The book is really interesting! Just to situate myself here, I like to draw sometimes but I’m bad at it. I think I can confidently say I’m in the lower half of the distribution of drawing ability. To put it another way: You don’t want me on your Pictionary team. But I’d like to get better.
I flipped through the book, and I’m getting the impression I can learn a lot from it. Some of the basic ideas I’ve seen before, for example the idea of drawing a figure by first putting it together as as series of simple shapes—but I like how Watt presents this, not just as a trick but as a matter of underlying form. And he has some good slogans, like “the right place at the right size.” I guess I resonated with the mathematical principles.
Also this, on Drawing Hair:
Usually children will scribble hair floating about the head. They wonder why it looks so awful. Well, so would your own hair if you ‘scribbled it’ instead of combing it!
Art is the ‘study of Universal Form’. If you want to draw the forms of the Universe, you have to understand ‘how they are actually formed’ and simply copy the same movements. There is no magic to art. It is simply seeking a clearer view of how the Universe really works.
That’s very statistical—he’s talking about generative modeling! It’s the Bayesian way: you don’t fit a curve through data, you construct a process that could create the data.
Also I like how he flat-out says that some ways of drawing are right and some are wrong. I understand that ultimately anything goes, but when I’m learning I’d like some guidelines, and a straight permissive approach doesn’t really help. I like to be told what to do, not in detail but in general principles such as to start from the center and go outward from there.
My plan now is to go through the book myself doing all the exercises. I guess it will take a few weeks. I’ll report back to let you know if my drawing has improved. https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2021/08/26/review-of-art-studio-volume-1-by-james-watt/