Sometimes I feel the pencil moving on my skin

What is it to know an object (the skull)

I investigated the skull by carrying out 36 drawings of a replica.  The skull was set up on a base so that the face of the skull it is at the same angle as the face of a person standing upright (rather than the usual method of putting a skull down so that it is propped between the back of the skull and the corner of the jawbone e.g. per most Vanitas paintings).  The Skull was set up in the centre of a circle with markings at 10 degree intervals and a drawing made at each setting (hence 36 drawings).  The first drawing was made with the skull facing to my left.  Thirteen of the drawings are shown above.

The purpose of the study was to draw an object from all viewpoints (rather than selected viewpoints) as an exercise in looking whilst paying attention to looking/seeing/knowing and the distinctions between them.  The drawings were made on a scroll with a grid so at any point only part of the previous drawing and the current drawing could be seen.  The only criteria were that each drawing fit within its box, no attempt was made to match the style or size of each drawing so that the they could be responsive to mood (mine), ambience (temperature, noise), ability to concentrate and whatever else might affect the result.

Firstly, though I have no difficulty recognising a skull or in reading back from what I see to my own or any other face, the complexity of the surfaces and the physicality of this object became increasingly absorbing as the rotations went on.  I think this can be seen in the changes in the drawings as they rotate away from us and back round to the front and then to the left again.  Some days it was as if the drawings wanted to be small even if I didn't want them to be small and it was a fight to prevent them getting smaller and smaller.  Other days all my previous drawing experience, all the techniques I have ever learnt were like second nature.  On other days still it was as if my hand belonged to someone else.

What I did not expect was the days when I was drawing on my own skull.  Yes, I was moving my pencil on the paper as if I was moving my pencil across the surface/edge/ridge I was looking at.  I did not expect to feel the pencil on my own skin as I did this.  

Copyright © Andrea Arnold 2021

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