First Drawing, First Language
Art is our first written language. Drawing is communication and recording. Children do this instinctively. They draw pictures and when you ask them what it is, they tell the whole story. They are recording their world and their view of it. Mommy, daddy, kitty going to grandma’s. They illustrate their lives effortlessly. Their drawings record their observations of the world.
When we are children we put down our recordings of the world according to us. But is it real? Depends on your definition of real. To the child, yes. It really is amazing how alike children’s drawings can be. Their “realistic” symbols of humanity are universally recognized. We all understand the rendering of lollipop people. These rendering are a step up from most first efforts, of tadpole people, all heads with little wiggly things hanging off the bottom that represents the rest of the body
Facial Recognition and Drawing
All of this shows how important to humans is facial recognition. The face is so important that for the first maybe 3 years that is just about all children really observe of their families.
We are hardwired to recognize and respond to other human faces, and in the animals that we tend to cherish, we often “see” something human in their expression or faces. That is why our first drawings of people are often simply heads. While we know bodies are attached, most of us remain rather vague in our understanding of this. Just think back to your first full figure drawings and you will have to agree with this! How often have we got going on a drawing and had to stop to wonder just how is the shoulder attached? Where is the elbow, I know they have to have hips, etc.
Focus on the Face
Our focus on the face is, I believe one of the reasons we have such difficulties getting both facial and body proportions correct. We all tend to make our figures a bit top-heavy. We are still putting mental emphasis on the head and face.
Even with our drawing of the head, we tend to over draw the facial features and under draw the rest of the head. Leave some room for the brains people!
Still, we first recognize people by their faces more than any other body part. We have all seen those game shows where men were asked to pick out their wives by just their legs, or some other body part, and we all laughed when most could not do it. Just the reason why so often the rag mags get away with pasting Celebes heads on other bodies in Photoshop.
The Link Between The Symbol And The Meaning
The link between the symbol and meaning, that ability to make that connection is what makes written communication possible. They way we assign meaning to a learned symbol. This same learned response however, can be a stumbling lock to learning to draw well and accurately.
These learned symbols are shortcuts that speed up our drawing, in the brains attempt to change drawing into writing. The very speed of these learned response engender sabotage any advancement in drawing and art. This leads to the frustration that causes so many to abandon art in their pre-teen years, with the idea that “they have no talent”
Drawing is more than talent
Drawing is not about talent, but skill learned and applied. A certain gift is helpful. But what is really needed is desire and a willing to unlearn what one thinks they know. When we are learning to draw we need to fight this mental shorthand and learn to refocus on what we really see. We have to see the real shape of things.