Fast drawing, learning and expression

Is there a connection?

This Post discusses the relationship between fast drawing, learning and personal expression. It is an important subject because there seems to be a connection in many people’s minds between speed and expression. Various questions arise. The most basic one is whether there is any necessary connection at all.

In all my books I assume that personal expression can come in a multitude of ways: fast, slow, passionate, quietly sensitive, and all gradations between these extremes. This Post concentrates on the use of fast drawing.  The main arguments are found in Chapter 8 of my book,“Drawing on Both sides of the Brain”.

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CHAPTER 8 – MOVEMENT, SPEED & MEMORY

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Fast drawing

The questions raised in Chapter 8 provide a means of taking a critical look at the widespread practice of starting life drawing sessions with poses that are so short that they force fast drawing. Those who advocate this practice, believe that their shortness will increase the likelihood of creativity and personal expression.  In Chapter 8, I question this belief.

Chapter 8 and subsequent chapters between them explain how to use accuracy as a means of enhancing information pickup speed and, thereby, to learn to draw faster, with more authority and in ways that foster personal expression.

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NB. In Chapter 8, reference is made both (a) to illustrations found in Chapter 11, and (b) to texts that can be found in “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”. As neither of these is as yet available as a “Post” on this “Posts Page“, I have added them below.

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Texts and illustrations referred to in Chapter 8

Four drawings of pollarded trees on the esplanade, Castelnau de Montmiral, produced by one of my students as the first follow up to the three hour long drawing lesson by which I introduce students to my feeling-based method (there are many other such follow up drawings by other students that could have illustrated the same point at least as well. Indeed the drawings below could be described as a routine outcome of the lesson). They were made in 3 hrs, 30 minutes, 10 minutes and from memory respectively. They are extracted from Chapter 11 of “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”.

fast drawing
On the left: the three hour drawing from observation.    On the right: the 30 minute drawing from observation.

 

fast drawing
On the left: the ten minute drawing from observation.    On the right: the drawing from memory.

 

fast drawing
A photograph of the same trees, but unfortunately the canopy has grown a lot since they were pollarded.

 

A computer controlled experiment: an extract from Chapter 8 of “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”:

This extract comprises a summary of ideas coming from the main experiments and how they led to the computer controlled experiment which showed that preparatory looking helped rapidity of information pick-up:

“These ideas were amongst those that we had in mind when we came to consider the results from the main experiments. In particular they influenced our thought when we reflected upon the revelations of the video-tape record. One result was a hypothesis that needed testing. The argument that gave rise to this depended a variety of factors. If both comparison and the organisation of actions disrupt aspects of visual-memory, then copying must require a longer-term memory-store to guide a coordinated and efficient looking strategy. The superior performance of the skilled adults for drawing familiar objects from memory indicated that this function could be performed by long term memory. However, what about unfamiliar objects or the complex curves which describe the ever changing shapes of familiar ones? As suggested above, efficient visual analysis of these might require the creation of a purpose-specific memory store, structured with the help of longer looks, such as those recorded on the videotape. Thus, our hypothesis was that the function of the longer looks is to create a memory store containing knowledge of what to look for later. The advantage would be reaped in terms of the pick-up efficiency of the inter-saccadic glances. Given that time taken for each of these is fixed, it follows that the learning process enables more information to be picked up in the same time. Such a feat could only be achieved if appropriate, purpose specific memory structures had been created.

The computer-controlled experiment in question was used to test these ideas. A sequence of different two-line RSL models was displayed on a computer screen. At a given time after a model appeared, one of the two lines disappeared and the subjects were asked to copy the one that remained. The time before the disappearance was either one-third of a second or five seconds. When the subjects had completed drawing the visible line, they pressed a button which caused the second line to reappear for either one-third of a second (allowing time for one glance) or two-thirds of a second (allowing time for two glances). The question was whether the information collected in the five-second preliminary look would lead to better pick-up of information by the final glance or glances. The answer was a clear ‘yes’. Without the preliminary five-second look, the subjects were all-over-the-place when doing their best to copy the second line, whereas with it, they performed almost as well as if the image was there in front of their eyes.

This result gave strong support to the hypothesis that temporary knowledge, acquired as a result of appropriately organised looking behaviour, could play a vital role in achieving copying accuracy.”

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Copying photographs

Is copying photographs cheating?

I have met many people who think that copying photographs is somehow cheating. Certainly it can be used as an easy way of sidestepping the challenges (and opportunities) provided by copying directly from nature. But this does not mean that it can never be justified.

The main purpose of this Post is to publish Chapter 7 of my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”, which discusses the advantages and disadvantages of copying small, static, two-dimensional photographic images, as compared with confronting the full force of nature, in all its dimensions. Its conclusion is that both possibilities have their place. Rather than condemning the practice of copying photographs out of hand, artists might be well advised to work out what is the best option in the circumstances of the moment.

The chapter also considers an earlier and, for many years, much used memory-based alternative to copying photographic images.

CHAPTER 7 – MEMORY & COPYING PHOTOGRAPHS

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CLAM as a teaching method

CLAM explained

CLAM is an acronym forcontinuously looking at the model. It describes a teaching method, suggested by Kimon Nicolaїdes and popularised by Betty Edwards. However, these authors describe it as “contour drawing”.

Since 1941, when Nicolaїdes‘ book “The Natural Way to Draw” was published posthumously and started its life as the most influential book on drawing published in the twentieth century, his method has proved its value as a powerful teaching tool. However, in addition to its well established advantages, the way Nicolaїdes‘ and Edwards taught it has significant disadvantages. Chapter 6 in my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”  explains both the strengths and the limitations of the method.

 

CHAPTER 6 – CONTOUR DRAWING

 

 

Three example of drawings using CLAM

 

clam
1: A pure CLAM drawing: Within the confusion, a great deal of useful information is to be found

 

clam
2: Drawing by Rodin using a lot of CLAM, made long before Nicolaїdes used it as a teaching tool.

 

clam: Some important errors, but other qualties compensate.
3: One of my early drawings , using modified CLAM. I hope you will agree that, as with the Rodin drawing, the effect of the whole is not too much spoiled by a few serious inaccuracies.

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Negative spaces

Why avoid talking of “negative spaces ” or “negative shapes”?

The title of Chapter 6 of my book “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain” is “Negative Shapes”. Some people may be surprised to find that I question the widespread use by art teachers of the phrase “negative shapes” and of its equivalent, “negative spaces“. After explaining the reasons for the popularity of its use as a means of bypassing the problems due to familiarity, I argue that it has significant shortcomings. In the light of these, I suggest that there are alternatives which avoid its disadvantages without relinquishing any of its advantages. Perhaps more importantly, these provides better ways of using drawing from observation as a tool for discovering the unique characteristics of objects in the world around us.

 

CHPTER 5 – “NEGATIVE SHAPES”

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Modernist teaching methods

A paradigm shift

The chapter featured in this Post is about the paradigm shift in artists thought that took place in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and some of its consequences in terms of the Modernist teaching methods that were to emerge in the twentieth century.

CHAPTER 3 – “Arrival of Modernism”

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Feeling as a guide to mark-making

Feeling and the sketch

The chapter featured in this Post tells how, over the centuries, artists changed the way they conceived the function of the sketch. From being a step in the Academic method, by which predetermined elements were organised into a composition, it was used in more open-ended essentially Modernist ways. The chapter also explains what I mean by drawing with the “feel-system” and, in doing so, prepares readers for the crucial role it plays in later chapters. For this reason it is key to the ideas developed in my book.

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Chapter 4 – The sketch and the feel system

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Continue reading “Feeling as a guide to mark-making”

Traditional artistic practices

In furtherance of my project publishing chapters from my books, we now come to a chapter on traditional artistic practices. Its title is “The Renaissance and the Academic Method”. To understand how it fits into the structure of “Drawing with Both Sides of the Brain”, please go to the POSTSCRIPT below. To read the chapter just click on the link immediately below:

Chapter 2, Traditional artistic practices

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“At last I don’t know how to draw” : Toulouse-Lautrec the first Modern Painter”

In 1992 I was asked to write an article for “La Revue du Tarn” as a contribution to  the “Year of Toulouse-Lautrec”.  In particular I was asked to give a critique of the big exhibition of his paintings that took place that year in London and Paris. More recently I included an edited adaptation as Chapter 7 of my book “Fresh Perspectives on Creativity“. Click below for a .PDF version of it.

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“AT LAST I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DRAW”

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Apologies for the poor quality of some of the illustrations. They will be better for the published version.

Toulouse-Lautrec drawing-5
Toulouse-Lautrec : Drawing of a woman from the “Artilleur et femme” series

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Accuracy versus expression

Are the accuracy and expression compatible?

I hope you enjoy the attachment below, which is about the accuracy versus expression debate. It is the first chapter of my book “Drawing on the right Side of the Brain“, in which I compare the expressive potential of searching for accuracy relative to that of other artistic goals that lead to different manifestations of inaccuracy,  whether it be in the guise of distortions, abstractions or any other kind of deviation from accuracy.  My conclusion is that not only art history but also the outcomes of my experience as a teacher, as illustrated by the work of my students, show that both have the potential to inspire artistic creativity. The drawing of Durer’s Mother below is one of the six illustrations in the chapter, three of which provide examples of the expressive potential of the search for accuracy, while the remainder provide examples of the expressive potential of researching deviations from it.

TBD1-CHPT 1 – ACCURACY V EXPRESSION

An illustration for the accuracy versus expression debate

Albrecht Durer: Portrait of his Mother

MY BOOKS ON ART PRACTICE

There are four books covering four subjects:

1.  Drawing    2. Painting    3. Creativity    4. Related Science

* The Posts on the book chapters come first and are followed by Posts on other subjects.

(Please scroll down to the book or to the subject matter that interest you)

* The most recent posts and revisions are highlighted in red

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Why the books are needed

1. DRAWING BOOK

Chapters from “Drawing on Both Sides of the Brain”

Other Posts on Drawing:

2. PAINTING BOOK

Chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour”:

 

Other Posts on colour and light in painting:

 

3. CREATIVITY BOOK

Chapters from “Fresh  insights into Creativity”

Extracts from Chapter 10: “Having fun with creativity”

4. SCIENCE BOOK

Chapters from “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”

(These deal in greater depth with subjects that feature in the other volumes)

5. EXTRACTS FROM THE ‘GLOSSARY’

6. MISCELLANEOUS

7. PAINTING SCHOOL NEWS

 

Request for comments on the chapters from the books.

I look forward to your comments in the section provided at the bottom of each Post. When you have made them, please leave your email address and tick the box “Notify me of new posts by email.”

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