In my first couple of weeks in the studio, I’ve tried to go back to first principles and just focus on drawing. I have been reacquainting myself with properly looking at things – observing, seeing space and shape and form. To help with this, I’ve been following the exercises in Betty Edwards’ book, ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’, a well known book in art education.
The leftside of our brain tends to be dominant, responsible for language, analysis, numbers and logic. However it is the rightside of the brain that dreams, understands metaphors and most importantly for drawing, perceives space and complex visual information. The book prescribes various exercises and tasks that the left side of the brain finds difficult, giving the right side of the brain a chance to kick into action.
Below are the results of some of my ‘blind contour drawing’. The idea is to trace the edges of a form in one continuous line, without looking at the page. The point isn’t that it looks ‘realistic’ but that the line is a record of one’s perception of the subject. The red, blue and black lines are three different attempts at a blind contour drawing of my hand
Moving on to more complex forms renders even less comprehendable lines, at least in my case (!) but interesting forms and marks, nonetheless. And a good exercise for me to test my mantra that at this point I care about just spending time drawing, and NOT the outcome
However I was amazed that then, when moving on to what Edwards calls ‘modified contour drawing’, allowing yourself occasional glances at the page, that a surprisingly pleasing, understandable form emerged.
- I found it far easier to draw with a pen, rather than pencil. I found myself quite tense and pressing quite hard when drawing with a pencil, not very relaxing!
- It’s normal to feel your whole arm move rather than just drawing from your wrist.
- Setup your paper so there’s no temptation to peek! Edwards recommends drawing for c. 30mins without looking. In practice I found this hard, not because I was desperate to peek, but because I felt like I’d found my way round all the edges in around 15 mins. Perhaps not a ‘good’ thing to say, but an honest observation of my experience.
- More background on Blind Contour Drawing via Wikipedia