Konrad Jarodzki

Drawing – a universal sign

Art is based on drawing. A drawing, next to such primal phenomena as speech and dance, is an elementary means of communication and expression. The beginning of life in the sphere of self-consciousness and reflection was marked with linear thinking. Thinking with a line is a spontaneous communication resulting from a hand gesture – a magic gesture. Many would learn with a line, name with a line, acquire with a line and conjure with a line. Lines were drawn on jar lids, cave walls and human bodies.

The first alphabets were based on lines. By way of repetitions, they became the most basic method of counting. A line is an introduction to abstract thinking. Its use, often intuitive and spontaneous at the beginning, later became a leverage for art and science. Drawing is an inseparable element of visual art. Its character changes, depending on the needs and individual traits of an artist.

One can distinguish: 

  • Drawing as a study and analysis of nature,
  • Drawing as a record of information,
  • Drawing as a means of developing a concept, project or design of a visual work of art,
  • Drawing as a symbol, alphabet, mental shortcut, cartoon, sign,
  • Drawing as a complete artistic utterance.

A line drawn by a hand is a common feature of all drawings. In this sense, a drawing is a record of movement, and it constitutes a kind of signature of man. It identifies and exposes him as well as often informs about his individual features, the ability to see and perceive and, in particular, the ability to experience, concentrate and tension. Lines in a drawing can be compared to seismograph impulses and blood pulse or a heart beating record. A drawing says as much about the object being drawn as about an artist himself; it is his psychograph. Almost immediate transfer of ideas with the use of the tool to the plain of the drawing exposes every moment in our hesitation, weakness or strength, doubt or certainty.

The scarcity of means which is characteristic of a drawing and compared with other disciplines, such as painting or sculpture, requires making a selection, synthesizing, not talking about everything. It also requires an intuitive and intellectual choice of significant elements as well as rejecting the superfluous ones. Intelligence and wisdom or garrulousness or stupidity are recognized in a drawing immediately. A drawing, as an individual utterance, the same way as a writer’s memoirs, requires sincerity and the ability to sense a border to confiding. A line too many or too few is a failure and harmful to the work.

The comments made above concern all drawings. On the other hand, other characteristic features become more significant in individual kinds of drawings.

And so:

  • in a study of nature – precision and careful observation,
  • in collecting information – diligence, truthfulness, and conciseness,
  • in developing a concept – quickness in rendering each fleeting thought. Feedback relying on drawing thoughts while thinking on the basis of the drawing record,
  • in creating a sign – discipline and logic as well as the ability to think quickly. An ability to develop metaphors and change ideas into objects,
  • in artistic utterance – the audacity to expose the artist’s own personality, trusting intuition. Pursuit of synthesis and the power of expression.

Rejecting the ancillary role of a drawing for the benefit of ultimate, unselfish utterance.

A drawing itself is an abstract act. It uses a line which, as a geometrical concept, does not exist in reality. There exist only hints of this one-dimensional value. Even in an extremely realistic drawing, there is a dual transposition of reality. A change of space into a plane, and a change of non-linear nature of the world into a line.

A complicated structure of the drawing does not, however, narrow its application and usefulness. On the contrary, paradoxically, it has been used all the time.

A drawing is not limited by form. It exists in the form of clumsy and nonchalant scribbles as well as absolutely perfect and precise structure. What really matters in art is primarily exposing problems and asking questions. The medium which is called drawing is the best tool in this kind of discourse. It combines the alphabetic ability to express the content with the abundance of possibilities of visual perception and experience of the world. 

Translated by: Małgorzata Kaziów


Text originally published in: Konrad Jarodzki, Przestrzeń jako tworzywo. Rysunek, didactic materials, ASP Wrocław, no. 1, 1999.

© Copyright by Akademia Sztuk Pięknych im. Eugeniusza Gepperta we Wrocławiu