Try standing inside a public place for a while and just listen. Try listening to a conversation. Then listen for the sounds of objects that are moved or dropped. Listen to see if you can hear a clock ticking in the background, the hum of the lights in the room, the air conditioner, or something outside. Of course all of these things were making noise before you chose to listen for them, but the moment you consciously began to listen you became more aware of sound. You were hearing, but you may not have been actively listening. Then, as you listened to the conversation, the ticking clock, or noise outside, you were able to focus selectively on them. You were listening for different things. We can’t be aware of all things at all times but we can shift our attention and change the types of things of which we are aware.
Seeing is no different. We can have our eyes open but not be in a state where we are actively seeing. Likewise we can choose to focus on particular things or a particular range of things. Learning to draw is less about hand skills and more about actively seeing, or choosing what to see and what range of relationships to be aware of. The ability to shift one’s perceptual focus is a valuable asset in drawing and painting. Furthermore, drawing requires translating those relationships onto a 2-dimensional plane surface in the form points, lines, shapes, textures, value, and color.
Below is a list of 5 basic drawing approaches that are closely connected with a set of perceptual skills. We will be discussing these approaches throughout the course. In each approach the artist is primarily actively searching for and manipulating specific visual relationships:
(1) Evaluation of 2-Dimensional Linear Relationships: Primarily concerned with horizontal, vertical, and diagonal relationships between points, including relative measurements and proportion.
(2) Intuitive Linear Gesture: Primarily concerned with interrelated rhythmic movements and paths of action.
(3) Linear Perspective: Primarily concerned with conceptual aspects of three-dimensional forms as they recede in depth along lines of convergence.
(4) Mass Drawing: Primarily concerned with general shapes and thinking in terms of the area that something takes up in our field of vision or on the picture plane, as well as visualizing the negative spaces that surround them.
(5) Tonal Drawing: Primarily concerned with contrasts in value and how changes in light suggest changes in form.
A common way to handle a complex problem with varied parts and relationships is to break it down in to discrete manageable parts. By isolating these components of drawing, over time you can develop your ability to recognize these relationships and develop your perceptual skills. Through continual practice you will soon easily shift from one mode of seeing to the next in a way that is intuitive, fluid, and natural.
In future posts, we will discuss these modes in more depth as well as related drawing techniques that help to develop perceptual skills.