“I’m drawing, you know, 50 pencils in each hand. And I draw over rice or beans. My mother used to watch me draw and she’d just shake her head and walk away, wondering what the hell I was doing.” –Dale Chihuly, Glass artist
I was looking through a book of Dale Chihuly’s glass art, which includes his drawings. As always, I am attracted to sketches and writing– even when I am in a museum or gallery. If there is a sketch next to a painting or sculpture, that is where I go. I love seeing the process that leads us to our "final project"– whether it is glass or paint or sculpture or weaving. It is often more alive and transparent than the final project. To have this quality of transparency not be lost in my paintings is something I strive for. It requires the willingness to play all the way through– having no designated outcome.
Drawing (or writing) with both hands is a way to play, to get out of your head. It takes you to parts of your brain that generally remain dormant. All you need is pencils and paper. Here is what I did this morning, holding two chunks of graphite– one in each hand. I was looking at a bowl of cherries. It is blind contour– so I was looking at the fruit with both hands moving at the same time, not at my paper. It is too confusing to watch your hands anyway. It is fascinating to me that the alternate hand will automatically mirror the dominate hand. You can see this clearly in my writing the word “cherries”, also without looking. (It only takes a moment to try writing your name while holding a pencil in each hand, part of the key is to not lift your pencil– try it!)
Once I finished the drawing above, I added some shading– and at this point, I looked at my paper and back at the cherries to see the light and dark places.
I also tried drawing the cherries moving a pencil in each hand (as opposed to a big chunk of graphite). My blind contour drawings are not always recognizable, but with practice, you can cultivate touch– which is as important as the visual for drawing.
There is that line from William Stafford's poem You and Art:
Later, you find your way by touch,
where moss redeems the stone;
and you discover where music begins
Try this practice as a way of warming up, or playing– no one needs to see it, it is not about what it looks like– but rather the gratification of finding our hands through touch.