Most of the past six months have been dedicated to the production of the solo show rajt ma rajtx… naf li rajt, curated by Elyse Tonna at Valletta Contemporary, which also features supporting works by invited artists reinforcing multiple points of view. These include: Caesar Attard, Nanni Balestrini, Aaron Bezzina, Matyou Galea, Francesco Jodice and Pierre Portelli. The video below is a walk-through of the exhibition.
This eye drawing experiment consists in doodling with the eye-tracker while also mark-making on paper.
I wore the monocular eye-tracker while doodling the drawing below on a squared green paper. A multi-coloured BIC pen was used and there was no pre-planning of what to draw/doodle. I intuitively found myself elaborating the doodle through the squares presented by the surface. The doodle happened on different days, which prompted the use of different colours. Before each doodling session, the Pupil Core monocular eye-tracker was calibrated and recording started contemporarily to the doodling. During the post-processing of the data, the resulting eye-drawings were colour-coded in correspondence to the doodle.
Figure 54: The images above read from top-left to bottom: Hand drawn mark-making doodle made using a BIC coloured pen and pencil on green squared paper 10 x 15 cm; a rotating loop representation of the resulting eye-doodle in the virtual space; a second rotating loop representation of the resulting eye-doodle in the virtual space; and a still image of the eye-doodle.
During the 2020 lockdown, my room became my studio and it is where most of the eye drawing practice took place.
Towards the end of summer I edited some selected eye-drawings of features such as my desk, my hand and the view from my window among others into a rotating spatial eye-drawing.
Figure 53: Top Still image of a spatial eye-drawing of my room.
Bottom A rotating loop of a spatial eye-drawing of my room.
The decision to eye draw from da Vinci’s anatomical drawn notations about the bones of the hand was a different one from that of drawing Géricault’s. These hand drawings involve anatomical observation and notation Figure 52, where the underlying structure of a hand’s anatomy is drawn with engineer-like precision. The drawing itself seems to have been built in stages, starting from the bones and working up towards the sets of muscles and tendons. While eye drawing from these drawings, I attempted to follow and perceive this same build-up through my gazing. My intention was not to get an anatomical precision of da Vinci’s illustration of the hands, but to follow his linear drawn elements with my eyes.
Figure 50: One of the eye-drawings resulting from eye drawing Figure 52 at a distance of 50cm from the computer screen using the binocular eye tracker.
Figure 51: One of the eye-drawings resulting from eye drawing Figure 52 at a distance of 50cm from the computer screen using the binocular eye tracker.
Figure 52: Da Vinci’s notes and drawings about the bones of the hand, c.1510-11, black chalk, pen and ink, wash on paper, 28.8 x 20.2cm, Royal Collection Trust.
Many artists throughout history have drawn their hand for a variety of reasons. In her section dealing with anatomical body parts, Petherbridge (2010; 251-259) mentions how, symbolically, hands can allude to the individuality of the artist. In view of this she discusses Géricault’s drawing of his left hand, drawn in watercolours on his deathbed. He started by extending his arm onto paper, and traced along it, of which markings are still visible at the fingertips (Figure 49). This trace was the starting point for the drawing, from which he then built-up the image of his hand. Apart from the captivating story behind this drawing, now at the Louvre in Paris, Géricault’s very act of extending his arm and tracing it made me want to attempt to eye draw it (Figure 47 & 48). He might have started his drawing from a traced-outline due to his bedridden state, but at the same time, the gesture of extending one’s arm and drawing the hand is a gesture that shouts; “I am here, this is what I see and this is how I see it”. I wanted to eye draw it with the aim of recontextualising (and re-draw) this presence through my gaze.
Petherbridge, D. 2010. The primacy of drawing : Histories and theories of practice. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Figure 47: One of the eye-drawings resulting from eye drawing Figure 49 at a distance of 50cm from the computer screen using the binocular eye tracker.
Figure 48: One of the eye-drawings resulting from eye drawing Figure 49 at a distance of 50cm from the computer screen using the binocular eye tracker.
Figure 49: Théodore Géricault, La main gauche de Géricault, 1823, watercolour on paper, 22.5 x 29.5cm, Louvre collection, Paris.
The experiment below consisted in eye drawing my right hand at arm’s length and from a close range by contouring/delineating the boundaries of of the 3-dimensionality of my hand, using the Pupil Core binocular eye tracker as a result of the Screen Marker calibration. 9512 points were recorded in 53 seconds.
Figure 42: Eye-drawing of my right hand at arm’s length and from a close range
Figure 29: An eye-drawing of my hand resulting from Video 2
In view of treating Figure 29 as a drawing, there are two particular qualities which need to be discussed. The first relates to the biology of the eye, in so far as it being an organ which is constantly in motion, even when we focus on a particular point within our worldview. The linear quality within Figure 29 is therefore made up of long linear stretches (saccades) and smaller accumulation of lines at specific points (fixations). Cognitive science states that no vision occurs during saccades motion, as these consist in fast movements travelling from point A to point B. On the other hand, fixations are resting points where the gaze focuses and acquires visual information.
While eye drawing, my resulting eye-drawing is therefore inevitably influenced by this biology, and my contouring travels in small ‘steps’ along the edges of my hand. This contrasts to the fluidity present when hand drawing.
The second important characteristic concerns the compositional element within the eye-drawing. Since I do not have any visual reference to the formation of the eye-drawing itself while I am eye drawing, there are no compositional decisions taken during the performative act. This decision comes into place once I assume the position of an editor, and are taken through the viewport display view of software like Rhino3D.
These two main characteristics apply to all of my eye-drawings which have been processed so far. This is also my interpretation of them, and the practice itself will lead me into further necessary knowledge concerning the restriction of my body, properties of my eye movements, properties of the technology (both hardware and software) and the eye-drawings themselves among others.
Figure 13: Three eye-drawings of the same rotating hand-gesture
After repeatedly eye-drawing my left hand from the same perspective, I tried eye-drawing my right hand from different points of view by rotating the same gesture (Figure 13 and Figure 14). The hand and drawing have a long history, and not just because of the manuality within the hand-eye coordination. The hand is the ‘skill’ and the means by which to ‘imprint’ while drawing, but it has also been regarded as one of the most difficult body parts to draw as a subject matter; not just for its anatomical rendition but also due to the cultural and symbolic values carried by its gestures. It has been therefore studied and drawn extensively (Petherbridge, 2010, pp. 251-259).
The hand carries innate verbal ways of communication, and it has been crucial in the evolutionary steps of our body, making us the humans of today (it allowed us the use of tools). The hand is also a sign of presence. Perhaps these are some of the reasons why it has been widely represented, from primitive art to contemporary times. Yet, in our daily routine we are barely aware of the hand.
It is worth mentioning that the hand has also been the vehicle with which to challenge the conventional ways of drawing (eg. automatism). While I am eye drawing, the hand is free as it is the body part which has been by-passed from the process. It is there and it can be eye-drawn. It is therefore very instinctive to do so.
Petherbridge, D. (2010). The Primacy of Drawing. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Figure 14: Three eye-drawings of the same rotating hand-gesture
Figure 11: Superimposition of the 6 eye-drawings of my left hand
Figure 11 is a drawing made up of a superimposition of the six eye-drawings in my previous post. When I am eye-drawing from life, I cannot refer to the visual of the ‘physical drawing’ being created as this is only generated during post-processing. Many drawers highlight the importance of this reference in their practice, as does Richard Talbot who specifically talks about perspective drawing and its thinking about the orientation; “to the relationship with the surface of the paper – the picture plane” (Talbot, 2008, p. 45).
The methodology I have been using so far is to import the recorded eye-tracking coordinates (as a set of points) into a 3D software like Rhino, from where I can process them into drawings using a polyline curve (which follows the temporal value of each point). At this stage, the eye-drawing sits in a virtual 3-dimensional space, and I navigate this with the same understanding of when physically drawing on a picture plane. I had not noticed that this was my reasoning while developing these eye-drawings until I recently read an interview of Michael Kidner where he talks about how he governed 3D Studio Max through knowledge coming from his; “previous practical pursuits in the material world” (Eames, 2008, p. 139).
Perhaps it was also this way of thinking/doing that drove my intuition to superimpose the hand eye-drawings. When merged into one image, I see the eye-drawings become an extended representation of moments in time, highlighting the fact that even though while eye-drawing I was attempting to follow a ‘contour’ through an invisible trace, outlines are a synthetic construct and do not exist in nature. There are, therefore, infinite possibilities to its representation as the history of drawing illustrates for us.
In this sense, the image of Figure 11 becomes a continuous eye-drawing (a kind of seismography of the drawing eye) other than 6 superimposed eye-drawings of 15 seconds each.
Is the practice I am dealing with a process of relearning, learning or unlearning (with regards to drawing/seeing/looking/gesturing)? The practice is resulting in new visions and visuals, and the technologies of the eye-tracker together with the 3D software are making them possible. I cannot however mistake the technology for the idea. The machine is not aiding my way of drawing or looking at the world, but is making an image/views possible, which was/were previously unnoticeable. In this context, I elaborated Figure 12, which includes a generative development between the 6 eye-drawings in Figure 11. These algorithmic/generative/computer-aided drawings will be tackled in future posts.
Eames, A., (2008). Embedded Drawing. In S. Garner (Ed.), Writing on Drawing, Essays on Drawing Practice and Research (pp. 125 – 140). Bristol, UK: Intellect Books.
Talbot, R., (2008). Drawing Connections. In S. Garner (Ed.), Writing on Drawing, Essays on Drawing Practice and Research (pp. 43 – 58). Bristol, UK: Intellect Books.
Figure 12: Computational development between the superimposed 6 eye-drawings of my left hand
This experiment came right after my previous posts, using the same set-up, eye-tracker and calibration. Just as in my previous recordings, my left hand was placed on the table in front of me, and the intention was now to eye-draw it (repeatedly). The scanpaths in my previous posts dealt with eye-tracking other than actual eye-drawing, as both scanpaths are the traces of my eye while drawing with my right hand. This post illustrates six eye-drawings resulting from the set-up mention above, and they lasted approximately 15 seconds each to record.
This is 9 seconds less than the previous blind-contouring exercise, which does not seem to be a great difference until one calculates that they are 37.5% of the (earlier) time spent blind-contouring. I am flagging this up not because I am interested in the mathematical calculation of the act of drawing (or eye-drawing), but because this can lead me to several new questions about my own practice. It can be argued that the blind-contouring exercise took longer due to the hand co-ordination involved while drawing (eye-drawing is more ‘direct’), but I think there can be other variables to consider.
What happens if I try to consciously go slower? Can I actually go slower? The eye movements are quite difficult to control and saccades are always in motion. How can this ‘trace’ relate to the line/mark/contour in drawing, and how does it compare to the notion of ‘reducing’ the mark before it quickly transforms into a defined image? I am not (spatially) aware of the mark while eye-drawing, or rather, the mark is in my head (not on a support). I can only tangibly relate to it during post-processing (virtually).
Does the distance I was eye-drawing my hand from naturally influence the speed (and other factors)? Distance has always been a crucial issue to take into account when drawing; both physically and mentally.
I am also intrigued by the fact that it seems to have automatically taken about 14-16 seconds for every eye-drawing to manifest (six times in a row). Is this an indication of habituality? All six eye-drawings unconsciously started from the back of my hand, moving clockwise through my fingers and ended below the wrist. When hand-drawing I am aware that I make a lot of conscious (and sometimes habitual) decisions; where to start on my page, where to start on the object I am gazing at, etc. What happens if I train myself to be more aware of where to start and how to ‘move’ while eye-drawing (or should I not)?
Another important mention are the fixations. Arguably the fixations in the eye-drawings represent some kind of hesitation in figuring out where I am in the ‘drawing’ (relating directly to somewhere in my mental imagery). It is also interesting to note that the 6th eye-drawing manifests an unconscious ‘inattention’ towards the completion of the drawing, resulting in a ‘misdirection’ of the saccades. These unpredictable registrations can be of most interest when treating the practice of eye drawing in context of its unique perceptive moments in time and space.
Figure 5: Eye-drawing 1 of my left hand
Figure 6: Eye-drawing 2 of my left hand
Figure 7: Eye-drawing 3 of my left hand
Figure 8: Eye-drawing 4 of my left hand
Figure 9: Eye-drawing 5 of my left hand
Figure 10: Eye-drawing 6 of my left hand