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Is It a Drawing or a Painting?

May 26th, 2011

Is It a Drawing or a Painting?

Is It a Drawing or a Painting? by P. Goff

Phil: You refer to your pictures as paintings, but youíre using colored pencils. So arenít they really drawings?
Art: Well, I know people often feel that if you do a picture with pencil or pen itís a drawing and if you use a brush itís a painting.

Phil: Sure, I do anyway. Thatís why Iím asking.
Art: People also tend to regard a picture with a filled-in background as a painting whereas if only the subjectóa rose or an old shoe, for exampleóis depicted, the picture is perceived as a drawing.

Phil: Yeah, I would go along with that.
Art: Okay, but if the rose or old shoe is done with watercolor and brushes?

Phil: Then it would be a painting, I guess.
Art: So whether the subject is depicted alone or in a context does not really define the picture as a drawing or painting. But if it is done with a brush you would say itís a painting? And if itís done with colored pencils you would say itís a drawing?

Phil: Yes.
Art: What about pictures in pastel? They are traditionally called paintings.

Phil: If you say so. I never paid much attention to what theyíre called.
Art: They are, and my point is that brushes were never used for pastel pictures. Pastels come in the form of sticks or pencils. So does the use of pencil or brush determine whether the picture is a painting or a drawing?

Phil: No, I guess not . . .Well, then, what is the difference between a drawing and a painting?
Art: Itís very simple. A drawing uses line as the basic structural element and a painting uses areas of tone, that is, color including black.

Phil: But painters do use line! Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, a lot of painters.
Art: Thatís true. But do they use it as the basic structural element of the picture? If you removed Picassoís lines would the picture lose its meaning? I donít think so. There are many of Kleeís pictures which I do consider to be drawings because if you remove the lines you would not have a picture, at most a meaningless arrangement of color. Remove the color, though, and you would still have a picture.