I'm often asked "how did you draw that?" Which is a hard question to answer. How many people really entertain the question seriously? "How do I draw anything" is a logical extension of the first question. My answer often consists in telling the inquirer to move their hand in a way that mimics the way their eye moves about the contours of the object being drawn. In Drawing our hands are being invited by our eyes to participate in the practice of looking.
One can't underestimate repetition and practice and their importance to developing skill in drawing. As we encounter something as familiar and plentiful as autumn leaves, we realize that we don't actually understand them as well as we first thought. I mean here a bodily understanding, not merely mental. Their shape is familiar and easily distinguished among other plant forms, but lacking in us is a visceral understanding these objects. With many everyday objects, we've not yet mobilized our hands to the service of our seeing. We take note of a leaf's biological function and color but fail to take into account how these structures shape their space. Only through the practice of looking are we able to develop a visceral vision. We see to understand and by bringing our bodies to a greater extent into the act of looking we are able to understand on a level inexpressible.
Drawing requires a process of action revision: I have to look, inform my muscles, re-look, compare the mark to the sight, re-rehearse the movement, compare and repeat as I develop an image on paper. In time the arm and hand remember and to an increasingly greater extent the torso. One has to be free to employ the whole body if necessary. The body remembers, which is just as essential to drawing as memory, traditionally conceived. As a new world of sights is engaged through drawing, which is a sort of conversation between the artist and subject, a vocabulary is developed. This vocabulary can be used again in the future and serves as an entry point into other art and future drawings. An exploration of the contours and pigmentation of Maple leaves informs an engagement with Oak, like learning Spanish informs and facilitates learning the Italian language. We gain a familiarity with novelty that opens up possibility for visual exploration. For instance an exercise in non-figurative, abstract painting, makes a Jackson Pollock accessible in ways not known to those who haven't tried the "language." We come to see more deeply in virtue of a symbiosis of senses.
So, I am able to draw by letting my hands and eyes be informed by the object and conformed to its nature.
(I am indebted to James K.A. Smith for his insights on the importance of embodiment)
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.