You don’t need to look at the drop of water on your car roof, you’ve seen it a million times. But if you had to draw it, at least without looking at it, you’d have a hard time. We know what things look like in a general way, but the specifics will do us in. That’s what makes being an artist fun. We look at things in different ways. As artists we have certain expectations of water drops–we assume the light comes from above, so the highlights in a drop are around the curved part on top. So far, so good.
Except the image I chose to draw from was a second generation photocopy of a drop of water on metal. No color, just values and they had been distorted by the photocopy machine. The highlight was on one side, and the drop was probably not originally water, as it had a sharper profile than water. I struggled with making the drop look round. It looked flat and lifeless.
Drawing was made more difficult not just because I didn’t have what I needed, but because to recognize a drop of water, I have to include certain things that make it recognizable–shape, reflection, color.
” The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes,” Marcel Proust wrote. And new eyes consist mostly of observation. How does this thing look in this light. What, exactly is it that makes the eye think it is round and wet.
And after a while, it emerged, looking as it should. Not because I was born talented. I was not. But because I used my eyes in new ways to see a new perspective.
–Image: “Drip,” © Quinn McDonald, colored pencil on110-lb. Bristol Board. All rights reserved.
--Quinn McDonald is writing a book on the inner critic and the inner heroes we develop to confront it.