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Day #195 – Bruce Lee Quote Drawing

A drawing of Kung-Fu king Bruce Lee… also included with the price of admission: a quote in all caps!

Bruce Lee Quote

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Day #095 – Copy of a Richard Feynman Drawing

I’m a big fan of Richard Feynman so I found this article showcasing some of his art very interesting.

Feynman didn’t take up art until he was 44. This is the first drawing he did and it looks quite amateur in the same way that you’d expect from anybody new to drawing. The facial features are drawn as symbols rather than as they would actually be on the face and the proportions and slant of the body are way off. I say this not to criticise the great Feynman but as inspiration to us all: even one of the smartest men who ever lived started at the same level playing field as anybody else new to drawing from life.

This was an interesting quote on his motivation for deciding to learn to draw:

I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world. It’s difficult to describe because it’s an emotion. It’s analogous to the feeling one has in religion that has to do with a god that controls everything in the universe: there’s a generality aspect that you feel when you think about how things that appear so different and behave so differently are all run ‘behind the scenes’ by the same organization, the same physical laws. It’s an appreciation of the mathematical beauty of nature, of how she works inside; a realization that the phenomena we see result from the complexity of the inner workings between atoms; a feeling of how dramatic and wonderful it is. It’s a feeling of awe — of scientific awe — which I felt could be communicated through a drawing to someone who had also had that emotion. I could remind him, for a moment, of this feeling about the glories of the universe.

The article goes through a bunch of his drawings through the years. After practice Feynman inevitably improves and many of his drawings are quite lovely to look at. This was my favorite from those shown on the article and so I decided to copy it for today’s entry:

My drawing of Richard Feynman's original 1979 Drawing 'Nude from the rear'

 

 

Here’s a timeless video of Feynman discussing an argument he often had with his friend who he traded science lessons for art lessons with on alternate weekends:

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Day #037 – Blind and Modified Contour Drawing

I spent a long time today working through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I would have continued further but the next exercise was advertised as needing at least an hour so I will have to save that for tomorrow.

The book first introduced the concept of “Blind Contour Drawing”. This is where you place your pencil on your paper and without looking at your hand simply follow along very carefully, milimetre-by-milimetre, with whatever you’re looking at. Ideally what you’re drawing should be quite intricate in nature so the closer you look the more lines you can follow. The palm of my hand is what I used as suggested in the book. This exercise supposedly works wonderfully to get you to shift out of your “Left Brain” and into the visual “R-Mode” so essential for drawing what is really there. I have to say I found it worked excellently and reminded me A LOT of the feeling you get when successfully meditating. A heightened awareness of all the detail and depth of everything. Apparently some seasoned artists use this exercise as a warm-up before drawing.

As you are not looking at what you’re doing the finished product will tend towards being something of a mess. In the book, however, Edwards argues that these scribbles are a different kind of mark than what your left-brain would ever create. That they have a kind of beauty in and of themselves. I’m not too sure mine are beautiful but I understand what she’s getting at. The marks are a different sort of sensitivity.

First attempt at blind contour drawing

 

If you’re not sure about whether you should try Blind Contour Drawing then this quote from Betty Edwards about what you can expect if you give it a go might convince you:

Whatever the actual reason may be, I can assure you that Pure Contour Drawing will permanently change your ability to perceive. From this point onward, you will start to see in the way an artist sees and your skills in seeing and drawing will progress rapidly.

The next exercise required some preparation. I’d bought the materials a few weeks back but hadn’t yet put them together. I was required to create a ‘view-finder’ by cutting a 6″ x 7 5/8″ square out of a piece of thick card. I then had to clip some clear plastic to the back of this viewfinder and place vertical and horizontal lines on it with a non-permanent marker. It looks like this:

Viewfinder

 

The next exercise, then, was to literally hold my left hand against this transparent plane and almost ‘trace’ over it. By keeping one eye closed and your head very still you can then create accurate perspective drawings of very difficult hand positions. Although this very much feels like “cheating” the exercise, apparently, helps enormously in seeing things properly. A letter from Van Gogh to his brother Theo is reprinted in the book where he discusses using a similar implement which he devised himself. Well if it’s good enough for Van Gogh…

After completing the contour drawing I’ve placed it over a piece of white paper to photograph it effectively:

First attempt at a contour drawing through my viewfinder

Second attempt at a contour drawing through my viewfinder

 

Finally I’ll leave you with another quote from the book which I liked. Edwards is answering the question “If what drawing essentially is is accurately copying what is in front of us, why not just take photographs?”

Also, your style of line, choices for emphasis, and subconscious mental processes–your personality, so to speak–enters the drawing. In this way, again paradoxically, your careful observation and depiction of your subject give the viewer both the image of your subject and an insight into you. In the best sense, you have expressed yourself.

 

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Day #031 – Drawing Picasso’s Igor Stravinsky Upside Down

Well that month flew by! I don’t know if I’m happy that I’m successfully completed the first month of the challenge or upset because one twelfth of one year of my limited lifespan has gone so quickly… You can’t help but notice time passing when you are posting a picture every day. That’s a good thing but for motivating a continued adherence to this drawing commitment but not so great for managing melancholy. That’s pretty pretentious right there. My apologies.

Got to the first drawing exercises in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The author, Betty Edwards, had us draw this Picasso drawing of the composer Igor Stravinsky. The twist? You copy it upside down!

Igor Stravinsky by Picasso upside down

 

The reason for this is explained in the book. Basically it’s to do with the two ways we view the world. When we are viewing it with our ‘left brain’ we see in symbols of how we think things ‘ought’ to look like which hinders us drawing things as they really are. On drawing upside down Edwards notes:

For reasons that are still unclear, the verbal system immediately rejects the task of “reading” and naming upside-down images. L-mode seems to say, in effect, “I don’t do upside down. It’s too hard to names things seen this way, and, besides, the world isn’t upside down. Why should I bother with such stuff?”

Well, that’s just what we want! On the other hand, the visual system seems not to care. Right side up, upside down, it’s all interesting, perhaps even more interesting upside down because R-mode [Right Brain] is free of interference from its verbal partner, which is often in a “rush to judgement” or, at least, a rush to recognize and name.

She talks about how her student’s drawings would instantly improve when drawing this picture upside down. Suddenly difficult areas like the crossing of the legs would look extremely accurate where right-side-up the foreshortening would often render the copy a very poor likeness indeed.

Here’s my effort (turned back the right way up, although I did not see the finished product this way until I’d completed the last line!) and I do think it looks pretty accurate which is definitely interesting. Without doing the same drawing the right way up, however, I cannot be sure to what extent this is improved over what I would have done. It definitely felt different though and I’ll be doing a few more upside down drawings over the next few days as instructed by the book.

This drawing of Igor Stravinksy was copied from the Picasso original turned upside down.

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Day #029 – Drawing of the Brain – Black Marker on Cardboard

I was reading more of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and it’s a fascinating book. She goes into some of the science between the left and right brain dichotomy. She explains how the right hand is controlled by the left side of the brain which controls language. Because of this, across cultures, the word ‘right’ is usually associated with positive qualities and the word ‘left’ with negative ones. For example ‘Left’ is apparently Latin for ‘Sinister’. She gave a lot more examples but finished with a really interesting point: all of these noticeable anti left (controlled by the right side of the brain, remember) quirks of language were all created by the left side of the brain which deals with language. The right side of the brain was left powerless to defend itself! She talks about the idea that both sides of the brain have their own interpretation of reality and references some interesting science experiments which back this up. They studied severe epileptics who’d had their Corpus Callosum (“a thick nerve cable composed of millions of fibers that cross-connect the two cerebral hemispheres”) removed in surgery. You can read more about it here.

After laying the groundwork this was one of the main takeaways for me:

As a result of these extraordinary findings over the past fifteen years, we now know that despite our normal feeling that we are one person–a single being–our brains are double  each half with its own way of knowing, its own way of perceiving external reality. In a manner of speaking,k each of us has two minds, two consciousnesses, mediated and integrated by the connecting cable of nerve fibers between the hemispheres. – Betty Edwards

For my drawing today I tried something a bit different. Inspired by the discussion of brains I wanted to draw (from a reference picture in the book) one for myself but today I decided to sketch onto a piece of cardboard and then work over it with a black marker. I think the final result has a nice graphic quality to it.

Picture of the brain drawn with black marker on cardboard

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Day #028 – Playing Cards Drawing

I was going to continue with Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain but there is a lot of preliminary theory before getting to any exercises so I read quite a bit of that and then decided to draw another object from life. I chose some playing cards which I think came out okay in parts. I tried to use the advice I’d received on perspective while doing it. I think the box came out reasonably well but I messed up some of the playing cards. Most notably some in the foreground are smaller than those just popping out of the box which obviously makes no sense. Still, I feel like I’m controlling the pencil a little more accurately even if my ‘eye’ isn’t always picking up mistakes in time.

Here’s a nice quote from the book:

Thus, paradoxically, the more clearly you can perceive and draw what you see in the external world, the more clearly the viewer can see you, and the more you can know about yourself. Drawing becomes a metaphor for the artist.

Or, in other words, your style (personality) is always coming through in your drawings but it will come through more the more accurately you can perceive the world. When we look at a Van Gogh painting we get transported, in a way, into his mind and see the world through his eyes, even though his physical body has long since decayed! The better we can draw the more our drawings can allow others to experience the world through our unique eyes.

Here’s the playing cards picture [larger version].

Drawing of some playing cards