Drawing and the process of looking

Claude Heath, Venus of Willendorf (detail), 1995

Drawing and looking are inextricably linked but just as there is more than one way to draw there is more that one way to look. If the aim is to get as close as possible to recording what something looks like, a camera will generally do a better job but drawing can bring something extra to the equation. It might be about making a representation that’s more expressive, or one that offers multiple viewpoints simultaneously or a version of how something feels for instance.

Our first approach when trying to draw is often to start with an outline of whatever we’re looking at. When we look at the world we don’t see it as outlines but when we look to draw we bring an instinctive determination to make sense of what we understand of the separate elements in the three-dimensional scene on a two-dimensional plane. But of course, though this might be a typical starting point, there are many different approaches.

Claude Heath’s explores different ways of looking in relation to drawing such as looking at the subject but not at the paper (as in the image below) and ‘looking’ at the subject my touch, tracing a line over the surface of his subject (as in Venus of Willendorf above).

Claude Heath at work

Others chose to look in different ways. Using his eye tracker, Jochem Hendricks draws by recording his eye movements, showing just how much our eyes flit about even when trying to trace the outline of what we’re looking at.

Jochem Hendricks, Hand (left eye / right eye), from Eye Drawings, 1992-3

Neither Hendricks nor Heath produce drawings that come close to what we might initially expect of figurative drawing, but each brings something unexpected and fascinating to the transaction between eye and paper.

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