Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Shocking State of Neglect: Harold Speed 4

Sketch after Mary Cassatt

This post is a brief summary and highlights from chapter 3, entitled Vision, in Harold Speed's Practice and Science of Drawing. You can find all of the posts here.

"If so early the sense of vision is neglected and relegated to be the handmaiden of other senses, it is no wonder that the average adult is in such a shocking state of neglect." 
--Harold Speed

Speed demonstrates that the sense a child consults when they first draw the face is touch - not sight. This is why they draw outlines around things that do not have outlines in real life. I'm not going to retrace his argument, but he makes a convincing one - it's true what we first draw has very little in common with how we actually see.

From here he concludes that there are 2 ways to "see":
  • mental perception - derived from our sense of touch (outlines, where our hand would travel)
  • visual perception - arrangement of colors on the retina (vision as a mosaic of color)
These give 2 different ways to approach representing the visible on paper (drawing):
  • line drawing (mental perception)
  • mass drawing (visual perception)
"The visual blindness of the majority of people is greatly to be deplored, as nature is ever offering them on their retina, even in the meanest slum, a music of colour and form that is a constant source of pleasure to those who can see it."
-- Harold Speed

"It is the privilege of the artist to show how wonderful and beautiful is all this music of colour and form, so that people, having been moved by it in his work, may be encouraged to see the same beauty in the things around them."
-- Harold Speed

Finally, I just wanted to say thank you to those of you who have taken the time to send an email or leave a comment to let me know that you are enjoying this series. It is very encouraging to hear - I appreciate it.

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