Saturday 6/9: Blind Contour Drawing of Rachel’s Fireplace

For this blind contour drawing session, I really wanted to focus on slowing down while remaining in a right-brained mindset. As I mentioned on Tuesday, it’s hard for me to shut down the left side of my brain without doing something right-brained in a fast, challenging way that demands all of my attention.

My subject was the fireplace in my best friend’s new home. Rachel and John have arranged an interesting array of objects there already, and I hadn’t examined it closely enough to know exactly what everything was. There was no chance of my drawing the masked, skirted statue symbolically, because I thought it was an abstract sculpture while I was drawing it. If I thought about it at all, I thought it was a lion.

I got out a #6 pencil and my sketchbook and set a timer for 20 minutes of drawing. I went slowly, trying to get every edge I could see. The softness of the pencil lead and the roughness of my sketchpad helped quite a bit. The paper slowed me down, but the pencil I used made it seem smooth and relatively effortless.

I didn’t get very deeply into a right-brained state of mind. I could find words for what I was doing, and even managed to successfully answer a question Rachel asked from the other room. I thought more about what the things I drew were instead of what I was seeing, and I fretted about the fact that I didn’t manage to include the picture within the frame—I made a couple of attempts, but found myself going past it.

You can very nearly tell that it’s a fireplace.

I think I’m one of those people who finds it easier to practice a skill at the bleeding edge of her ability. I find it easier to get through a long sprint than a leisurely jog, and I’m quite a bit more precise when working through a complicated problem based on the Solow growth model than I am when I’m calculating a tip. When I played music regularly, I’d make simpler songs harder (as in this discussion of deliberate practice in order to play them better. This method has its drawbacks—if you only practice skills this way, it’s very easy to wind up good at fancy tricks but weak on fundamentals, like a kid who practices spinning the ball on her finger instead of free throws and layups…not that I ever did that.

It took me a while to realize that slowing down while trying to remain in right-brain mode actually is the bleeding edge of my visual thinking ability. It’s something I’ve never been all that successful at, but being able to think in a right-brained way at a normal speed is something that I think would serve me very well. I won’t be able to integrate right-brained visual thinking into my life as a whole unless I can do it in a more sustained and sustainable way. If I have to always prepare an environment that will lull the left hemisphere of my brain into submission and move quickly once it’s calmed down,


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