Corban Wilkin: Illustrator


Drawing Consciously and Subconsciously
May 18, 2018, 21:03
Filed under: drawing, drawing theory, illustrations, sketchbook | Tags: , , , ,

life drawing april-may 2018

Can you learn new things unconsciously?

Skills like riding a bicycle aren’t really skills until you can perform them subconsciously. No-one can ride a bike well if they have to think consciously about the movement of each arm and each leg, and consciously keep balance and so on. You’re not really riding until you’re doing it without thinking about it.

I’ve been doing a lot of life drawing recently, and I’ve started to notice a distinct pattern in the quality of my drawing.

Here’s how it goes: sometimes I tell myself to buckle down and really concentrate on executing a careful, tightly-observed drawing, taking note of as much as possible, and relating as many areas to as many other areas as I can. What usually happens when I do this is that I do some interesting bits of drawing; some novel local observations, but I do not do a good drawing, which is to say, a good, whole drawing; the parts do not hang together into something harmonious.

Usually the drawings I produce when I focus very consciously in this way make me frustrated because they end up being ugly to look at and I can see how unsuccessful they are at capturing the person I’m drawing, so after a few of these perceived failures I tend to stop focusing and relax into drawing very quickly; more quickly than I can think; letting my hand take over from my brain; drawing subconsciously. Almost invariably when I do this, I end up producing quite nice, harmonious drawings and it gives me a lot of pleasure to do. Additionally, it takes little energy; indeed, I often end up invigorated after drawing this way; I feel full of energy, as though I could draw all night.

So what’s the problem? Just draw subconsciously, right? By delegating responsibility to my hand, my subconscious understanding of drawing takes over and makes things easy. But I started to think about this, and it occurred to me to ask: how did I gain that subconscious ability to draw? Because I didn’t always have it. Surely it must have been through the struggle of drawing consciously, and so paying attention to things very closely and actively and, through long, difficult work, committing the knowledge that I picked up consciously to my subconscious.

It makes me wonder: when I draw in this nice, very enjoyable, subconscious way, am I learning anything? Or do I only learn new things and improve my drawing by doing the difficult thing of being fully-aware and drawing consciously? And isn’t life-drawing, when you’re trying to learn rather than create your best, illustrative work, the time to do that?

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