What do I see?

This week, I picked up a copy of Bert Dodson’s “Keys to Drawing” from the library. From what I’ve read so far, it could equally be “Keys to Life”! I copied this quote from the first chapter into the front of my journal:

Our goal in drawing from observations is to capture the richness and variety of visual experience. We should draw, for the time being at least, as if we know nothing, and were obedient only to what our eye tells us to draw. This is the key to natural, life-like drawing

He talks about the conflict between seeing versus “knowing” – so the temptation is to draw not what you are actually seeing, but what you think it ought to look like – a tree, a hand, an apple. To me, this conflict isn’t just something that applies to drawing. For instance, how often do we really see somebody? We say “I see you…your’re a policeman/ a small child/ a homeless person/ my sister/ a teacher/ fill in the blank”…and sometimes the label we apply, this knowledge, is what prevents us from really seeing the other person.

In “Keys to Drawing”, Dodson says of the drawing process:

The one simple rule to follow is: at each point of frustration or confusion, ask yourself, “What do I see?”

Not what do I think I see. Not what do I know I see. But – what do I see? I think I might make myself some reminder cards to carry around with me, with WHAT DO I SEE? writ large. What do you think?

Anyway, enough of the philosophising, on with the drawing. I tackled the first two exercises in the book. Project 1-A was to make a drawing of your own crossed feet:


And Project 1-B to make a drawing of your own hand from the unusual end-view of the fingertips:


I was quite inspired by this last exercise, and think I might tackle drawing some other stuff from unusual viewpoints.

So, that was me getting my art on on day 13!

30 Days of Get Your Ar On
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12 thoughts on “What do I see?

  1. violetski says:

    Lovely post! Specially about “what do I see”
    Really the best key for drawing😃

  2. Jane A says:

    Great that you have the book! and are enjoying the words and the exercises. I have found them really helpful. Hope you continue to enjoy them – lovely drawings.

  3. Mary Walker says:

    I’ve heard many good things about Dodson I have drawing from imagination that I’ve yet to start. Your feet and hands look good. You should try drawing toes sometime, I drew my big toe once it’s annoying trying to see little details with something that is forcibly distanced from your eyes.

  4. cathy holtom says:

    Interesting post, great sketches!

  5. Thanks for sharing the info from the book and your drawings. Good work.

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