of extracting (or looking for, researching) senses rather than simply as a technique or a product.