Thursday, 27 September 2012

Drawing a Straight Line

Three dimensional spatial awareness and its translation onto a flat plane were two key issues that sat at the core of several visual learning experiences that were set up as part of the foundation drawing programme. One apparently simple experience that was set up was to perceptually draw a straight line. Students were asked to place themselves in relation to a found horizontal; for example a particular floorboard that they could easily see the full length of. They would check that at the centre of their vision it was at right angles to them, by using a pencil or a plumb-line to verify that it was so. In the centre of their paper they would mark a short line horizontally representing this initial measurement; then a vertical would be carefully drawn through it representing the checking measure (the pencil or plumb-line).  Students would then be asked to check how far away this point was and mark its position in chalk as a short vertical cutting at right angles across the floorboard. Essentially this would be represented as a small cross in the centre of their drawing paper. They would then return to the easel and mark their own position and a sight line mark was established on the edge of their drawing board that allowed them to re-sight by lining up two points, which they were to do whenever they went away and returned to the drawing.
Students were then asked to look along the line of the floorboard and find a new point and measure the angle against the plumb. They would then be asked to use chalk to again make a line across the floorboard that would sit vertically to their plumb when they returned to the drawing position. Of course the angle had now changed, but where to place this next perceptual reading? The plumb would still be vertical so they were allowed to set down a vertical mark; the new perceived angle would be measured off against the pencil or plumb by sight and then recorded and placed in accordance with the perceived distance from the drawer. Pieces of string were available, so that students could measure how far away this second point was. For instance the initial right-angled point might be 10 feet away and this next point 15 feet away, so that not only had the angle now changed but the perceived distance was a further 5 feet back.  The mark quality as well as the positioning needed adjusting until the drawing recreated the experience. This would then continue, more and more points being measured and checked, the drawings slowly revealing that what they were actually drawing was their own curve of vision.
One simple demonstration was used to help convince students that they were never actually able to see a straight line. A long straight rod was taken into the room, this would be raised up over the back of a student’s head and they would be asked to stare ahead but not to focus. The rod would be very slowly moved forward over their head and the student told to say stop the moment it entered the edge of their field of vision. For most students this was the moment of eureka, the rod would appear in its perceptual bent actuality as they had no other points of visual reference for it. The point being that their minds were telling them things were straight, even though their actual experience of the world was that of a being at the centre of two circles of vision.
This was a key experience for students to have had if they were to fully understand the way to approach ‘giron’ and ‘fess-point’ drawings.

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