Hand Drawing Number One
Posted 12th January 2006
This is the first in a new series, twenty drawings of hands.
So far I'm taking a slightly different approach with these hand drawings, compared to the self-portrait drawings. I'm not doing any measuring, no grids and no viewfinders. For this drawing I started with the crook between the thumb and the top side of the hand, drawing the negative shape between them first and then following the outline round until the edges joined again at the end of the thumb.
Initial laying out was done very lightly with a B pencil, then restated more strongly and with closer observation to the detail with a 3B, following the contour of the edge as closely as I could. I find it much easier to concentrate on that once the overall shape is roughed in. Tonal shading was done with a 6B.
Now it has to be said, I'm not drawing exactly what I see here. It became obvious to me when I was doing the self portrait drawings that drawing is different from painting in terms of recording what I see as faithfully as possible, mainly because of the way the edges of objects are defined in drawing.
With painting, an edge between one object and another can be described by colour, so the edge is obvious even when the tones are very close. Not so drawing. The only way to show an edge shared by two similarly toned objects is to draw the line of the edge, even though the line isn't really there as it appears in the drawing. It seems to me that drawing is much more a kind of codifying of reality than a faithful representation. In most cultures that I can think of, right back to the earliest known cave paintings, edges in drawing have always been defined by lines, but I suspect that this works because of convention - we know that when a drawing contains a line, it can be the edge of an object or an edge shared by two objects. The edge of an object doesn't exist exactly as it's represented in the drawing, but because convention allows us to see a line on paper as the edge of an object, it works in practice.
This reflects a point of view I've been coming round to more as this project progresses, that the foundation of the approach I'm using, to see correctly and to record faithfully what I see, is basically flawed. That doesn't mean its useless, it isn't. Or that I'm going to abandon it, I'm not. But I'm having to be pragmatic and to back off a little from applying it too strictly.
I guess the approach is changing a little and becoming something more like: seeing the subject as accurately as possible, then finding a way to represent it as convincingly as possible within the conventions that we are used to using and the limits of the technique and materials. I can live with that if it gets me where I want to go.