Monday, December 26, 2011

Two-handed drawing

Drawing with both hands simultaneously is a pretty rare skill. Adolph von Menzel (1815-1905) could do it. His hands were cast in bronze holding a carpenter's pencil and a paintbrush.
H.W. Singer, in his 1910 book, The Drawings of Adolph Menzel said of him: "Menzel was naturally left-handed. When already past boyhood he trained himself to use his right hand too, and from that time could draw equally well with either. It is said that he continued making the rapid nature sketches with his left, and produced the careful finished drawings with his right hand." 

(Video Link) This video shows a contemporary portrait artist drawing actors Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, with both hands going at the same time, and crossing over to help each other from time to time. 

I find this performance impressive on many levels: not only using both hands at once, but splitting the attention to drawing two faces at once and drawing likenesses by starting with just an eye, apparently without a light structural lay-in to guide the construction.

Thanks, Christoph and Christian
Previously on GJ: 


Christian Schlierkamp said...

Thanks Jim! I recently came over an original statement by Menzel in the appendix of Jost Hermand's biography "Adolph Menzel" which he gave in one of his late interviews in the 1890's with Ottomar Beta: "Here at my right, at the easel I am painting, indeed with my right hand, and here on the left I am drawing, erasing and painting in water colours, with my left hand. Nobody can tell with which hand I have worked on which part, for me it is all the same." (Ottomar Beta, Gespräche mit Adolph Menzel, in Deutsche Revue 23, 1898, #2, pg. 58)

Unknown said...

Both video links (his and yours) are amazing to watch and very entertaining. Even lamer, is my video upload today painting a nutcracker amazingly with only one hand!

Aaron said...

I wonder if the Artist in the video was naturally left handed? My mother is left handed and since it was frowned upon back in the 50's when she was in school, she learned to write with her right hand. She can write in perfect cursive with both hands. That made me wonder if some artists like these were pushed to learn to write/draw with their right hands as children, and maybe that contributed to the ease in which they switch back and forth (I know I can't even print my name legibly with my left hand :)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

I have been perusing your blog for the better part of an hour. There is much to be admired here. Thanks for a most enlightening and entertaining time!

Eric Scales said...

I've never understood how certain artists can do those super realistic portraits without going through all of the rough underdrawing and stuff first, even just with one hand. I consider myself a good artist, but no matter how familiar I am with something, my brain needs that underdrawing before I can finalize the drawing.

Aljosa said...

I used to draw with both hands simultaneously when I was a kid, but then switched to my left hand because they told us in elementary school that we had to decided for right or left hand. Stupid government education systems.

Roca said...

Okay, so I am taking a basic psychology class this quarter and there is a discussion on hemispheric differences in the brain. Occasionally for someone with epileptic seizures, they can sever the corpus callosum which allows each side to "talk" to the other. This "split brain surgery" effectively stops the seizures, but there are side effects. The ability to draw two different shapes simultaneously is one of the reported effects of this surgery. Interesting, no?

Other side effects:

James Gurney said...

Meredith, that's interesting. I find it difficult to draw two shapes at once even with the corpus callosum intact.

Aljosa and William, Me too. I still golf and bat left handed.

Eric, I was wondering if there was a very faint scribed line, invisible to the camera. Without such guidelines, getting a likeness with even a single face would be pretty hard.

K. Lawson, glad you're enjoying it.

Christian, I get the feeling that with Menzel, each hand had different personalities, and preferred different jobs in the drawing process.

Unknown said...

I wonder if he will eventually upload a video where his feet are doing some of the shading and erasing.