Thursday, June 21, 2012

Computers, Photoshop, Perfection and the Hand of the Maker

I have been told that drawing is dead because computers and cameras can provide all the images one would ever need! Well, first off that presumes that the only reason one would draw would be to create images. I hope you agree, or are at least are considering the idea, that drawing is as much about what the process is doing for our perceptions, our view of the world and our sense of  connection to all that surrounds us as it is to creating something we can frame and hang on the wall. But leaving that aside, let's just take a look at images—the product.

Photography is a fine way to create images. Here is a photo of the chair I drew the other day. I like the photo. By removing the background the graphic qualities of the chair are emphasized. This would be a good image to use if I were trying to sell the chair. It shows the style, the condition, the color and the shininess of the finish.

In Photoshop, I can apply filters to this photo to give it the look of a drawing—kind of.

Even a contour drawing.

I can even switch it up to emphasize the negative spaces.

As a graphic designer I have used these techniques extensively and I will be the first to tell you how much I love using Photoshop and Illustrator to create images.


Even more, I love the look of a hand-drawn image because it is not perfect. It is not clean and perfectly proportioned. It is influenced by the hand of the maker, which is what gives all handmade work its soul and personality. Imperfect as it is, I think my little sketch of the chair is more interesting to look at and reflects something about my way of drawing; the choices I make; the parts I see well; the parts I don't see so well. Perfection may be overrated, in my opinion.

Am I wrong? What do you think?


  1. To sound like the broken record I am -- the human eye sees differently than the camera does. So the "imperfections" are almost certainly in your case, a case not just of showing the "hand" but of the way the eye takes in more than the camera can. The eye is always moving. There are two of them (eyes, I mean) so they don't have a single viewpoint or perspective. Nor should they.

    Photorealistic drawing is perverse, and attempting to draw like a camera is a fool's errand (as I think you said). I love what you do with Photoshop, but I also love what you draw!

    1. June, I think it is even more than the differences between how the human eye views and how a camera views. It really is the hand of the maker that determines the quality of the line, the degree of pressure on the drawing tool, which then determines the thickness or thinness of the line; the way the line wavers or meets itself at the corners, etc. etc. A person's way of expressing a line is almost as distinctive as their handwriting. This is the part that is missing entirely (or almost entirely) from the camera and Photoshop versions.

  2. Amen! There is life in the drawing done by the human hand - the other while technically perfect, is to my eye flat and expressionless.