Thursday 5/31: Revisions and My Slant on Things

I came in early to get a bit more extra work in today, and as soon as I came in, I confirmed what I had been trying not to let myself see on Wednesday: I’ve been drawing the chair tilted and entirely too wide. I knew that the day would come when I’d have to correct it. I think that the crick in my neck from sitting on planes for 10 hours on Tuesday may account for the tilt (though my loved ones reading this may assert that I’ve always seen things a bit crooked), but the proportions are just a problem arising from having trouble putting the 3D image I see into two dimensions.

Professor Ruby and I discussed my options for correcting the drawing at the beginning of class. I could make the drawing taller, make it narrower, or change both dimensions. Since my drawing was already about as tall as the page, the first option was out. We measured out a few parts of the chair, and determined that adjusting both dimensions somewhat was going to be my best bet. I set to work erasing and re-drawing. I finally got the proportions to a point where I liked them, but in the process I made the tilt somewhat worse. I was, at least, consistent in the way that I’d drawn the chair tilted—and I am so very tempted to agree with Professor Ruby that it gives the chair personality and this sort of consistent error is “why God invented Photoshop,” but correcting it has been an important learning experience for me.

In the past, I’ve discarded drawings and started over rather than correcting them. I’m starting to see why this is a bad approach. First off, being able to see the history of my drawing (as Professor Ruby puts it) helps me retain the things that were good, if imperfect, about earlier attempts. Yes, I could look at my old drawing when starting a fresh one, but it’s not the same. Making corrections can teach you more about a process than just doing the same thing repeatedly—I think the most important part of learning how to cook, for example, is learning how to fix a mistake. You can counterbalance too much spiciness in a dish by adding an acid in the same way that you can fix one proportion in a drawing by comparing it to another.

Also, the practice of making corrections in a drawing does put the emphasis on “perfection as a result of practice,” as Professor Ruby said. That phrase reminded me of this blog post by Cal Newport, who is a computer science professor at Georgetown University. Newport is a modern advocate of the sort of Aristotelian striving for self-improvement and moderated perfection that I mentioned in my first post. He uses the example of Steve Jobs’s obsession with the visual details on early Macs to illustrate the point that we can use perfectionism to focus on deliberately improving skills without driving ourselves crazy.

I think I’ve erased every line in this drawing three times, and I appreciate that the vine charcoal allows me to see the history of the drawing. (I’d washed my hands two minutes before the photo below. I eventually got my own gum eraser out of my bag, since I’d been hogging the one that the class had been sharing so much.) I’m lucky in that I’m looking at the chair head-on—the angles are very simple, at least. Though, I did wind up getting a yard stick out because I’d confused myself so thoroughly as to what a horizontal line looks like. I think it’s good that I’ll be getting a break from this project. It’s getting closer to looking like the actual chair, but I’ve still got a few revisions left in me.

I’m looking forward to seeing how much my drawing will evolve next week.

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