Some croquis from this week. I’ve tried to use less messy lines, to draw with a purpose instead. Maybe exaggerate the forms a bit more rather than go easy on everything. As soon as the model takes a pose I try to create a mini narrative around her. I see her as a gangster boss, a mother waiting for her child, someone sitting by the sea watching the ocean. It’s easier this way, to try to set her into some kind of meaning and setting. I look at the model for a couple of seconds, trying to see and feel the forms, plan my lines before I start. I do this even when I only got 60 seconds to draw her. I look, I see a story, I try to feel the forms and then I start drawing her hips or spine. My process has changed quite a lot since I started attending model drawing lessons this year.
Inner mental representations
When I first started studying the human body and drawing it, I usually started with the head, then making plenty of messy lines, kinda guessing where the other body parts should be. This is natural since humans focus most of their attention to other humans faces (heads) and hands. By looking at these we get clues to what others around us think and feel. This is good from an evolutionary standpoint as we are social creatures.
When starting to draw croquis I didn’t look enough at the model, instead I sketched what I believed the human body looked like. There’s a huge difference! Your brain works like this; to be able to quickly recognize and identify all zillions objects around you from all possible and impossible points of view your brain makes inner mental pictures of what objects look like. These inner representations are not necessarily correct, but they are quick to index and search. We all have millions of inner visual representations of objects: our visual library. The human brain is by far the best object identificator known to man. Better than any computer. Exactly how this happens inside the brain is not know, but when you draw you need to hax this system, and this is hard. You need to rewire your brain in a way (if you were born with a “normal” brain just like me).
To explain what I’m trying to say I’ve put together this awesome image. Try googeling for “cat”. You will find thousands of pictures of cats, shots from all different angles you can think of (and some you believe to be impossible). But still, in some way your brain is able to identify the object as a “cat”! This is awesome! Your inner representation of a cat is almost like an simplified, average version of all cats you’ve ever seen. Another way to understand this is to ask people to quickly name a tool or a color. Surprisingly many people will answer “hammer” or “blue/red”. This is because many of us make a “hammer” the inner representation for the category “tools”. Depending on your culture and your heritage these inner mental representations will of course differ.
So, where am I going with all this cognitive psychology? When you draw you need to see the object in front of you, and not just look at it, but to see it, almost feel it. You need look beyond your inner models of what a cat or the human body looks like. You need to see what’s in front of you and then to draw or paint it like it really is. You will be surprised how hard this is (takes years of practice)! I’m still struggling and learning abut this. I make the best life drawings or still life studies when I’m stressed as fuck and don’t have time to think, or when I’m in flow. Both of those states have in common that they make you think less. When you think less you don’t go check with your inner representations every five seconds, you just draw the model as she is, in front of you. You see reality as it really is, which makes a great artist!
Some people have special brains with Aspbergers or other “disorders” that makes them perceive reality in a different way than most of us. These people sometimes make the most wonderful art or novels because their brains don’t sort or make inner representations like a “normal” brain does. This is both a blessing and a curse for those affected of course. The only “special” about my own brain is that it suffers from dyslexia. I have used it as an advantage for my drawing. When all the other kids at school wrote stories in text I painted my stories or made comics since I was struggling with spelling and grammar. I drew my day in my diary instead of writing about it, as a child. I’m pretty sure this gave me a head start with drawing and helped develop my visual abilities early on. Happy for that!
To finish things off, here’s my mental representation of an owl!