Examining the skull – well, a kangaroo skull.

Having finished my printmaking course and whilst awaiting assessment I decided to join a class entitled Art Explorations.  The write-up was vague, the prerequisite was non-existent and I was assured that it is pretty much a ‘anything goes’ course.  So off I went for 3 hours yesterday.

Firstly, what a delightful tutor.  She explained that we are going to look at drawing, painting, collaging, cutting, folding, sculpting and whatever else we can think of each week as long as it includes paper.

Skull-1Lee (the tutor) loves skulls.  Apparently she has a collection from many different animals, and she was keen for us to draw one each.  I started by thinking this was a little macabre until she explained.

I was given a kangaroo skull (there was also a goat, a wallaby and a huge Brahman skull with horns).  All are a bleached white colour and her reasoning to use these for our first exercise is that we would be learning to draw a new way and she wanted to avoid our eyes becoming confused by colour.  With these items we could concentrate fully on the line work and shadows across the objects.

Now came the fun bit.  We took our HB pencil in our non-dominant hand, with our skull in front, and without looking at the paper at all (other than a quick sneak if you lifted the pencil off the sheet) we proceeded to draw.  She demonstrated how to hold a pencil, how to angle it and wiggle it around in a small area to create thicker or less direct lines.  The idea is to trust your hand – move your eyes over specific areas of the object very slowly and let your hand follow your progress.

Skull-2It’s very weird drawing with your non-dominant hand.  I don’t mean weird-hard, I mean weird-freeing.  It’s almost as though your head can’t think Oh, I’ve got to draw something properly and it needs to be as accurate as possible.  You instinctively know that there are no expectations because it’s obvious that the result won’t be great because you’re using your least skilled hand.  In my case, my brain spent the whole time concentrating on where my eyes were going and trying to convey that to my hand.  In fact, I forgot I was drawing a skull, I just worked on the next few centimetres coming up to be drawn.

OK, it’s a strange and wacky drawing but it can vaguely be recognised as a skull.  This was called an observational drawing

We then moved to our dominant hand to repeat the exercise.  I was immediately stumped.  Where should I start?  Do I do the whole outline first or work on one area in particular?  How do I make sure the proportions are correct?  (Aside:  What on earth was going on here?  What happened to the freedom I felt when using the non-dominant hand?)  Lee demonstrated and showed us how to do an analytical drawing by working out marker points and trying to draw to these.

Skull-3After a bit of trial and error (about 2 minutes in my case) I decided that doing the outline with the non-dominant hand was far easier and so I constantly swapped hands as I went along.
This second drawing is more accurate than the first but there is much less on the paper as I quickly became mired in the detail, and I want to get away from that.

Skull-4I moved to a new medium – liquid graphite.  I wet my paper and, using a large brush at first, I started drawing again.

With watery paper and liquid graphite there’s very little control unless you are careful where you initially brush water across the paper.  I wasn’t that careful and it ran all over the place – I think that was the point Lee was trying to make: it really doesn’t matter, just splash some stuff around and see what happens.

It was fun – strange but fun.  Lee has set me some exercises to do at home, things that I can’t control (as my brain always tries to do) and where I should get some very outlandish results.

Next week we are exploring the use of water-soluble pencils and the type of mark-making you can achieve with these.  I have several different types and have chosen my beautiful graphitint pencils to start with.


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Examining the skull – well, a kangaroo skull.

  1. Nola says:

    What fun! I’ve done similar exercises in drawing classes and they are very freeing. I can see how this would work so well for you right now!

  2. kath says:

    nice work. I’ve done some like this in drawing classes too. lots of fun and my non-dominant hand ones tend to turn out better as I slow down. great warm up exercises

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