One of the principal conclusions from VISION V [of our continued study of Graham Collier's Form, Space & Vision, published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in 1963. ] is that a preoccupation with the technical difficulties of drawing or painting stifles the creative spontaneity that we associate with vision in art. Creative spontaneity is closely related to the developing process. Both are aspects of the visual imagination. The difference between them is simply one of time. Creative spontaneity refers to the immediate impulse to draw, to the first drawing, which sets the artist working and the sequence of images in motion: something he sees involves his imagination sufficiently for him to draw it and thus invest it with significance. The developing process, on the other hand, signifies the further development of this first drawing, step by step. As a sequence of events, creative spontaneity comes first, followed by the developing process, which is a building on to the graphic image, rather than the result of an immediate perception of the object.
Young children about the age of five or six are not concerned with technical problems of representation and they have no self-conscious worries about whether others will understand or approve their drawing. The result has an urgent and vital quality because it is an immediate expression, stemming directly from the child’s feelings and ideas about the object or the experience.
The purpose of the exercise in this chapter is to increase your capacity for creative spontaneity by producing the conditions under which an immediate and unself-conscious response to an object or an experience can be made, a response or expression through drawing uninhibited by the technical problems of an academic approach.
When we look at an object, we see not only its outward appearance but also its personal significance, and in that, we are using imagination. A drawing that is the immediate response to an object usually manages to combine the observed and the imaginative aspects of the object in a single, urgent expression; such a drawing possesses creative spontaneity.
An imaginative understanding, accompanied by strong feeling is the nature of vision for the artist. He would tend to see the stick in the grass, for example, as a snake rather than as a club.
The head is very significant, expressive of all the qualities we associate with humankind—dignity, nobility, beauty and so on. Drawing the head is often given as an exercise in drawing skill, and the result is frequently academic, lifeless, and the very opposite of what we call “creative spontaneity.” This experiment shows how drawing the head can be transformed into a spontaneous and creative experience.
THE EXPERIMENT: the head is a subtle structure of bony protuberances, planes, curves and holes. One must observe the head as a whole, realizing that it needs the other eye to pull it into its context. The novice draws everything he sees separately, and the head becomes a lifeless mask, a collection of parts.
In the last exercise, the three high points of the head—through which all the surfaces, planes and curves move and which are the structural bases for the form—are the chin, cheekbone and forehead. Using the contour line, it was impossible to be sidetracked by all the details of the face: the eye sat simply in its hollow socket, the nose was a projecting plane, and the mouth fitted into the contour line’s organization of the surface of the face.
Similarly, the inked surface of the glass plate does not allow preoccupation with individual features. The ink dries fairly rapidly, and one cannot see very much of what is happening on the plate, so there is no stopping to make constant comparisons with the model, and no worrying because the drawing doesn’t “look right.”
Drawing the head on the glass plate demands an immediate reaction to the object. What goes down there is a ‘first seen’ quality—the result of the immediate impulse to draw—without fussy drawing of representational details.
Start by wiping off the ink to give the high point of the cheekbone, and then do the same for the chin and the forehead, allowing the highly fluid quality of the medium in its own freedom of movement. Work rapidly, taking a look at the head and then moving directly into the ink: scrape, brush, scratch and wipe.
There is a minimum of detail and an emphasis on the broad masses of light and ark, or rather, the high points and the depressions. The forehead, cheekbone and chin dominate the drawings. The eyes sit in their inky sockets, and where the artist has felt the need for some linear definition, a sharp tool has drawn for a moment in the ink.
The print of the head emerges bold in form and vital, and convincing as a drawing. It is full of life and drama. In fact, observation and imagination have simultaneously produced a drawing of creative spontaneity. When you study your print, think of the pencil drawing you might have made with this head.