The first thing I ask people to do when they come to my life drawing lessons is to draw without looking at the paper. At first they are shocked, then they start to laugh. When they start drawing, they look quite relaxed – and yet they concentrate 100%. When they look at their drawings, they always laugh. They laugh even more when I set them the next task – to draw with their non dominant hand, not looking at the paper. But they do it, and they concentrate even more, without feeling stressed. Then I ask them to draw the model with their dominant hand, and they are allowed to look at the paper 30% of the time. About half the class usually tell me that they prefer the first two drawings.
Why do I do this? Because we are all inhibited when we draw. We wonder what other people are going to think. No matter how experienced we are, we worry that we are not going to perform well enough. And our dominant hand gets into habits, just as we develop habits in the way we see things. Our non dominant hand hasn’t been allowed to develop habits, as it isn’t in such automatic communication with our brain as the other hand is. We have to ‘tame’ it to behave, and sometimes it rebels. And if we aren’t looking at the paper, our brain isn’t criticising every mark we make. We are allowed to follow our eyes with our hand, rather than being forced to follow our brain and produce what it considers to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.
The two 3 minute drawings above are my own. The one on the left was made with my non dominant hand, without looking at the paper except for one glance that made me move my pen to what seemed a more accurate position. That’s why the model appears to have two left arms. The one on the right was done in the same way with my dominant hand. This time he seems to have two different back positions.
The media I choose also influence the way I draw. These are some of the pens I use:
The three drawings below were all done with my non dominant hand, looking at the paper 30% of the time. I’m most pleased with the drawing at the bottom, which was made with a calligraphic pen that has a thicker line then the other pen I was using, an Officeworks water soluble pen. In the last drawing I think I have caught the model’s rugged character, getting away from the smooth flowing lines that I tend to use for female models. My non dominant hand refused to conform to the flowing style that I had taught my left hand, and gave me a delightful surprise.
These three drawings were all done with my left hand, my dominant hand. The first one, a 20 minute drawing, was done with the Officeworks pen, the second (5 minutes) and third (10 minutes) were made with a fountain pen filled with Ecoline sepia ink, a water soluble ink. In the last drawing I had time to soften some of the lines with a wet brush. You can see my ‘flowing style’ in the ones done with a fountain pen, while the spidery quality of the Officeworks pen seems to suit the model’s more angular figure.
Some of these drawings will form part of the exhibition ’30 Days of Drawing’, which will be held throughout September 2018 at the Lobethal Woollen Mill, as part of the global ‘Big Draw’ festival. The theme is ‘play’. That is what drawing is all about for me, whether there is a serious purpose to it or not: in the same way that we picked up a pencil and scribbled when we were infants, drawing should take us into another world that is far from the tribulations and competitive demands of everyday living. If we don’t enjoy drawing, we are not dedicating ourselves enough to it – our minds are elsewhere.
Over the next few weeks I will be posting a report on my progress over 30 days. You can also see my posts on Instagram.