Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blind Contour Drawing: Learning How to See

In my sketching class, we have had to do several blind contour drawings. This is a basic assignment designed to help one’s eye/hand coordination. Blind contour drawing is accomplished by tracing the outlines of a subject without looking at one’s paper. After sketching ten or more garlic cloves without achieving any satisfactory results, I was frustrated. I knew I could have drawn decent-looking vegetables if I had been able to see.

My homework assignment reminded me of a book I had read several years ago. There was a quote by a famous artist inside the front cover. I have since forgotten the artist’s name as well as the exact wording of the quote. It was something to the effect of, “In order to draw an apple, you must look at the apple as if it were first one you had ever seen.” I mused over this quote as I sat staring at my finished garlic sketches. Obviously, they were not proportionate or even aesthetic. The sketches looked like “impressions” of garlic. However, I had discovered the garlic in a new way. I had realized details about the garlic that I never would have noticed otherwise. When we started sketching statues yesterday, I tried recapturing that new vision and sketch according to sight and not to preconceived conceptions.

Living in Roma is like creating blind contour drawings. Suddenly (or so it seems), I am on a new continent and learning a new language, culture, and lifestyle. I am learning all the basics, outlining the subject. Later on, I can start filling in the contours with shading and details.

Besides this metaphorical and metaphysical musing, I have been keeping busy with other activities. I went on a tour to St. Peter's Basilica last night with my theology class. I learned a lot about all the individual altars and mosaics within the Basilica. There are only two frescos inside all of St. Peter's. The rest of the images are all mosaics! What I love about the Catholic religion is all the symbolism and imagery. St. Peter’s is overflowing with artwork and sacred relics. It is really a storehouse of spiritual and aesthetic wealth. Quite overwhelming, but heartily enjoyable. Afterwards, my friend Amy and I bought gelato, an amazingly addictive habit. I had hazelnut, bacci, and nutella flavored gelato. It was awesome!

Anyways, I must run along and do a little homework. This is after all, study abroad. Not sketch, eat gelato, philosophize and write abroad. Or so they say.

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