Risk, Surprise, Uncertainty

Drawing the Dark

Today was the first day of a class in “Faces in Watercolor.”  Again the focus is on the shadows, the darks, and not, at first, the light.  (This was in contrast to a session earlier this year which focused on “Drawing the Light.”)  It is about finding those shades of difference.  Much easier said than done, this process is a powerful demonstration of how much we really do not see.

The class is so full that people and easels are crammed together. Frankly, in this congestion, it’s amazing we can see anything, but it works somehow. Everyone is extremely motivated (as ever, in courses with no “credit”)–and talent shines out in all corners of the room, even though we are focused on shadows.

Demand is quite high apparently, in these digital times, for something that art, and maybe only art, can provide.  In addition, the teacher has an excellent reputation, which probably is the main reason the class is so full!

portrait test 1

Illustration: Pencil and watercolor by Black Elephant Blog author

Of what possible use is this? It probably doesn’t matter. Is art ever really “useful” in a modern sense of valuing what we can measure? What is useful is a can opener when you need it.  Art is valuable for expanding our ability to think by first perceiving more sensitively.  It is hard to quantify the value of this, but it probably would make a difference on a larger stage.

But here with an individual sitting in front of us on a small platform, it is surprisingly hard to get it right–even with all the eyes in the room.  The tests of thinking and seeing are formidable.  Again, we were told:  keep your eyes on the model, not the paper!  Do not let your hand leave the paper.  There is something about seeing and then drawing that requires keeping too much thinking out of it. And, there were as many vastly different images of the model as there were people in the class. No two drawings were alike! Looking forward to the next session!

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2 thoughts on “Drawing the Dark

  1. Irving Mintzer says:

    “The tests of seeing and thinking are formidable.” This simple sentence describes so powerfully the challenge we face in a world of persistent uncertainty and profound complexity. As those of us engaged in policy and intelligence struggle to make sense of the cross-currents and contradictions that sweep across our world like waves following an undersea earthquake, we must constantly struggle to open our eyes and sense gradations in the over-lying darkness. Only the open sharing of our vision with others — and the testing of our insight with and against theirs — can provide us any real “ground truth” for the maps we draw of this new and unfamiliar territory.

    Liked by 1 person

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