As a student of Charles H. Cecil’s, one of the directions you would regularly hear was to stand back a “heroic distance.” In my mind, along with the command, I see Charles walking forward towards the student’s setup and at the same time swinging his arm back behind him. That gesture was meant to push the student back while Charles pointed out something on their artwork or on the model.
Seeing. We all do it, but we can do better.
Sight-Size is predicated on a desire to accurately draw what you see. Then, once your eye is trained to objectively see, you can make intentional, intelligent, and artistic choices about deviating from your source. These articles are all about seeing.
Having a picture plane which is not perpendicular to your line of sight causes size issues. Fortunately, most ateliers that teach Sight-Size make sure that their students set up their easels vertically, with the picture plane perpendicular to the floor and to their line of sight. But what happens when you draw on a drawing board which is titled?
Have you noticed that the longer you work on a drawing the more difficult it is to see your errors? There are many reasons for this, from your eye tiring of the scene to cognitive dissonance. Whatever the reasons, we all need help in order to see our errors. To that end, R. H. Ives Gammell thought it essential to have a fresh guy with fresh eye.
As was his habit, when Philip Hale left his classroom he declared, “Beware of the bed bug line!” The classroom in question was the cast drawing room at Boston’s Museum School. The warning was meant to assure that his students never forgot to pay attention to the line which defines the division between the world of light and shade.
Since the publication of An Accurate Eye I have received numerous requests for additional exercise materials. To fill the need I have created a supplemental ebook. To access it for free, you will of course need to have first purchased a copy of An Accurate Eye.
One of my private students once told me of an experience that he had which showed him how much our sight is influenced by what we know. During one of his classes at university, his professor explained how our perceptions are susceptible to prior knowledge. He proved that what we intellectually learn can influence what we see (or think we see).
Explaining the issues with piecemeal seeing to a student is sometimes difficult because our eyes are so trained to look at specifics – the can’t see the forest for the trees mentality. Unfortunately, when we see piecemeal we oftentimes forget that the visual aspect of the parts is always affected by the whole.
What happens when we squint? Most atelier students know the answer, or at least part of it. With this article I hope to open everyone’s eyes a little and to perhaps shed some light on the value of squinting.
Much of the activity that takes place when learning to draw is centered on developing an accurate eye. In fact, when a teacher critiques a student’s work, he or she is essentially looking for inaccuracies. Over the last few articles I have outlined some specifics, relative to what a student can do to improve their visual accuracy, and in this article I’m going to layout an overall plan.
Intervals are the spaces between points. An accurate eye correctly sees not only singular points and intervals, but ever larger groups of them. Therefore, as you improve your eye’s accuracy for specifics, you should also seek to increase your ability to accurately see in larger segments.
Few skills are learned in bulk. They are learned one step at a time. Take learning to play the piano for example. We all know that budding pianists spend countless hours practicing scales. Why is it any different for learning how to draw?
There is a natural tendency when learning Sight-Size to measure first. But if you do this, you are drastically limiting your opportunity to train your eye to see. A better way is to habituate yourself to the guess and check.
You Can Draw With Confidence!
And you can begin today!
You can learn cast drawing in Sight-Size at home!
Learning how to accurately see, as well as draw, is best done through cast drawing in Sight-Size. Ateliers exist worldwide to help you do that. But what if you cannot attend an atelier? Or, perhaps you're already in an atelier and would like to supplement that training? I can help.