Gallery Coleman






When I was applying color to this line drawing, I decided that I wanted to try using monochromatic color. I added a touch of bluish tint to the rocks around the tree, but it is a greenish blue, so I guess it is ok to call this a monochromatic picture of the green variety.


I haven’t done many monochromatic pictures, but this time in the midst of choosing all the various colors to apply on my computer, for some reason I began to feel that this picture would work better as a monochromatic piece. I killed the colors by switching to the “grayscale” mode, which renders lightness and darkness in shades of gray only without using any color at all. Then I switched back to the color mode and gave a green tint to the gray shading. After giving the rocks a slight bluish tint, the picture was finished.


Once again, this is a piece that began as a line drawing where I drew trees and rocks without looking at anything for reference. I suppose that the secret to drawing a realistic looking drawing without looking at any reference is consistently looking at things with sharp eyes on an everyday basis. But I don’t think that is the whole story. You have to constantly turn things you see into symbols. When I say “turn things into symbols,” what I mean here is depicting things you have seen as symbols and considering ways to draw things as symbols in your head before you even get to the drawing stage.

すこしややこしい説明ですが、たとえば、毎日見る道路標識の棒を例えとして考えてみましょう。道路標識の棒を人が分かるように描こうとしますと、まずは 2 本の真っすぐの平行線を同じ長さで描いて、その 2 本の平行線の上方と下方を短い線で繋ぎます。これで簡単な棒ができるはずです。その絵を見れば、だれでも棒の絵だとわかるでしょう。「棒」というものを「 2 本の平行線とその平行線を繋ぐ短い 2 本の線」というシンボルにしたのです。つまり、描いたのは「棒」ではなく、「棒を意味するシンボル」です。これは私が言う「シンボル化」です。平行線などの「概念」を実際存在する物理的な「もの」を表現するのに利用することです。つまり、描くのは「もの」ではなく、「概念」です。

That explanation may be a little confusing, so let’s consider as an example the case of drawing a pole for a street sign post, something you probably see every day. If you want to draw a street sign pole so that anyone can look at it and see right away that it is a street sign pole, you could start by drawing two straight lines parallel to each other and the same length, and then connect those two lines to each other with short lines at the top and bottom. Anyone should be able to see that you have drawn a pole if they look at that drawing. You have effectively transformed a “pole” into the symbol consisting of “2 parallel lines and 2 short lines to connect those parallel lines.” In other words, what you drew was not a “pole,” but a “symbol that has the meaning of a pole.” This is what I mean by “turning something into a symbol.” You can use concepts like parallel lines to express physical objects that exist in the real world. In other words, you are not drawing a thing at all, but a concept.

このようなシンボル化はいろいろな場面に便利です。たとえば、人間の顔を描きたい時に、まずさかさまに置かれた卵のような長円形を描いて、その中に目を表現するために丸を二つ描くなど。または、山を描きたい時はさかさまの「 W 」を描いてみたら、山らしい形に見えますね。このようなシンボルがたくさんありますし、自分でも発見したり作ったりすることもできます。

This kind of symbolization is convenient for a lot of different things. For example, if you want to draw a human face, first you can draw an oval that looks like an egg placed upside-down and then draw two circles to represent the eyes inside that oval. Or if you want to draw a mountain, drawing an upside-down “W” will give you something that looks mountain-like. There are tons of symbolizations like this, and you can discover and create your own as well.


However, if you draw a symbol that looks like a pole using the method of drawing a pole I wrote about above, because you did not actually look at a real pole while drawing your picture, you cannot say that you actually understood and faithfully represented the true nature of a pole that actually exists, with elements like slight hidden curvatures that you might not notice unless you really look hard at a real pole or the variation in line thickness to express the quality of the material the pole is made from.


In other words, there are people in the world of art who think something like this:


In order to communicate to the viewer the wonderfulness of something you see with your own eyes, you must depict the characteristics of that object faithfully. Even if you decided to deform something on purpose during the stage where you depict that object on paper or canvas or render it as an abstract shape altogether, first you must sufficiently understand the true nature of that object, of your motif. And, in order to understand its true nature, you cannot simplify something that possesses complex characteristics into a symbol. The reason for this is that if you simplify the object in this way, that links to ignoring its true nature.


To put it shortly, the idea is that symbolizing equals ignoring the true nature of an object.


And I completely agree with that. If you rely on symbols, you wind up giving priority to the symbols that exist in your head over the objects that exist in the real world.


But again, I also think that there is more to the story here. You cannot sum this situation up in such black and white terms.

目の前にあるものの本質を把握し、紙やカンバスの上に表現するという作業にはシンボルの存在が絶対不可欠だと思いますから。先ほどの棒を描く例へ戻りましょう。今度は実際の棒を見に行って、それを描くと決めたという場合にしてみましょう。では、選んだ棒の下から 1/3 の距離で、白い変色の部分があるとしましょう。その部分を表現するのに、まず良く見て本質を把握しましょう。形はどちらかといいますと、上下方向に長い長円形に似ていることを気付くとします。では、その長円形らしい形のある変色を描きましょう。何度も描いてみて、本物と比べ、消しゴムで削ったり描き直したりします。やっと完成しますと、シンボルを使わずに本物らしい棒が描けたと、自分で自分をほめても良いでしょう。

This is because I think that in the act of comprehending the true nature of an object you see with your own eyes and depicting that on paper or canvas, symbols are actually completely essential elements. Let’s return to the previous example of a pole. This time, let’s say that you decide to look at an actual pole and draw it. And, on the pole that you chose, there is a spot of white color 1/3 the distance from the bottom. In order to depict that spot, first you must look at it well and understand its true nature. You realize that the shape of the spot sort of looks similar to an oval that is long along its vertical axis. So, you go ahead and draw the white spot as a shape that is kind of like an oval shape. You try drawing it several times, compare it to the actual object, erase here and there with an eraser, and keep redrawing it. After you finally finish this process, you can pat yourself on the back as having drawn a pole that looks like the real thing without using any symbols at all.


Or can you? The truth is that you cannot actually say that you didn’t use any symbols at all.


That is because as soon as you realized that the shape of the white spot looks like an oval, you were using the oval symbol. Even when you were engaged in the work of erasing with an eraser and redrawing it while looking at the pole, I imagine that you were probably using some kind of symbol to understand the shape of the white spot that you were looking at. In other words, I think that no matter what shape you are looking at, in order to understand and comprehend the characteristics of that shape, the process of comparing that shape to a shape you have seen before occurs in the brain. In fact, you could probably say that even outside the realm of drawing objects, whenever you are confronted with an object, your brain uses shapes you have seen before as symbols in order to understand those objects. For example, when you see a “chair,” you compare it to “chairs” that you have seen before and make the determination that what you are seeing is indeed a “chair.”


But is it ok to say that if all types of drawing use symbols, then all types of pictures are symbolized objects? I don’t really have a problem with that statement, but I don’t think that all “symbolized pictures” employ the same method of using symbols or the same extent of usage either. For example, both the first example of a pole drawn using the “parallel line” symbol and the second example of a pole with the white spot part depicted using the symbol of the “oval” while looking at an actual pole use a symbol, and the final product for both could be defined as a “symbolized picture,” but the methods of using the respective symbols and the extent of usage are both clearly different.


Regarding methods of usage, I don’t know how many exist in reality, but considering the two examples I introduced above, I think we can say that at least 2 methods exist.

その 1 つ目はものを見ないで、頭の中に存在するシンボルを思い出しながら絵を描く方法です。どちらかといいますと、目の前にあるものを見るより、頭の中に浮かぶ「景色」を見ながら絵を描くという方法ですね。毎日色々なものを見ていると、「棒のイメージ」、「顔のイメージ」、「車のイメージ」のように、物理的なものを代表できるイメージがシンボルとして頭の中に作られ、保管されるのです。「棒」の絵を描きたい時は「棒のイメージ」を読み出し、できるだけそのイメージ通りを描きます。

The first method is the method of drawing a picture while calling up a symbol that exists in your head. This method is more like “looking” at “scenery” that appears in your mind rather than looking at scenery that exists in the real world. In the process of looking at all sorts of things every day, images that represent physical objects are created and stored in your head, with examples being a pole image, a face image, or a car image. When you want to draw a picture of a “pole,” you call up the “pole image” and draw a picture that resembles that image to the best of your ability.


The second method is the method of of looking at a real object, calling up a symbol that exists in your head, and using it as an element to promote the process of assessing, understanding, and depicting what you see.

目の前に存在するものを忠実に写生する場合、 2 つ目の使い方は問題ないでしょう。シンボルを目で見たものを把握するための手助けのようなものとして利用しているだけですから、そのものの本質を無視しているとは言えないと思います。問題は途中で 1 つ目の使い方を利用してしまうというわなにはまることだけで、注意すれば本質を無視してしまうことはないでしょう。

If you want to faithfully reproduce something that you are physically looking at, I can’t see any problem with using the second method. Because you are using the symbol only as a way of helping in the process of understanding what you are actually looking at with your own eyes, I don’t think you could say that it leads to ignoring the true nature of the object. The only problem would be if you fall into trap of using the first method in the process of drawing. As long as you are careful to avoid that trap, I don’t think there is anything wrong at all with using a symbol.

2 つ目の使い方には問題がないと言ってよいと思いますが、 1 つ目の使い方は本当に問題になるかという質問が残ります。私は場合によって、全く問題ないと思いますし、あえて、望ましい場合もあるとも思います。まずは、単純に何かの概念を伝いたい時には欠かせないコミュニケーションの手段であると思います。たとえば、地図を描いてあげる時に、「ここに道路標識がありますよ」と伝えたい時、棒のシンボルを描いて、その上に道路標識の形を描けば、伝いたいことが短いスペースで分かりやすく伝えられます。漫画などでも、道路標識が背景に置きたい場合は道路標識を写実的に描かなくても、シンボルとして描けばその背景の状態が伝わります。あえて、写実的に描けばその漫画の要点の邪魔になる場合もありますので、シンボル的な描き方が望ましい時もあると言えると思います。これは宣伝のためのイラストなら、なおさらそうだと思います。地下鉄や電車を待っている時に周りにある宣伝を見てみたら、写実的なイラストが少ないはずです。

So, I think it is ok to say that there is nothing problematic about using the second method. That leaves the question of, is using the first method really a problem? In my opinion, not only is there no problem with using that method, in some cases it can actually be preferable. First off, I think it is an absolutely essential method of communication when you want to communicate some kind of concept. For example, if you are drawing a map for someone and you want to communicate the idea of, “there is a street sign here,” drawing the pole symbol and then a street sign shape over that effectively communicates that concept in a very small amount of space. And in comics as well, if you want to place a street sign in the background, drawing one as a symbol is enough to communicate the state of that background without actually reproducing a real street sign. In fact, there are some cases where reproducing a real object will obscure the main visual point of a comic. So I think that you can say that there are times when drawing symbolically is actually preferred. And this goes even more so for illustrations used in advertising. If you take a look at the advertisements all around you while you are waiting for a subway or a train to come, I’m absolutely sure that realistically rendered illustrations will be in the minority.

ただ、 1 つ目のシンボルの使い方とは、伝いたいことを円滑に伝える手段にすぎないでしょうか。私はそう思いません。シンボルの素晴らしさについて語りたいと思いますが、まずは私個人とシンボルとのかかわりについて、少し語らせてもらいたいと思います。

But is this first method of using symbols limited to merely being a means to smoothly communicate ideas? My answer is: absolutely not. I’d like to speak here a little bit about the splendor of symbols, but first I want to relate a bit about my personal experience with symbols.


I can still remember the first time I made a symbol on my own. I don’t remember specifically how old I was at the time, but I think it must have been during my younger elementary school years. I wrote the number “5” and drew a face around it like the one shown in the figure. After I came up with this symbol, for a period of time I always used the number 5 to draw faces. The more I looked at people’s faces, the more I discovered, and I would continually add all of those elements to the symbol I called the “number 5 face.” For example, the nose has a part called the wing or “ala” of the nose. It puffs out on both sides of the tip of the nose. If you look at this part from the side, it looks like the shape that you get if you extend the bottom curve of the number 5, as shown in the figure. In this way I would make symbols out of each characteristic that I discovered while looking at peoples’ faces. I would also then adjust these symbols to make my faces look more like faces. And since I wanted to draw all sorts of different kinds of faces, I would experiment with changing the size and shape of each part.


In that way, I would look at the world around me, make symbols out of the characteristics I discovered, and use that to draw all sorts of things. And of course I also drew things while looking at them, and I still love reproducing things from life. In my experience, when you use both kinds of drawing, they tend to improve each other in the process.


That was one extremely large tangent, but now I want to get back to talking about the method of drawing I used for the forest picture I put up this time. I drew this picture without looking at anything at all, so you could definitely call it a completely symbolized picture. I like looking at trees a lot, and the symbol of a “tree like shape” and “rock like shape” have obviously been stored in my head. I imagine that when I drew this picture, I accessed those symbols and used them while applying various alterations and adjustments.


I think that this type of drawing links with the type of drawing I previously mentioned as something I am pursuing — a surreal drawing style that uses images which represent ideas generated in the subconscious mind (the type of consciousness that creates dreams and that we use while asleep)


And maybe you cannot access that type of surreal imagery when you are drawing scenery or people from life. Maybe, when you draw a picture using symbols only, the thoughts locked up deep inside your subconscious mind attach themselves to the symbols stored in your brain, and, like air bubbles floating up from the depths of a deep sea, enter the realm of the conscious mind (the consciousness we use during a waking state) and therein announce themselves to you. Perhaps through that process, you realize for the first time that those thoughts actually exist.


I think this is true when making drawings of fantasy realms where fairies and dragons reside, but it is also most likely true when drawing the real world that you and I live in. I tend to draw a lot of fantasy subjects, but sometimes I enjoy employing that same “surreal” method of drawing to depict trees and rocks that seem like they could exist in the real world. I still do not understand what the world of the subconscious mind is trying to tell me or how I should try to understand the message, but maybe we can continue to explore this together through symbolized methods of drawing.