The better draughtsman has more ‘on his mind’ concerning his subject; and by embodying his knowledge and understanding in each purposeful line or passage of his drawing, achieves with apparent — even with real — ease an expression of form, character, action — whatever may be his immediate object — that the novice, lacking such equipment and relying on his vision alone, finds beyond his power.

Oliver SEnior

I mentioned the other day that I try to draw a hand every morning. This morning I decided to focus on just the thumb. Yesterday, I had tried to do my index finger. It’s a good exercise, especially because I’m also trying to capture the three-dimensionality of what I’m drawing, its volume. It’s actually thrilling to see what a few lines in the right places do to the image of a hand, how trained we are to see depth and weight when it is indicated in a drawing.

I say “trained” advisedly. As with writing, a drawing has to “read” according to all sorts of conventions. We read a lot “into” a drawing; the viewer does a lot of the work for the artist. We might say that the artists skill shows in how well the viewer is “set up” to see the object as intended. All of this is useful to me as a writer to notice.

Try working on the parts of your writing in isolation from the whole. Work on the paragraph not the paper, the sentence not the paragraph. You can even sometimes give yourself a moment or two to work on the word not the sentence, what it means and how it is spelled, or, to follow this out to its extreme, to work on the individual letters. Try to notice how the larger effects are built up from simple gestures. In the end, you’re just marking up a page.

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