Drawing is Seeing

Do we purposely close our eyes to the wonder around us?  Try staring at an object for an extended period of time and your vision fades.  We can’t look at a color very long until our eyes are over exposed and we need to close them or look at something else to give them a rest so that we can begin to see those colors again.  If we look at one color long enough it will be imprinted on our eyes until we’ve had a chance to recover, like the blinding flash of a friend’s camera.  We also can’t see everything around us since we only have two eyes and they both face forward.   We have limited vision and we can’t look at any one thing for very long.  So we stop looking.  Or to put it another way we look at so many things we don’t see any one thing.


Drawing focuses our attention on one thing.  We look at the subject and really look.  We stop and notice certain parts, certain intricacies we’ve never noticed before and we wonder.  We compare  what we think we see to what we know and sometimes what we know changes as a result.  Drawing well is a very slow experience and it takes a great deal of practice but it teaches us to really see.

The artist isn’t a copy machine.  After the lengthy conversation between eye and hand something else is revealed, a different interpretation of the subject.  A gardener develops intimate knowledge of her plants not so that she can leave them untamed but so that she can harness their wild beauty and strength and reign them in to the splendor of a bound garden.  A gardener frames a bit of nature and sets it apart from the rest as a place of encounter.  In the same way an artist studies nature and then rearranges her.  An artist binds a bit of vision to a point and sets it apart from all the other looking.  What will we encounter when we see it?


P.S. One thing you may see in the above drawing is an excellent opportunity for a kids’ coloring sheet.  If so, enjoy!

Coloring Sheets

Today while flipping through my mother’s traveling pictures in facebook the kids asked if I could make them coloring sheets of a few.  Here are the results:




This one is my 5 year old boy’s choice – a leaf bug on a basil plant.  The girls chose a butterfly with flowers:





Blueberries drop the delicate bell of their flower to reveal a tiny star.  If I didn’t know they were flowers I hardly think I could call them that, more like balloons.  Tiny and firm as buttons the petal-less flower remains.  Watching strawberries has taught me to expect the fruit to burst out of the center of the blossom, but this small stamp will remain on the front of each.  Round blue bellies pregnant with the seeds of life and kissed with a star.


On Saturday I tried my hand at photographing puppies for the first time.  Their breeder asked if I could photograph all six puppies together.  This proved impossible but I did manage to get some fantastic individual shots as well as some of five puppies together.  Before they arrived I had researched a little bit and knew that often pet photographers have their subjects play for a while before they try to get some good shots.  In this way the animals get some energy out and get used to the camera.  This was not the best solution for the puppies.  After a one hour car ride to my house they were only still for the first few moments out of the crate.  After the initial disorientation of being in a new place they were scattered about my fenced in yard exploring everything.  Nothing – not even treats or a bowl of water – could lure all of the puppies into one place at one time!   Here’s one of my favorite individual shots:


Anatomical Drawing

Sunday I had my first anatomical drawing class at The Art League in Alexandria.  It is going to be fantastic!  The instructor, Athanasios Papapostolou, first had us draw the model in several positions without any instruction so that he could observe our approach to drawing.  It was a little nerve wracking and since I only registered for the course on Saturday I didn’t bring any of the proper materials.  Thankfully the kind lady next to me lent me some paper and I used my own pencils instead of charcoal.  Here are my first attempts:


Kind of blah – I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing but I tried to use the sight size method.  Next we took a bit of a break (thank goodness because my arm was killing me!) and then he spent some time explaining terms.  The most fascinating part for me was when he stood a skeleton next to the model and pointed out certain points in the bone structure that then cause shadows on the model.  I began to see things that I had never noticed before which is exactly what I have always found so exhilarating about drawing.  After the instruction we finished by drawing four poses side by side.  I had learned before about the “ideal figure” being eight heads high but not that it is helpful to portray a figure as eight heads high in order to overcome optical illusions.  You can see the figures below look much less squatty and blah: