Humans have five senses: touch, smell, taste, hearing, and vision. For most people vision is the most important of the five senses. We live in a fast pace visual society. From the moment we wake up we are bombarded with countless images from television, art, and advertisements. These images provide us with constant stimulation and instant gratification. We rely on our vision to guide us through life and warn us of danger. Without our vision most of us would be lost. Last semester in drawing class I learned what happens when a person can no longer rely on their sense of sight.
My professor called it a “tactile experience.” We would be learning how to loosen up and make different types of marks. Our task that day was to draw an object based on what it felt like. However, there was one catch. We would be drawing blind. This meant that we would not get to see our objects or look at our papers until we were finished drawing.
To me, this all seemed a bit strange. How could I make art without looking at what I was drawing? My professor set a timer and instructed us to close our eyes and keep them closed until the timer rang. We closed our eyes and our professor placed a small object in each of our out stretched hands. My object was cold, hard, and I had no idea what it was. I picked up my pencil and started to draw.
The faint smell of paint, the buzzing of the overhead lights, and the feeling of my hair against my bare neck. Sensations I would normally ignore became the things I noticed the most while I drew. It is amazing what you notice when you close your eyes for a while. Normally I would be focused on looking at whatever I was drawing. For this drawing that was not an option. I was forced to uses my other senses to help me figure out how to make sense of this project.
To be honest I was nervous about not being able to see what I was drawing. I worried that my drawing would be a disaster. Many of my past drawings had been complete failures even thought I had been able to see what I was drawing. I had little hope for this drawing. Despite my lack of confidence I continued on with my drawing. I touched my object and tried my best to translate what I was feeling to paper. My object seemed to have both jagged edged and smooth curves. I started out at what I believed to be the top of my object where I found a small circle. I started drawing a circle only to realize that I could not remember where I had started. I finished the circle with no idea if I had managed to connect the beginning to the end. I then tried to draw a jagged edge I felt only to run into the edge of my piece of paper. As time dragged on I grew more and more frustrated with my inability to accurately draw what I was feeling.
I had only one more curve and my drawing would be complete. That was when my professor announced that time was only half over. That was when I stopped trying to control my drawing. Usually not being in control of my artwork is difficult for me. In that moment the opposite was true for me. Giving up control was liberating. I stopped worrying about what my drawing looked like and just enjoyed what was happening in the moment. After what felt like hours the timer finally rang announcing that fifteen minutes had passed. I opened my eyes and discovered that the object that seemed so foreign to me was nothing more than a simple metal clip. I was not surprised to discover that my drawing was complete chaos. At the end of the class period much to my dismay my professor announced that we would be spending the next few days doing more blind drawings. He promised that it would get easier. However, I did not believe him. I was already dreading the next class period.
Over the next few weeks I made several more drawings while blind. Just like my professor had promised, it got easier. My confidence grew and I was able to relax and accept that I was not in control of what the final outcome of my drawing would be. Instead of having too much time, I found myself having too little time and wanting more. From my experience I learned to slow down and enjoy life even if there is nothing to stimulate me visually. Most importantly I learned that giving up control does not mean that I have been defeated.