Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Keep Your Writing Back

My attempts to learn how to draw hands are bearing fruit. Here's an early attempt (from around Christmas):

And here are a few more recent drawings:

One important thing I've noticed is that my feelings about the drawing change over time. Normally, the picture gets better simply by putting it away for awhile. Also, whether or not it felt easy says very little about how successful the drawing is. Even a painfully mechanical session can produce a perfectly good hand, though, like I say, this is often something I can only recognize a few hours later. The following drawing, for example, was quite difficult to produce:

Needless to say, I learned a great deal from making it.

Oliver Senior, whose book, How to Draw Hands, I'm reading to support my efforts, says it is important to "keep your drawing back". By this he means that if you are drawing a human figure, you should not draw any particular part of it first, and especially last, but gradually bring out the whole image. Never commit yourself to a shoulder, or nose, or knee, before you are sure it's in the right place relative to every other part of the figure. I've discovered this to be true also in the case of drawing a hand by itself. The place you put a joint or a knuckle at first may not be the place it belongs in the end.

In the case of writing, the same thing is true. "Composition" is the process of putting all the parts of your text together in a harmonious way. You throw out a few lines in the introduction, then you trace the rough outline of your theory, then you say some basic things about your method, then your results, etc. You never "stick" the results or the method on at the end. (Just as you never stick the head or hands on a drawing at the end.) Each part works or does not work in relation to the other parts of the text.

I can't find the book right now, but Senior says something about the better drawing never being the one that's the most elaborate, but the one that's "better informed". I'll find the passage and post an update later today.

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