Page 5 of 9
Previous page
Home page

the hand implements

We attached a movement sensor to Humphrey¹s pencil to measure the hand in conjunction with the eye. We could then follow the making of a 12 minute portrait, Luke 2, from beginning to end.

The Luke 2 drawing and the hand movements which created it: all movements of the pencil within 1cm of the paper are shown in black. 
The hand was making many more movements near the paper than were required just to draw the lines. 

During the 12 minute drawing of Luke 2, Humphrey fixated the model about 150 times and paused his hand near his lap 11 times

Clues about the purpose of the extra hand movements were found when carefully examining the data for the drawing of Nick's lips in the 5 hour portrait.

Humphrey often practised each line, with the pencil just off the paper, before drawing it. These repetitive movements of the eye and the hand, each apparently informing the other, often lasted for 10 or 20 cycles.

Humphrey: In all my work I¹m after precision, and I think detail is precision... Detail means where the line lands, and if it lands a millimetre to the right or a millimetre to the left, it changes the weight, in some way, of the shape that it is describing. So when that line lands, you just want it to land in the right position, whatever that is!

Mostly the eye followed closely the hand's movements, but the exceptions were of interest: systematically, the eye fixated the model as the hand approached the paper after a pause, and occasionally, while the hand was practising, the eye glanced back at the model, presumably when the painter needed to refresh his memory.
The hand could also move in less obvious ways. After line B (above), work on the lips was interrupted and the hand went to the picture's nearly completed right eye (expanded graph 1). There it traced the iris over and over again, closely followed by the eye, but never actually touching the paper (expanded graph 2).

John: In the 5 hour drawing, there seems to be more thinking ­ about whether that's it, or to continue, or to erase... With the 12 minute drawing ­ it looks as if you¹re mainly capturing and laying down.

Humphrey: Each line is an instantaneous reaction to an event...

John: But a quick pen sketch?

Humphrey: A bomb is just about to go off and I have got to get the line down now: NOW! And if it hasn¹t gone off, then I can have another go at it. That's it: another go at it... It¹s the same in both drawings.

Page 5 of 9

Previous page
Home page