VISION V: seeing through your model

Imaginative drawing from the model unites the three stages of the creative process:  perception vision and imaginative expression.  It requites acute observation of an object, going beyond an awareness of its external appearance; this demands perception.  It also suggests certain ideas about the object that will provoke an imaginative attitude; this involves vision.  Through drawing, the object is transformed into a significant and expressive graphic image; here form is given to vision.


So says Graham Collier in his modern art study Form, Space & Vision, published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in 1963.

Since the model will be an object of volume and mass, the contour line could be used to reveal the underlying structure of the form.  Also, the object has a complex surface organization composed of planes and curved surfaces, points of thrust and surface tensions similar to FORM V.  It is this dramatic quality of its surface that gives the object some of the power tat is its vitality and its fascination.

The object of this experiment is the human head.  Late medieval writers often referred to the seven deadly sins of mankind:  pride, avarice, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth.  [Why not concentrate on the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  There is no law against these things!]  Select one of these and let your imagination build up a facial image of it.  As you draw from the model, try to adapt the natural form of the head to express your feelings toward the particular characteristic you have chosen, and portray your mental image of it.  Your drawing should be meaningful as form (this is where the observation is necessary,) and expressive of the sin (this is the imaginative element.)

THE EXPERIMENT:  A formally posed model is not necessary.  Ask someone near you to hold his head in profile for a minute or so while you observe the structural elements of the head.  Explore with your eye the movement of the planes and curved surfaces as they move over high points into valleys and along the ridges.  More than likely you will find your eyes returning to one point, through which all the rhythms of movement seem to pass:  the cheekbone, the highpoint where the bone of the skull pushes hard against the skin of the face.  It reflects light and is a point of strong thrust that creates a surface tension on the skin stretched tightly over it.


The two main thrust points on the profile are the chin and the out-jutting frontal bone of the forehead above the eyebrow.  The structure of the profile is organized around these three points of the skull.  Recalling the analogy in Form V to illustrate the proposition that surface planes and curves tend to be organized around a thrust force—the analogy of the cloth over the vertical pole—you will realize that the same thing is happening here over the surface of the face.  If we carry this analogy further, we can compare the profile to a tent where the canvas is pulled tight around holes in the ground.  Where the canvas pulls against a pole, it changes its plane or direction.  The form of the tent is determined by the positions of the poles; although they are not visible, you perceive they are there because of the surface tension of the canvas at the places where its surface changes direction.  Our perception of the face and head works is similar to this.  From the surface tension of the skin and the change in surface direction, we learn something about the bony skull we cannot see.  The eyes are in sockets or holes, while the rest of the profile is high ground or valley.


We are going beyond appearances to a perception of the true structure of the head.  Once significant aspect of this experiment is the use of the contour line.  There is no dominant edge to the head; instead, the plane and curve just disappear beyond the line of sight, because no outline of the profile was drawn in the first place.  The drawing was not started at the ‘edge,’ but was commenced within the form, at its most projecting point, the high point of the cheekbone.

Using the revolving contour line, draw the projection of the cheekbone with the same technique you used to make the holes and projections of the wood form in FORM II.  Now work out from this high point, allowing the pen or pencil to move rhythmically and to describe the planes and curved surfaces surrounding the cheekbone.  Suggest the angle and direction of each plane, and notice the rhythmic link these surfaces have with the chin and with the forehead.  Each plane and curve can be seen, felt and drawn as a separate contour region, yet all seem to revolve through and around the thrust points of the cheek, chin and forehead.  Like the canvas of a tent, the movements of the skin indicate the structure beneath.  It is possible to draw this head without drawing an outline of any kind.  As the line moves out from the cheekbone, exploring the various planes and curves, it stops automatically at the limits of the profile.  In this way the mass of the head is realized through the drawing.


Conclusions:  the creative process in the visual arts must integrate several seemingly independent factors.  The first of these is sight itself, the process of observation.  Second comes perception, by which observation produces meaningful knowledge of the thing seen.  Third is vision, through which this meaningful knowledge releases a whole range of imaginative ideas and mental imagery, accompanied by intensified feeling.  Finally, the means of expression—line, form and color, disposed in space—without which the preceding stages are naught.


Only when technique is not a conscious problem can the artist really work creatively.  One of the values of using the contour line to express structure is that it enables the artist to depict volume and form by second nature, without thinking much about it.  He is free to express his attitude, to know himself through drawing.



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