On Observational Drawing While Looking Only At The Subject

Posted in Writing by robbiekarmel on October 15, 2012

The following is a rough edit of some ideas I have been thinking through while working and reading various books and articles that relate to what I am currently working on.


On Observational Drawing While Looking Only At The Subject

How do I decide when a drawing is finished if I am not looking at the drawing itself? There are instances where I stop when I feel I have mapped the whole of the subject onto the paper— though I often continue beyond this point, as it seems somewhat arbitrary to stop at this point without the visual feedback of the drawing.

Blind drawing redirects the feedback from the familiar visual to become unfamiliar— at least, in the realm of drawing— haptic, physically mimetic and memory based. The awareness of existing lines is notional rather than actual, the position of existing lines in not exact, it is not updated constantly by visual assessment, only remembered as a past movement. The drawing becomes an open-ended window into a potentially infinite process. Process that could extend infinitely into the past and future.

If the drawer is observing the work as it emerges each new mark is created in reference to both the subject and the current state of the drawing, as the building develops and more lines— more information— are laid down, the more each new mark will be influenced by what has preceded it. This feedback— this self-awareness, will escalate over the emergence of the drawing, the further the drawing proceeds the greater the influence of the existing drawing and the less the influence of the observed subject. The gestalt is planned, rather than serendipitous as it is in blind drawing— the convergence of lines into recognizable codifications is orchestrated and updated rather than procedurally emergent. Blind drawing relies on the chaotic gestalt rather than the planned and adaptive series of marks. When drawing while looking at the emergent drawing each additional mark is a smaller and smaller percentage of the whole— the first line is 100% of the drawing, the second line is 50%, etc. The mimetic representation is planned, controlled and constantly readjusted. In contrast, blind drawing does none of this visually.

When drawing blind each mark is simultaneously a whole drawing and a component of the drawing. Each line is it’s own drawing. Without visual reference the hand and mind must rely on kinetic memory. Often each line or mark is placed with direct reference to the previous line, as a chain, reference to the drawing as a whole is through this series of links. Slight miscalculations in each movement and re-locating of the drawing tool build up over the process of laying down marks. A slight variation in position early on will escalate over time, building up with each successive variation, resulting in a drawing that is not necessarily coherent.

This allocation of placement for line can be seriously thrown off balance should the subject be in flux— moving or changing. If the subject is not static, then what are the options of the drawer? Choose an arbitrary ‘anchor’? Select a landmark —such as an eye or a lip, a point static relative to the subject— as the center point of the drawing, building the structure around this imaginary and kinetically remembered point? Does the drawer select a static point external to the subject? Does the drawer move fluidly between the memory of what has been placed where on the paper and the shifting possibilities and potential of the subject? Each of these variables will have a substantial impact on the readability of the drawing.

What of repeated lines? Examining a contour and tracing it, then again and again. Each time aware of previous movements but unable to map directly onto them due to a lack of visual guidance. An exploration and extrapolation of possible readings and representations, unfolding a miniscule fraction of the infinite potentials, independently observed yet collected after the fact and displayed en mass. This is information that is simultaneously defining the subject and contradicting its own definitions. There are six left eyes— they are all truly drawn from sincere observations of the subjects left eye— yet none of them are the true eye.

The drawing, the final product, is the detritus of an action— a record of the process of seeing and drawing. It is as much a drawing of the process of observational drawing as it is a drawing of the subject.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: