Somehow I managed to fail my high school art class. Part of the problem was that I wanted to learn to draw, but these classes tended to be craft oriented. So, while I emerged with plenty of experience with a hot glue gun, I did not learn to draw or become a more astute observer of the world.
Despite my lackluster performance in school, I forged ahead in my study of art. Drawing in my sketchbook became a haven for me, a refuge and place of fascination. Drawing was a tangible expression of my thoughts and a beacon to me during many dark hours. Still, regardless of my investment of time and my devotion, I was constantly bumping against the limitations of my skill. I was unable to push beyond the place where my natural ability failed me.
I was seventeen when I first heard about a man teaching the secrets of the old masters in the small town of Coplay, Pennsylvania. I did not know what it meant exactly, but I felt resonance—as if a long dormant gene was stirred and awakened.
My father and I decided to make the trek to visit Myron Barnstone. We arrived one evening and climbed up the two flights of stairs to his studio. Myron himself opened the door, meeting us with an authoritative force. His very presence scared me to death. With a cigarette dangling from his mouth and one eyebrow raised fiercely over his bifocals, he stared at me as if sizing up my capability. Then he looked at my dad and said, “You are going to spend $100,000 on Juliette’s education, and she will be a waitress the rest of her life.”
Nice try, Myron.
Studying at the Barnstone Studios was the hardest thing I had done up to that point. I was making up for lost time. Drawing, which had always felt so natural, all of a sudden felt cumbersome and awkward. My drawing got worse before it got better. Yet accompanying my frustration was the joy of total engagement. It was as if I had been given a new set of eyes. I was suddenly seeing connections, patterns, and relationships that I never dreamt existed.
I fell in love with the process of studying art and over the next decade worked with the best people I could find—at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, National Academy of Design, and various ateliers. Throughout those years of practice, I learned many things. I understood, firsthand, that studying art is a lifetime pursuit, endlessly challenging and rewarding. I also learned that drawing is as teachable as math, music, or writing. Anyone can draw. The secret of making great art lies in combining foundational skills with sensitivity of expression. The most important thing a student can do is get time-tested information and build on it consecutively, allowing plenty of time for practice.
In this book, I will share with you the sequential steps that will enable you to learn to draw. I will break down the act of drawing into simple tasks. Through this process, you will form a solid foundation upon which you can build skills in as many artistic directions as your taste and temperament desire. The accompanying DVD will eliminate some of the gaps in the learning process that come from working primarily from books. Together, this book and DVD will allow you to see for yourself that the techniques of the masters are not entirely cloaked in mystery. With adequate time and practice, they will become your own. The world needs more beauty. I encourage you to take the plunge and learn to draw—and I wish you much joy in the process.