Stroke of Insight

In going through drawings from the last few classes, I’m struck by how diminished they seem after some time away from them. In the process of seeing the model and putting something down on paper, my mind convinces itself that what comes out is a reasonable approximation, but in the absence of the source impression, these versions are drained of some life.

Of course, these are not meant to be fine drawings. Rather, they are samples from a continuous process of learning, and it’s encouraging when I can look at the drawings and confirm that I’m making some progress.

On this particular night, I felt that I gained some clarity regarding the instructor’s emphasis on drawing with the side of the pencil. Holding the pencil lightly, almost parallel to the paper’s surface, with four fingers on top and a thumb underneath, allows one rotate the wrist and arm to make a mark in almost any direction. Given this freedom of movement, strokes can be oriented to the surface being rendered as as if one is feeling the hand move over the three dimensional surfaces of the body.

Additionally, using this grip to produce a broad stroke from the flat side of the pencil while bearing down on the tip slightly gives strokes a hard edge on one side and a soft edge on the other — replicating the way light and shadow reveal a curved surface in a single stroke.

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