Reactive Craft

I’m taking an art class. Wednesday’s session involved studying a photo of a Jeff Koons sculpture, and working to capture its various shades of white and gray with black and white paint. After class, we had lined up our pictures and were talking about how the class had gone, how we felt about the materials, etc. Our instructor Jay Bailey said something that really struck me — that drawing is a reactive craft. You look at the subject, and you make a mark, and then you compare the mark to the model and see if it’s right, if you need to adjust, if you need to move it, or darken it, or what.

After thinking about it a little while, I realized that it’s precisely the passage of the attention back and forth between the mark and the model, comparing and adjusting, that makes drawing so soothing and engaging for me. It’s like a mantra, or a hypnotist’s pendulum – repeating that swinging of my focus, back and forth, back… and…. forth… and it puts me into a special, non-verbal but highly creative headspace. It’s what Betty Edwards calls “R-mode” – when you present the brain with a task that the analytical and linguistic “Left Brain” with a task that simply can’t be handled with the tools it has, it shuts down and relinquishes control to the creative, spatial, visual “Right Brain” side.

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