By GJ Gillespie, artist and founder of Leda Art Supply
Arshile Gorky (1904 - 1948) is one of the most important American painters of the 20th century. He was central to the development of Abstract Expressionism, and his novel approach to drawing and painting had a profound influence on many subsequent artists. Gorky was an inveterate sketcher, often using small drawings and sketches to plan major compositions. In this post, we'll explore some of his most famous drawings and sketches, and see how they relate to his finished paintings.
Pioneering Abstract Expressionism
Over his career, Gorky developed methods for generating unique abstract art to express deeply personal themes for his paintings. He used symbols and often biomorphic design elements to depict his thoughts, creating pieces such as the iconic Virginia Landscape or Leaf of the Artichoke is an Owl. His work was incredibly captivating, showing for those willing to see what abstract expressionism can achieve through painting. Gorky’s contribution in art continues to have an echo today; his vision was sparked by early sketches that he developed into renowned abstract works, inspiring generations of artists to take the same steps.
From Sketchbook to Canvas
Gorky's unique visual language found its way into many of his renowned works. His major works began as drawings in his sketchbook that he then developed further with great detail and revisions. His distinct surrealist vision is seen in the whimsical scenes he created, inspiring us to look closer and explore our own personal interpretations. He crafted powerful personal symbols through these simple sketches, making him an enduring figure of the day and one of the fathers of abstract expressionism.
His Creative Methods
Gorky was known for his skillful and inventive exploration of a kind of "automatic writing" and other subconscious generative processes. He looked deeply into a landscape or interior then let his hand draw shapes and symbols. His idea was to use these bizarre sketches to preface large-scale final works, such as the iconic Water of the Flowery Mill or How My Mother's Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life.
These spontaneous methods effectively allowed him to dream up compositions before committing them to canvas—essentially translating his instinctual impulses onto paper in order to more effectively interpret what lay in the depths of his unconscious mind. This expressionist strategy would ultimately lead him towards making one of the most fascinating bodies of artwork of all time.
Gorky's sketches are now considered to be works of art in their own right, and have been exhibited in major museums around the world.
If you're intrigued by how artists use sketches to create dynamic paintings, then look no further than the work of the celebrated abstract expressionist, Arshile Gorky. As a renowned artist who was known as "the father of abstract expressionism", many books and websites (such as this WikiArt page) feature his magnificent artworks that began with pencil outline in his sketchbook..
Look to Gorky for Inspiration
Why not try your hand at copying or sketching one of Gorky's famous paintings? It could provide an insightful window into this artist's creative process and perhaps even offer a source of inspiration that could lead you down your own creative journey. Pick a Gorky painting today, draw it, and take the first step towards unlocking your inner artistic potential!