Saturday, November 14, 2009

Secret Keys to Drawing: Directionality, Intersection, and Constellation

Yesterday's Art-Toon Doodle Experiments using directionality and intersection were inspired by the book "Drawing as a Sacred Activity" by Heather C. Williams.

Art students soon learn that marks--lines, dashes, and dots--can be used to represent forms. The main principle embodied in the line is directionality. Lines can be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. Lines can be gently curved, wildly wavy, jaggedly crooked, or smoothly straight. Lines can change direction gradually or abruptly. Lines can be continuous or dashed. Lines can be thick, thin, long or short. They can be aggressively dark or hesitantly light. A line changes character depending on whether the hand moves slowly, precisely across the surface--or rapidly and loosely. But, according to Heather C. Williams, the most important question to ask is, "Which direction overlaps the other?"

What is rarely spoken of is the place where lines meet, the place of intersection. This is the relationship of one line to another within the field of space. The intersection is the place where one line stops because another line crosses its path. In the representation of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface, what we need to remember is that one line is always going behind another. As Williams says in her book "Drawing as a Sacred Activity," "Visual information about the form is anchored in the intersection." She then reveals a masterful secret about the visual key to drawing. She says this key to drawing cannot be found in art instruction manuals. It was revealed in a dream to Jan Valentin Saether, with whom she lived and apprenticed. If he had not paid attention to his dream and if he had not shared this dream with Williams, she would not have been able to teach this method to others. In his dream he saw little glyphs, like the letter Ayin in Hebrew. I find it deliciously satisfying to know that the letter-word meaning for Ayin is eye or fountain.

After teaching her students to look for this "y-shaped glyph," she encourages them to take it one step further, and to look for the larger pattern itself, the constellation of several y-shaped intersections seen all at once.

Quotes from "Drawing as a Sacred Activity"

p. 43: "The over-lapping direction on the paper corresponds precisely with the object standing in front of the other thing, whatever it is."

Or in other words:

p. 43: "...the direction on your paper that ends when it intersects the other direction corresponds precisely with the object that visually goes behind the other one."