” Choose a smallish object you know well…Position it on a table…close your eyes. Reach out for your object and feel it…make a record of what you feel on your sketchpad with your pencil…”
This is a fascinating project and I’ve enjoyed exploring another level of perception. I began with a preliminary drawing of a peg using touch to guide the pencil and then followed this with using a small jug as the object. As my touch went around the object, the pencil was following the same path. The inevitable happened and it was difficult to keep control of where the marks were happening on the page. I stayed with this object for a few more sketches and I really liked the interesting outline which happened on the page. However I soon realised that I was actually using touch to replace vision.
I wanted to explore an object which had no outline as such and so I took a sponge. The drawing now, done with eyes closed throughout, was recording the sensation of touch, translating the feel through different marks.
I then took this further and used pebbles from a morning walk. These were all different, some rough, some smooth, broken off bits etc. They were great to draw and small enough to hold in my hand as a I drew.
I wanted to explore the element of contrast with mark making and so I took a piece dry twig which was covered with lichen. The dry twig was rough to the touch in contrast to the lichen which I had to feel very carefully to prevent it breaking off. It was very fragile. To prevent the pencil wandering off the page I used a tiny piece of blue tack placed in the centre of the image on the paper and this allowed me to keep positioning the marks without opening my eyes to look at the image. In this image I was also using different strengths of pencil.
I wanted to experiment with different tools in this blind drawing and so a covered the paper surface with charcoal and drew the same twig using only a putty rubber. I didn’t use blue tack for this one and so the image wanders off the page again but I like this! I was excited by the marks made with the rubber when I wasn’t using sight. The feel of the different parts of the twig guided the mark making…sometimes lightly hardly touching the surface, sometimes very heavy digging into the paper. I used the flat of the rubber to create an indistinct, soft impression. I think this drawing is successful in presenting the feel of the object and far more interesting than the previous one.
I wanted to take the pebble and twig idea further and experiment with a number of objects to see what would happen. I used the blue tack to keep positioning the pencil and then took various pebbles and drew what I was feeling with my hand.
I’ve always been interested in Claude Heath’s drawing who made drawings from ‘touch’ and so for my last experiment I took three different coloured pens and experimented with drawing blind and feeling the different angles and shapes of a glass bottle. This was not at all easy! This and some of the other experiments made me think about the part which memory was playing in these drawings as well as the information coming from touch. When my eyes were closed I could actually ‘see’ the object I was touching.
I feel that this project has considerable potential still in terms of exploring the whole concept of ‘seeing’. What do I mean when I use that term? Seeing only with the eyes provides a limited vision if we confine the view to simply material discernment. The sense of touch which can excite memory brings in an emotional response which can take the object into another level of ‘seeing’. Added to this are the viewer’s levels of seeing. I can see how much information can revolve around a single image.