curator’s statement: masters of drawing … by armin mersmann, senior visual arts curator

Jan. 12, 2018

Masters of Drawing: From Classic Realism to Abstraction


Drawing is the oldest documented form of art and expression; it also is the foundation of all art forms. To learn to draw is to learn to see—be that by observation, emotion, imagination, or a mixture of all three.  In its simplest form, drawing is making a mark. It’s something we have all done; it seems to be in our DNA to doodle, to make marks without thinking or having any preconceptions about them being art. This mark-making helps one think as well; these marks are a visual confirmation of thought, a meeting of our mind, eye, and hand—be that a very abstract conception or drawing the observed. For some, this process is so fascinating, so freeing that it becomes a calling; these people find what was once an automatic process is now filled with a life of study and observation, a heightened dedication to leaving a “mark.” Enough marks becomes tone, volume, and the illusion of realty, at times even photographic, yet they’re still a nexus of marks.

I was fascinated by drawing at the age of 5, and it grew to be a sanctuary where I spent many hours creating my own world my way. As the years went by, I became a professional artist concentrating on graphite drawing. As I began exhibiting on a national level, the hundreds of ways others translated the question, “What is drawing” amazed me. The more I saw, the more it became a struggle to define what drawing is—from seemingly simple gesture-and-contour drawings to elaborate works that do not have a clear boundary between sculpture and what is generally thought of as drawing. I began to think of drawing as an attitude; some think it’s extreme observational and fastidious blending; and others think not of the drawing being a preconceived image but a result of the action of the material used, and the artist decides when these marks are in fact art. A draughtsman using paint will still think in line and carry an attitude of that doodle one does at the back of a magazine.

In the past, there was a straightforward division between drawing and other art forms; drawing was done mostly with dry mediums—pencil, crayons, ink, and charcoal. They were thought of as preliminary work studies and most often not as relevant as sculpture or painting; all that’s out the window now. Drawing has found its voice, or should I say its many voices, on par with all mediums of making art.

The artists I chose all moved me for different reasons. They are, in my opinion, some of the best working in this part of the country today. I thank all of them for agreeing to exhibit at Midland Center for the Arts.

Armin Mersmann, Senior Visual Arts Curator
Midland Center for the Arts