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Posts Tagged ‘practice’

PicassoNudeDrapery
Drapery? Where? You mean those whitish-bluish triangles and trapezoids?
Picasso was twenty-six when he painted this. By the time he was fourteen, he had mastered the skill to create the illusion of drapery or any other illusion he might have felt like creating. There was big money in illusions in the 1890’s. But not for Picasso. With Picasso the illusion-achievements of the Renaissance come to an end. And that means, for one thing, drapery is dead. Finished.
The question is, do you have to master the Renaissance skills of drapery, anatomy and perspective to be an artist? The answer is “no,” but it’s an uncomfortable no. I’m uncomfortable about dismissing the value of drapery drawing/painting for two reasons. One is in the looking: drapery in an image draws the viewer in and focuses the mind like a labyrinth; more on this in the next post. The second reason is in the doing and for similar reasons: drawing drapery develops visual concentration since you are always drawing from the image in your mind; and it focuses the mind, resulting in the kind of high that comes from a)intense concentration on a limited problem and b) repetition of minutiae. This is drawing for the sheer pleasure of drawing, meaning the “high” you get from moving that pencil.

Drapery
This is my pencil drawing of some drapery I set up for a demo in drawing class last week. Students watched over DraperyGreenDemomy shoulders and asked questions. As I was drawing I explained the procedure. This 17”x11” page took about an hour. Without my talking, I estimate it would have taken less than a half hour. It looks so easy and the principles of light-shadow-reflected light are a piece o’cake.
But the doing takes practice. But, hey, it’s not like there’s ever nothing to draw. Look around you. Throw your coat over a chair, leave the dish towel on the kitchen counter, don’t make your bed—drapery drapery everywhere….
In “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the need and result of practice. He has made the 10,000 hour rule famous: to get good at anything takes 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice. That comes to 3 hours a day.

130207DilbertHoursPractice
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14MyClassDrawingsHands.  Oh, no!

But hands are just more of the same: shapes, shapes, shapes.

Easier said than done.

Of course, drawing hands is hard.  They’re so complicated!  Downright weird sometimes.

The tendency is to either overwork them or to just put down some scratchy lines and walk away from the challenge.

The challenge is to practice drawing the beasties so much that you get to the point where you can gracefully suggest the gesture of the hand without belaboring it.  Easier said…

HandsClasping

I brought in Xeroxed copies of these two hands clasping.  Turns out, you can put your non-drawing hand into the position of each of the two hands, more or less, and study the anatomy of your fingers to make sure you know what the photo is showing.

I did the demo, pointing out that you always draw from the general to the specific: draw shapes, not fingers. The fingernail should be faintly suggested, nothing more. Easier said…

One of the things I stress when we work from photos is that the drawing will not duplicate the photo.  The drawing “translates” the photo into its own visual language.  The students said that my drawing made the hands look more energetic than they are in the photo.  Yesss!!  Once you see that, you’re half way there.

Now all you have to do is practice.  Practice drawing hands!  A most rewarding way to spend an hour a day.  Think of it as a treat.  Instead of staying, now I’m going to sit down and practice drawing, say, woo-hoo, now I’m going to treat myself to an hour of drawing.

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We started the fall term with drapery.  I’ve talked about drawing drapery in many of these posts.  You can find these posts at

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/?s=drapery    and

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/?s=reflected+light

Because it’s easier to draw from a photo of drapery than from drapery itself, I’ll show the photos from our drapery class here for anyone who wants to practice.  And, you know practice is also a big theme in this blog.  Practice, practice, practice.

How much time should you spend in drawing this? Do not draw the whole. Break each photo up into sections, manageable passages.   Each of these four photos provides enough material for, say, five drawings, each 2-3 hours in length.

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Hands are considered hard.  So is playing the Moonlight Sonata.  You do have to practice the hard bits.  And then, when you’re working on drawing the figure, the head or the torso, getting the hand in there will be a delight.  Here are some classroom examples.  Notice how lively a page of studies of hands can be.  Just hands.  Love it!

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The National Geographic article (May 2012) called “The Common Hand,” starts like this:  “The hand is where the mind meets the world.  We humans use our hands to build fires and sew quilts, to steer airplanes, to write, dig, remove tumors, pull a rabbit out of a hat.  The human brain, with its open-ended creativity, may be the thing that makes our species unique.  But without hands, all the grand ideas we concoct would come to nothing but a very long to-do list.”

Hey, what about drawing!!!

I attended a lecture at the Fermi Lab in Batavia last Friday, called “Sleights of Mind.”  The researchers, Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde,  talked about how and why we are taken in by magic.  The brain, it turns out, cannot multi-task.  It can only focus on one thing at a time, which is why misdirection, the fundamental trick in sleight of hand, works.  Visual information is so complex for the brain to process that it takes 18% of the cerebral cortex to do the work, in the lump at the back called the Occipital Lobe.  Your eyes can only focus on one thing at a time, which is why we keep shifting our gaze if we want to take in a larger scene.  If we didn’t have to shift, i.e. if we could put our peripheral vision also into focus, the brain would have to be 500 times bigger than it is.

Seeing is a big deal:  hasn’t that been the thread through what I’m saying here!?

Just think, almost one fifth of your brain is about seeing.  And you’re telling me you don’t have time to refine your seeing…to practice drawing!!???

Master magician, Apollo Robbins, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjPVx4MNXoQ&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LBbmvXM0WY&feature=related

Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde,  “Sleights of Mind,”  2010

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On August 1, 1979 the Chicago Tribune printed a drawing by Picasso.  It filled more than half the page.  Picasso fans immediately identified it as representing Stravinsky, but they would have been in the minority and that’s not what matters.  What matters is that the drawing was upside down.

The caption read:  “Can’t draw? Try copying this upside-down drawing.  It’s one trick art teacher Betty Edwards uses to get students into the right-side brain mode.  Because the left hemisphere cannot process inverted information, the student is forced to draw what he sees, not what he thinks should be there.”

As she was doing a demo in her drawing class one day, Betty Edward, a fifty-one year old art teacher in California, had to admit that she couldn’t talk and draw at the same time.  Her dilemma had a physiological explanation:  the left hemisphere of the brain controls verbal skills and the right side of the brain does the visual work.  Since one has to dominate at any time, the two get into a conflict if you try to draw and verbalize what you’re doing at the same time.  In order to subdue the verbal side, she made her students practice upside-down drawing.  Within three months they could draw with astonishing skill and complexity.  The before and after examples she prints in her books are breathtaking.

Three months!! !  Upside-down drawing is the most valuable exercise you can do if you want to learn to draw.  Practice!   Practice daily.

See previous post for how to set up your drawing exercise.  Save your early work in a folder somewhere.  Three months later, pull it out, place it next to your accomplished drawing and remind yourself that learning to draw was easy.  Granted, it takes a rescheduling of your time, but an hour a day and two hours on Saturday or Sunday will do it.  Congratulations!  As Edwards says, if you can write your name and ride a bicycle (not at the same time) you have the necessary motor skills and hand-eye coordination it takes to draw.

In 1986, Edwards published “Drawing on the Artist Within.”  Both books are recommended for their insights and instructions.  But it’s not about quoting artists, dropping names and technical term, or knowing theory.  It don’t mean a thing unless you set time aside to practice.  Astonish yourself!  Get into the buzz of drawing.

To quote Edwards from the Tribune article:  “It can be a life-changing process in the sense that it’s not just learning to draw but learning to look at things differently, to see more.  Many of my students say that life seems richer, that they look at people differently, not  in the verbal way of naming—old, young, ugly, pretty—and dismissing, but that they stop and look at people’s faces and trees and plants.”

(I could not find the Tribune article by Connie Lauerman online.  More on Betty Edwares at    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Edwards)

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PROSOPAGNOSIA

“Virtually all patients with prosopagnosia…have lesions in the right visual-association cortex, in particular on the underside of the occipitotemporal cortex.  There is nearly always damage in a structure called the fusiform gyrus…” The face is a universe onto itself, it seems.  No, not “seems,”  but IS.  That’s what the quote from Olver Sachs is about.  (prosop =  face, agnosia =not knowing)   If the cluster of gray matter called your fusiform gyrus is malformed or damaged, you will not be able to recognize faces.  Not your mother’s,  not you child’s, not your own.  Nothing wrong with your eyes, you’ll be able to see the components of the face, the eye, the nose, the mouth, but you won’t be able to perceive them as a unit, as a face.  That’s like being able to see individual letters, but not being able to read the word.  According to Dr. Sachs, six to eight million Americans are afflicted with this handicap, himself included.  That’s one in fifty.

I walked down Michigan Ave yesterday afternoon and got a little depressed as I tried to imagine what life must be like for those—who were statistically in this stream of people coming towards me—who didn’t see faces, only disembodied noses, eyes, mouths, chins.  Can’t imagine it.  I’m a face person.  I’ll stand in line at a check out counter and have a ball looking at the faces around me. The clerk goofs and has to call for the manager and I still think her face is fascinating.  There’s a special thrill that comes from a brief glance at a face in a city crowd and then being able to trace it back to some ballroom or some company picnic.  I draw hundreds of people every year, very quickly, very intensely.  (See links below)  The likeness is there within the first few seconds.  This is possible only because I read the face at a glance, not one feature at a time, but as this special Gestalt called a “face.”  People who stand around and watch me draw sometimes talk about talent and how you have to be born with it.  I used to be irritated by that word, because I put in so many years of practice to get to the point where I could draw fast, but now I’m beginning to suspect that  “talent”  may be the same as “a super-wired fusiform gyrus.”  Whatever the initial disposition of the new-born’s  fusiform gyrus, neurologists like Dr. Sachs are sure that it can be developed.  As a drawing teacher I believe that.  By drawing the face, however badly at first and however fragmented, you stimulate your fusiform gyrus; you make it grow more neurons, you heat it up with more blood, you pump it up with more oxygen.  A neurologist I’m clearly not, but I can attest to the effects of practice.

I’ve actually used these weird words in my drawing class when we’re working on faces.  Studies conducted by neurologists at the University of Thübelein-Kotzenhaufen have shown that knowing the words will not help you draw, only practice will.

http://www.newyorker.com/go/outloud

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