Tuesday, February 15, 2011

THOUGHTS: Sense of Touch

OK, first post. Gotta make it good.

Lately I’ve been reading my way through Harold Speed’s book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials (which, by the way, is the most awesome book ever). One interesting point that he makes is that vision as a sense is a much less important than touch is in how we understand objects and the things around us.

Take a wooden box, example. If you’d never seen a box, touching it would give you the best idea of what a box is like. It’s square, and that’s not going to change. On the other hand, when you just look at a box, everything depends on the angle, distance, and so on. So mentally, we tend to categorize objects by how they feel rather than how they would actually look, which is why when people are not trained to draw, they generally draw what’s in front of them in a very diagrammatic way. They’re drawing the touch-based diagram in their mind rather than the visual plane they see.

Also according to Speed, Ancient Egyptian art is a prime example of touch being more dominant as a sense than the others. Egyptian art is mostly concerned with outline, which directly relates to touch, since it equates to the border that you can feel. This also explains the diagrammatic nature of Egyptian art.
Greek and other ancient art is also outline-based (think pottery). It took a long time for other elements of drawing and painting to be fully understood.

More thoughts…
  • My instructor mentioned in my écorché class (anatomical sculpture) that the reason toddlers are always putting things in their mouths is because the lips have a lot of sensation.
  • When I think about it, I have an unbearable urge to touch things if I’ve never encountered them before. New textures, shapes, all of that. I hadn’t really noticed before, though.
  • I think the importance of touch is why sculpture was such an early art form.


    1 comment:

    1. Congrats on your first post!
      Thanks for sharing your ideas with us