Drawing blind by touch (in time)

Posted on Jan 13, 2014

This experiment follows some reading and drawing I did in Linz, thinking about Ernst van Alphen on Armando’s drawings, Derrida on blindness and Glyn Maxwell on the white of the page (here are some notes from November 27).


Each of the images opposite was drawn with eyes closed, observing the object by holding it in my hand as I drew. It’s a kiwi fruit twelve times. (A while ago in an article somewhere I found the sentence the vestigial wings of the kiwi are almost completely hidden.)

This process of ‘drawing from touch’ came up again last week when The Drawing Room announced Claude Heath’s forthcoming workshop Drawing Making – Making Drawing with the following words:

“In describing the process of deciding to make a series of drawings by touching objects while wearing a blindfold, and simultaneously making marks in response to felt sensations, artist Claude Heath noted, ‘The issue was how I was to draw without being compromised by anything that I might have already known about these objects’. In drawing from touch, Heath is able to lose the labels of language, and can avoid relapsing into drawing what he knows the visual qualities of an object to be, making unpredictable and unorthodox marks in response to haptic sensations.”

For the most part, any unorthadox features of my kiwi drawings result from my not being able to see where the tip of my pencil is in relation to the page, and hence in relation to the parts of the drawing already down on paper. I always drew clockwise beginning from the tuft of fur on the left, but I wasn’t very good at getting the outline to join up when I got back to the tuft. I tried to observe the kiwi carefully with my left hand as I drew with my right, manoeuvring my palm and thumb and fingers around its surface both to gauge the surface detail and to plot its size by the length of time it took my thumb to move all the way around its lateral circumference. I was aiming to move my thumb at a steady speed so that the time it took would work as a measuring device I could carry across to my drawing hand in real time. Time was relevant to this process of drawing in a way that it usually is not. As you can see from the images, more often than not the timing was out, presumably because either the thumb or the drawing hand didn’t maintain a steady pace around the oblong shape. Nevertheless it was satisfying, and quite novel, to try to match up the movement of one hand against the other, with one breathing the object in and the other breathing it out.

After each drawing I took a gulp of sight to press my fingertip into a jar of water, located the drawing on the page then applied the wetness to the charcoaly pencil lines with eyes shut. The paper turned out to be too light to take the water — you can see how it’s buckled — but they serve as a good experiment all the same.