Back in February I re-posted a much older write-up of an exhibition I had seen of the later work of Victor Pasmore. My post was called With Eyes Tight Shut, for the images exhibited were a selection of those seen and painted by Pasmore with his eyes closed. I had known Pasmore's work many years before when he had been a very different painter and I was immensely impressed with these later works.
Maybe ten years or so before that I had developed a tremor of the arms. It is nothing nasty, a genetic thing which my father suffered from and which has begun to show itself in my brother. It was and is more nuisance than sinister. Among other inconveniences it greatly interferes with my ability to draw. After seeing the Pasmore exhibition I experimented for a while with drawings and paintings of the images that appear when I close my eyes, and I blogged about this for I was interested in comparing my own experiences with those of others. Not surprisingly perhaps, I found that there seemed to be very little conformity in the images, each person's images were as individual to them as their dreams. At the same time I flirted with a way of drawing that I had heard about in my student days, but not tried, a method that involves not looking. But other issues overtook me and I did not pursue either interest for long. Recently, I decide to try this method of drawing. It was not a serious attempt. I tried it out on a scrap of paper just before going to bed - a quiet time when I would normally have been reading or maybe watching a T.V. program I had recorded.
Then came one of those synchronicity thingies when The Guardian newspaper, produced a booklet on How to Draw which was given away with the Saturday edition of the paper. I almost did not look at it, assuming that it would consist of those cringe-making formulas for drawing horses, trees, flowers etc. A this-is-how-you-do-it treatise. Fortunately though, I did look at it - and it wasn't that at all. In fact, there was a small feast of excellent articles by established artists (innovative art tutors the book called them) and students telling - amongst other things - how they go about their drawin gs and why they do it that particular way. And yes, among these was the draw-but-don't-look idea. Indeed, there were several versions of it.
One thought I had nursed when experimenting with this was that maybe it would give my drawings a bit more life and freedom of line. It didn't - or maybe I should say that it hasn't yet, for it is early days. What it did do, though, incredibly, was circumvent the tremor. The drawings made by this method show no sign of the shaky hand syndrome that has become so noticeable in my drawings generally, to such an extent that I had almost stopped making them. This took on added interest when I read that when Chenai - one of the model students - tried out the technique his hand became exceedingly shaky. He did, though, insist that you should hold the pencil out at arm's length to draw, which I have not done.
The method, then, is simply this: that you do not look at the paper on which you are making your marks. You look continually at the subject and nothing else. I have now modified that slightly but importantly - for me, at any rate, it has proved important. I do not look at the drawing whilst I am making a mark. I will look occasionally to reposition the pen or pencil. So for example, having just finished drawing the right eye I will look at the paper for the purpose of transferring the pen to the other eye, but then look away before beginning to draw. An alternative aid I have introduced is that when beginning, say, an ear, I may use a finger of the non-drawing hand to mark the start point, so that I can return to it if need be.
The self portrait shown here is my first two attempt using the method. I used the method in its pure form - no looking whatsoever. It is rather crude, to say the least. There is none of the liveliness of line I had been hoping for, and the shape of the head is not correct, which indicates to me that my body image is not what it was - not surprisingly perhaps, for the body image is yet one more thing that deteriorates with age. (In this connection, what I mean by body image is the awareness of the position of the individual body parts in space and their relationship to each other. Can you, for example, touch finger tips behind your back at the first attempt?) So, is not a good likeness and it is not good from a drawing point of view, as a piece of art. Nevertheless, it is, as I say, early days, and I do think the method has possibilities.
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