Painters and sculptors, printmakers and jewelry makers, blacksmiths and architects; all are specialists in their respective fields, but they also share a bond — most visual artists practice drawing.

“Drawing is a way of looking,” said Rhode Island painter and printmaker Brian Shure.

Whether the artist is looking outward or inward, their drawings capture images, perspectives that might otherwise be lost. Many drawings are meant to remain within a tattered sketchbook, but some are destined for gallery walls.

“Where to Draw the Line: the Maine Drawing Project” celebrates the art of drawing at Maine galleries and art venues throughout 2011, and Orono’s University of Maine Museum of Art’s spring show through June 11 includes two exhibits of drawings as a part of that statewide collaboration.

Traditional and mystifying realism

Brian Shure of Providence, R.I, honors traditional drawing techniques in his landscapes and cityscapes of various inks on paper and silk. His realist drawings in “Shadow Play” depict urban and natural environments in Japan, Italy, the United States and China. But the main subject of each drawing is light or its absence: shadow.

He has never exhibited his drawings exclusively, unaccompanied by his better-known paintings and prints.

“When I put the ink down, I can go darker, but I can’t go lighter,” said Shure. “It’s a record of thinking. I can’t go back. It takes a different attitude.”

On a roadside in Rome, on a sunny, dry day, Shure drew buildings of light stone on paper laid upon the grass. The ink is applied lightly and the drawing, while complex, is much less detailed than his more recent photo-realistic drawings of New York City crowds. And those drawings are nothing like his expressive pieces in which he depicts forests of cedar and bamboo of Nara and Kyoto, Japan, as dark, mysterious trees emerging in gold and indigo ink.

Shure creates various depths by layering ink to form dramatic contrasts of light and shadow. Whether the light is playing off the windows of skyscrapers or through the branches of trees, it makes the scene seem so real that you might expect the people, flags and leaves to resume movement at any moment.

“I love that it’s a flat surface, but it’s an illusion,” he said. “I push it until it’s believable and pops out of the flatness.”

Shure received a Bachelor of Arts in printmaking and painting from Antioch College and worked as a professional lithographer for 15 years. He is on the faculty of Rhode Island School of Design and is represented by Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery in New York City and Lenore Gray Gallery in Providence.

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Interactive and unconventional installations

On the opposite side of the drawing spectrum is Nancy Murphy Spicer’s “Hanging Drawings,” an interactive installation that links the artist to the museum curator and visitors.

“We wanted to give two very different glimpses of drawing as a process,” said UMMA Curator and Director George Kinghorn, who started the exhibit by sticking 60 pins into the gallery wall.

At the request of the artist, Kinghorn then draped lines made by Spicer out of stripped and plied electrical tape over the pins, creating a spontaneous composition on the wall. Throughout the day on Wednesday, he altered the “drawing” 20 times, as Spicer instructed, and took photos of each drawing.

Spicer’s artwork expands the concept of drawing with unconventional materials and teeters on the boundary between two-dimensional and three-dimensional art. She’s done similar installations with rope and blue painter’s tape, which she altered so the tape “poured” from the top of the wall to the bottom during the exhibition.

The wall drawing at UMMA will continue to be altered at several creative sessions throughout the duration of the exhibit. High school and university students will take turns moving the lines and documenting the change through digital photography, and museum visitors are invited to draw the images on paper provided by the gallery.

A video of Spicer’s previously exhibited spontaneous and changing wall drawings will be available in the gallery for people to view, along with Spicer’s framed, unchanging drawings of her evolving installations. Even in her permanent drawings, she utilizes unconventional materials such as acrylics and scrapbook paper.

Spicer, who lives in the United Kingdom, visited the museum initially to view the space and plan the installation, but she won’t be able to make it back to the museum for an artist talk or for the creative sessions. She has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions and has taught at the University of West of England, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Art Institute of Boston.

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Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is the BDN Act Out editor, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram:...