Portrait of a male figure by Michael Mentler, sepia pen on paper

Drawing, like all things in life, is not a choice of absolutes; various factions within the art community would have one believe the exact opposite. Their entire premise is that for something to be right, its counterpart must be evil. This stilted fundamentalist philosophy is not only unuseful; it is detrimental to the creative process.

It is counterproductive to pit one element in the creation of one’s Art against another, i. e., Representational vs. Abstraction, Working from Observation vs. Working from Imagination. There is no absolute paradigm for creating, nothing is black and white, and there are absolutely no rules.

The Science of Drawing is Science in real-time. It is the Science of Investigation; Scientists use three types of investigations to research and develop explanations for events in nature: descriptive Investigation, comparative Investigation, and experimental Investigation.

These Investigations encompass working from Observation, intuition, and imagination or invention. Science has been used lately as though it is something finite when in actuality, it is only a hypothesis based on combining three types of Investigation; Descriptive (What in Represented), Comparative (Comparing and Contrasting), and Experimental (Invention or Imagination).



Photograph of figures near Eiffel Tower in the rain by Henri Cartier-Bresson

So let us break down the underlying assumptions defining Representational or Realist Art and Abstract or Modern Art. First, let us toss out the word ‘Real’ nothing in ‘Real’ about Art, especially a photograph. A photo is an epitome of Abstraction stilling nature and flattens it out.


Berkeley #32, abstract painting by Richard Diebenkorn, oil on canvas, 59 x 57 in

Next, let us examine the word Representation. Every work of Art Represents something, be it recognizable or not. It is impossible to create a work of Art without incorporating design into the equation.


Portrait of Yoda from Star Wars

‘Without design, there may be representation, but there can be no art.’ Kenyon Cox

‘Drawing or painting things that look like things Art makes not. Yeesssssss.’ Yoda

All Art contains some combination of perception and conception. If it does not, nothing has been created, and if nothing has been created, the resulting picture is not Art.‘ _MENTLER_

Magnolia, abstract painting in blues and pinks by Brian Rutenberg, Oil on linen, 2017, 60 x 82 in

Lastly, let us deal with the word Abstraction. To be defined as Abstract, it has to be derived from something in our knowledge base. Even if the first part of the process attempts to be Non-Objective, each succeeding section of the process is a reaction to the first mark making. Conception is based on cumulative Perceptions.


The whole discussion attempt to differentiate between Representational and Abstract is an asinine exercise in futility. For one to fall on their paintbrush for one method or approach over another shows an underlying ignorance of the creative process. The whole mindset of ‘you are either with us or against us’ is alien to the Arts, which celebrates the individual and individual achievement. Creating a Work of Art has nothing to do with belonging to the Right Tribe, it is if anything anti-tribal. The long and short of it that all Art that is Art contains elements of Imitation, Information, Interpretation, Intuition, and Imagination/Invention.

Art without Intent has no Content.

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