Publish at May 04 2022 Updated May 09 2022

Think-Draw, or the art of taking sculptural notes [Thesis].

The place of drawing in the creative process of sculptors

Superimposition of features representing a face

"It took me 40 years to discover that painting is not sculpture"

Paul Cézanne - Artist (1839 - 1906)

The ability to take notes is essential for both students and professionals. It allows one to freeze a thought, information or even a conversation in a clear and synthetic way without breaking the link with the present.

When we think of "note-taking" we imagine a student in a class, an employee in a meeting or even a journalist in an interview, but what about artists?

We can conceive of a sculptor sketching subjects for a study, but is it just that? Can these artists' notes be reduced to simple tracings ahead of the sculptural work or is it much more than that?

This is what sculptor Renán Calvo proposes to us to discover in his thesis "The Sculptor's Drawing".

Why read this thesis

Renán Calvo's research work invites us to discover, through a poetic approach, the interface between the mind, two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality. To do so, the author uses a narrative punctuated by works of major sculptors put in perspective with his own.

The author's experience and sensibility as a sculptor allows him to present, reveal, and make accessible the sculptors' creative process, from drawing to work, by identifying, defining, and developing all of the key elements connecting these two worlds as well as all of their variations.

This thesis is a hand extended by the artist to discover his world, his discipline, his art both in its purpose and its emergence and genesis. The style employed is intimate and the text remains light throughout the manuscript leaving the reader with the impression of having spent a pleasant moment in the company of the author.

Great Art

"When a sculptor begins to imagine his or her work, questions such as subject matter, form, technique, or choice of materials come to mind. But it is quite rarely the clear definition of the subject that gives the starting point for the development of the creative process.

In some cases, what initiates this process may be the desire to test a material or technique, through which forms and ideas will be elucidated as the artist works. We see that the role of drawing is, in many cases, the upstream development of preparatory sketches on paper that foreshadow the later three-dimensional work, or the taking of quick notes based on the materials.

However, it is questionable whether the presence of drawing, specifically related to the sculptor's work or in any of its forms, is limited only to this function preceding the creative process in sculpture. From the beginning of this study, we can realize, by observing the work of different sculptors, that drawing is much more than a simple preparatory stage to the work of sculpture.

So what role does drawing play in a sculptor's practice? If we accept that it is not simply a technique of documentation or prefiguration while coming to grips with the complexity of its function, we might ask this more general question then: what is the impact of drawing in the work of a sculptor?"

The Art of Choices

Through the development of his subject, Renán Calvo shows us that sculpture is rarely a linear process directly connecting the creative mind to the work itself. Much more than that, it is a back-and-forth game between compositions, decompositions, recompositions and sculpture unfolding through drawings. All of these graphic notes are not limited to the purpose of the art object itself, but abound with additional information of various orders constituting in itself the very process of artistic creation.

Exploring the use of drawing by many sculptors tends to show a heterogeneous employment. Thus, the integration, appropriation, and very role of drawing in each artist's sculptural creation process seems to be unique to them.

Renán Calvo concludes that the sculptor's drawing is like a dematerialization of the sculpture. A form of artist's note-taking accounting for both the artistic inspiration and material consideration of the work. These notes are a space of possibilities for the process of "thinking drawing" that the author proposes during which the creator is guided in the dynamic tension between intention and invention, between voluntary design and exploratory drawing, to develop a sensitive dialogue, to be attentive to the materials.

Man of Art

Thanks to Renán Calvo's work, we can conceive of note-taking differently and consider it as a space of composition decomposition and recomposition of thought.

By "thinking drawing," note-taking is no longer simply about freezing ideas on a medium, but about bringing them to life in a process of reflection, creation and learning.

What about you? Ready to take notes like a sculptor?

Good reading

This work was defended on January 26, 2019 in Rennes, in the context of obtaining the degree of doctor of the University of Rennes 2 at the doctoral school Arts, Lettres, Langues (ED N° 595) and was carried out at the UFR Arts, Lettres, Communication (ALC) in the research unit Pratique et Théorie de l'Art Contemporain (PTAC) : EA 7472. (Rennes - France)


Renan Calvo Chaves. Sculptor's drawing. Art and history of art. University of Rennes 2, 2019. French. ⟨NNT: 2019REN20001⟩. ⟨tel-02054677⟩

Thesis :


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