Learning To Trust Your Eyes

Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees. –Rumi

The most difficult part of learning how to draw is trusting your eyes. When most people start to draw, they let their brains trick them into not believing their eyes. The realism in art comes by way of illusions. Because the surface we are working on is flat, we have to use optical illusions to make it feel like three-dimensional space.

Here are the topics we’ll be discussing:

Optical Illusions: Space And Perspective

Exercise 1: Blind Contour

 

Optical Illusions: Space And Perspective

Lets take a look at some famous paintings for example:

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day, oil on canvas, 1877

Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877, oil on canvas

Theres a lot going on in this picture that may confuse a beginning artist. The key question to ask ourselves is how did the artist create this vast sense of space and perspective? As objects and figures recede in space, as they move further into the background, they get smaller. Given the size and the placement of the figures we read them not as physically smaller than the larger figures in the foreground, but rather as further behind those figures in the scene. See how they look when theyre all lined up together:

PeopleSizes_Caillebotte

On the left hand side are the people furthest away from us in the painting. And theyre teeny tiny! Next is the man walking across the street—hes about three times their size. The man third from the left is the focal point in the painting and again 2-3 times the size of the last man. On the right hand side is the man closest to us in the painting and the largest of the four. 

The same is true of architecture. As buildings move further into the scene, they get smaller and smaller, creating a path for the eye to wander down and into the world depicted by the artist.

Canaletto, Venice—Grand Canal, oil on canvas, 1738

Canaletto, Venice—Grand Canal, 1738, oil on canvas

Watch this 35-second video from Will Kemp Art School about the perspective in the above picture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mHxhlP1W_g

To learn to trust our eyes and not our brains (tricky devils!) we are going to do a blind contour drawing. A blind contour drawing has you drawing an object without looking at your paper or lifting your hand off the paper as you draw. 

Watch our Beginner’s School artist Sarah Ammons do a 2 minute 30 second blind contour drawing of a teapot, teacup, and lemon:

 

 

 

You can use any object to do a blind contour drawing with. I like using hands because theyre complicated enough to make you really pay attention and because theyre always around!

I just did one myself to show you how silly it will look no matter what your skill level is!

My left hand--the model

My left hand–the model

My blind contour

My blind contour

 

Exercise One: Make A Blind Contour Drawing.

Get your sketchbook and a pencil. Sit someplace comfortable with your sketchbook on your lap or a table. Hold one hand out in front of you (whichever one youre not drawing with) and keep it in one position. If you don’t have a hand available to draw, try a foot. Now, WITHOUT LOOKING AT YOUR PAPER start drawing your hand/foot. Dont lift your pencil off the paper—draw in one continuous line. Trace the lines of your hand or foot inside and out—dont just draw the outline of your hand but link your hand with your eye and get all the little wrinkles and freckles and fingernails/toenails too. DONT PEEK AT YOUR PAPER UNTIL YOU ARE FINISHED!

This exercise is not about getting a perfect drawing, so dont even think about that while youre doing the blind contour. This exercise is about not thinking but letting your eyes and hand talk directly to each other without your brain interfering. Trust your eyes and look—really lookat your hand. Go as slow as you need to so as not to break your concentration.

When you’re finished, share your blind contour drawing with us! Send us a photo of your work along with any tips or thoughts on this exercise using our submission form. We may share it on our blog or in the Student Gallery!

 

 

Key Lesson Learnings: You have learned how the use of perspective creates a feeling of space. A blind contour drawing is a useful exercise to allow your eyes and hands to work directly together.

 

Next lesson: Value And Gesture

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