The Pen, the Page and the Black, Black Ink

Saturday, 18th December 2004
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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figureI'm drawing a figure with hat and trailing scarf as he breezes into the library. Obligingly he goes into freeze frame for a few seconds and I have just enough time to sketch in the details of the pose while still getting that sense of movement.

If only that would happen when I'm drawing in real life! I am, of course, dreaming. I'm familiar with the experience of stepping out of time when I'm drawing and the strange blind contour exercises that I completed yesterday have probably resulted in such things stirring in my subconscious. In the dream I was interested in what effect this might have on my subject so I asked the man, who I took to be an author (but who, come to think of it resembled the time-travelling character Dr Who) :

'What was it like for you when you put yourself into freeze frame? Were you aware of time passing?'

He smiled, thought about it for a moment, and said that, yes, come to think of it, he had been aware of it too.

NASA/JPL image of Io.Another World

You know what it's like when you go into a subject; you live, breathe, eat and sleep it. I recently heard Dr. Carolyn Porco, Imaging Team Leader on the Cassini-Huygens mission, say that giving your life to a subject - in her case to the study of other worlds like Io and Titan - is like being in love; you want to know absolutely everything you can discover about the person you've fallen in love with.

drink meI'm probably taking living, breathing and sleeping drawing a bit too far: in a further episode of my dream I was packing up my sketching stuff and checking the black ink cartridges for my art pen. One of them looked rather empty so, just to make sure there was some ink in there, I put it to my lips and took a small swig.

Please don't try this at home! I had a feeling that my tongue would be as black, as if I'd been eating blackcurrants. When I told Barbara about my dream she said she was getting very worried about me.

Living, breathing, eating sleeping; that's fine. Drinking? That's taking my pen and ink work too far!

If all the world were paper . . .

crumpled paper

My Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain exercise for today is to draw a crumpled piece of paper. As with yesterday's drawings this is a blind contour: I'm not allowed to look at my drawing as I work on it.

It's tough going and I manage just 40 minutes of the full hour's drawing I'm aiming at.

'Do not skip these drawings,' Betty Edwards urges her students, 'They are necessary for you to fully experience the cognitive shift so that the R-mode state becomes familiar and pleasurable.'

As I'm drawing the folds of the paper, millimetre, by millimetre, as she suggests, I feel as if I'm an alpinist exploring a snowy mountain range, working my way along ridges and down into deep crevasses.

I think the final drawing looks like peaks in a snowfield seen from the air, or like the chaos at the snout of a glacier. But it's just a sheet newsprint that came as packing with a Christmas gift we ordered.

If all the World were paper,
And all the seas were ink,
And all the trees were bread and cheese
What would we have to drink?

Traditional rhyme; a country dance, If All the World were Paper, appears in John Playford's, The English Dancing Master, 1651 Next Page

Related Link

Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan.

And, if you've got a moment, check out the 'this day last year' link below: I'd forgotten that this little incident took place a year ago today.

Richard Bell,

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