Friday, January 15, 2010

15. Sketching

The Idea: Part of seeing clearly is the ability to discern edges. When vision is blurred, one might not be able to tell the definite shape of something, or exactly where one object begins and another ends. By paying attention to edges, we can teach ourselves to better define what we see.

How To:
Step 1: Use the tip of your nose to trace the edges of things, (some people find it helpful to imagine that there is an incredibly long pencil extending from the tip of the nose).
Step 2: Move your head and eyes as you Sketch the edges of things near to you or far away, moving gracefully from object to object where their various edges intersect.
Step 3: As you practice this Sketching, notice the finer details of various objects—the leaves on a tree, the grain of a wooden floorboard, the inner and outer rims of a water glass, the eyelets and laces and stitching on a pair of shoes, etc. Sketch these objects' interior edges, as well as exterior.
Step 4: As with all exercises and vision habits, breathe deeply, relaxing the face, neck and shoulders.

What's Going On: By Sketching and noticing edges, the brain becomes interested in them and helps the eyes to sharpen the vision, thus reducing blur. Over time, you can Sketch objects with incredibly subtle movements of the head and eyes (as many people from non-western, less myopic cultures tend to do1). By Sketching regularly as an eye exercise, the eyes begin to do this naturally.

More Info:
1Thomas R. Quackenbush mentions the tendencies for most westerners to lock their necks whereas people in non-western countries tend to be more expressive in their head movements. See Quackenbus, Thomas R. Relearning to See. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1997. This book also has a big section on Sketching.

The drawing above is by Philadelphia artist Jason Hsu and can be used as part of a Sketching exercise. I once saw Jason work on a single-line drawing—where he put his pen on a giant piece of paper and drew a picture without lifting the pen from the page—for 24 hours straight.

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