Pencil Drawing Made Easy

Ebook On Drawing Pencil Portraits

Get Instant Access

The 'image' of imagination is difficult to define because all humans experience imagination and know how mental impressions occur in the mind, but the ability to describe these experiences is elusive. A definition of imagination reflects the study of perception, as the mental impressions of perception are often worked on by imagination. Imagination is frequently used to envisage objects which are absent from view, to change or interpret that which can be observed, or to recognize and reuse items which are known (Warnock, 1976). 'One might add that in this capacity it [imagination] is often defined as a faculty for finding analogies' (Brann, 1991: 23). The element most characteristic of imagination is that it involves change and interpretation of what can be observed.

It is surprising how often and easily humans use aspects of imagination. Edward Casey describes two characteristics of imagining: that imagination is easy to engage, and that we can imagine whatever and however we would like (Casey, 1976). The ability to so easily use a function of the mind without obvious effort has fascinated philosophers through history in their effort to describe or define imagination.

Plato explains that the soul is like the eye, but when the eye is not perceiving; imagination and thinking are opinion only and are erratic (Plato, 1941). In comparison, philosophers from Aristotle to Immanuel Kant view imagination less harshly, and assign it a mediating state (Casey, 1976). David Hume felt that the role of imagination was that of mediation between impressions and aspects of memory or judgment:

Those perceptions which enter with most force and violence we may name impressions; and under this name I comprehend all our sensations, passions and emotions, as they make their first appearance in the soul. By ideas I mean the faint images of these in thinking and reasoning. (Hume, 1978: 1)

Hume defined 'ideas' as different from perceptions, viewing them as the leftover essence of perception that is used for thinking and reasoning. In this manner, perceptions are connected to cognitive activity. He viewed the force of memory and perceptions, in contrast to the subtle and vague workings of the imagination on these perceptions. Hume described imagination as having the liberty ' .to transpose and change its ideas ' . In this way, he was regarding imagination as a recombination of sense memory, since this connection creates a bond between ' ideas' as associations (Hume, 1978).

A sketch that is both ruled and freehand, for example the sketch by the Italian designer Carlo Scarpa (Figure 3.10), demonstrates the way imagination works on images to transform concepts. This sketch reveals a thinking process as Scarpa alters and erases drawn images to test and visualize. Carlo Scarpa was born in Venice in 1906. He studied at the Architectural Institute of Venice University where he later became a Professor and Director. Known for his remarkably sensitive manipulation of materials and techniques, his work displays not only craftsmanship, but a unique combination, juxtaposition, and balance of materials. His most celebrated commissions include the Canova Plaster Cast Gallery in Possagno; the Castelvecchio Museum in Verona, begun in 1956;

FIGURE 3.10 Carlo Scarpa; Pianta dell'area di esposizione della statua di Cangrande; studi per il supporto della statua esquestre in un'ipotesi a colonne. (Location of the Langrande statue; studies for the support of the equestrian statue in conceptual relationship to the columns.)

FIGURE 3.10 Carlo Scarpa; Pianta dell'area di esposizione della statua di Cangrande; studi per il supporto della statua esquestre in un'ipotesi a colonne. (Location of the Langrande statue; studies for the support of the equestrian statue in conceptual relationship to the columns.)

the Olivetti Showroom in Piazza S. Marco, Venice; and the Brion Tomb in San Vito d 'Altivole. His skills in uniting memory with contemporary proportions show in his sketches.

As a professor of drawing, Scarpa extensively utilized sketches, combined with drawing, as a medium for design. One interesting technique was to sketch on top, and in the margins, of ruled drawings using various methods of erasure. He often ' erased' by using gesso to block out certain areas, providing an opportunity to redraw, or pasted additional sheets to the one of immediate interest. It is possible that Scarpa would draw a design proposal and then critique the solution employing other images. It is also conceivable that once he perceived the solution it sparked new ideas and refinement. In either case, he used the drawings as references for the continuation of his design process, possibly a reason that he did not move to a separate, clean sheet. The result became a layering of gesso, graphite, erasures, colored pencils and pasted paper appliqué. This result also evidenced the drawing as a memory device, since he could view, remember and manipulate the images once they appeared on the paper. This working through the design helped him envision the three-dimensional structure, and may have acted as the medium for his imagination.

Figure 3.10 demonstrates several of these techniques by Scarpa. This sketch is a study for the placement of the Cangrande statue in the Castelvecchio Museum, Verona, Italy' The sheet has been patched and extended with additional pieces of paper. In the center is placed a drafted plan of the area with pathways and stairs. The margins are filled with small details, perspectives and notes. The pieces of paper added on the top right appear to be covering a former solution and present the opportunity to try an alternative, with the ability to refer to the original spatial relationships. Applying onto the original may have saved time, but it also meant that Scarpa could view the history of his design thinking. Had he started over, the past investigations would have been lost.

This page shows how he participated physically with the drawings, emphasizing with colored pencil and heavier lines. This technique was most likely a way to differentiate, or track, the alterations and decisions. The page of sketches reveals the elapsed time in the process and how memory is altered by imagination. It also explains much of Scarpa's use of imagination; he moves easily between construction details, diagrams, elevations, and perspectives visualizing the various aspects of the sculpture and the architecture so vital to its display. Here, memory and perceptions are transformed by the imagination, as the sketch becomes the process and medium for thinking dependent upon reference.

Similar to Hume, Kant finds an interdependence between intellect and perception in imagination as synthesis (Warnock, 1976). The productive type has a constructive function more consistent with conceptual thinking. With the synthesis of imagination, neither perception or thinking alone can be creative.

We are now in a position to see that (both for Hume and Kant) it is the representational power of the imagination, its power, that is, actually to form images, ideas or likenesses in mind which is supposed to contribute to our awareness of the world... Kant describes the imagination as a mysterious faculty which enables us to go beyond the immediate object of sense, and recognize it as a member of a kind of objects, and as a faculty which does this by means of actual images or representations which we can form for ourselves in our minds. (Warnock, 1976: 33)

The new mental impression cannot be radically new, because the imagination is a synthesis of memory and perception, and all that can be originated is dependent on these (Casey, 1976). To make a new combination, such as a unicorn, the mind must remember a horse and a horn. In a similar situation, science fiction stories contain enough of the present, in their view of the future, to be believable to personal experience. Consequently, architects using sketches for conceptual inspiration will draw what they know in an attempt to, through associations of images, find new combinations. The imagination ' .invents a concept, or calls one up, to fit the visible or audible form before it ' (Warnock, 1976: 49). In this way imagination finds a certain shape or form — an order out of chaos. The imagination's dependence upon both memory and perception is expressed here because the architect in the present is both remembering (in a mnemosyne sense) and anticipating the future.

There are several characteristics of the imagination that assist in understanding its activities. The first are spontaneity and controlledness (Casey, 1976). Humans can control imaginings by simply deciding to. The capability of conjuring a mental impression is contrasted, or complemented, by the chance of something spontaneous happening, such as the mind leaping to a different form.

This expresses an associative, spontaneous image in the form of a mental impression, but the spontaneous phenomenon can initiate itself rather than being initiated.

Imagination has additional traits, those of self-containedness and self-evidence. The imaginer's desire determines the range of possible imaginings, and this product will have features that the imaginative activity imposes on it. The imagination is self-evident in that all information appears at once, and issues of inconsistency are unimportant.

A sketch for the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. by Ieoh Ming Pei (Figure 3.11) contains qualities of self-containedness. Born in China, I.M. Pei has designed such buildings as the pyramid for the Louvre in Paris; the Bank of China in Hong Kong; the Javits Convention Center in New York; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Pei has been continually honored for his steel, glass and concrete modern buildings that make use of simple geometric shapes. His awards include the 1979 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal and he was recipient of the 1983 Pritzker Architecture prize.

On this page it is possible to view a brief but expressive sketch plan for the museum. It appears Pei was searching for geometric relationships between the triangle buildings and the features on the site. This may be evident in the wavy line that runs down the right side of the building forms. The upper left shows a study of the corner of the building. This emphasis on 'corner' may have been a reminder about a feature on the site. The space between the shapes has been more heavily articulated to suggest this interstitial space was of primary concern in his visual dialogue. This might be a very early exploration, since the form appears to be a reversal of the final constructed building. The large X to the upper right of the page may be a diagram, or parti, showing the basic relationships of the geometries.

The sketch, beautiful in its precision uses elements such as circles to accent part of the building that needed attention. Although studying several aspects of the building in plan, this sketch page is limited to Pei 's exploration of a specific element, as his thoughts are intent on resolving one aspect of the project. The sketch was not distracted by peripheral objects but concentrates on momentary concerns and thus displays a self-containedness of the imagination.

The sketch also speaks of a self-evidence, because the images are not grounded and are disparate elements reflecting the focus of his momentary attention. They may not appear all at once but the pieces are viewed as an entirety even though they are unfinished fragments. Although more ambiguous and implied, scale and consistency are unimportant to evaluate the concept, as are qualities of spontaneity and controlledness. The images are controlled by their topic but do not rule out the possibility of interjecting the new.

Two additional aspects of imagination that most influence architectural sketches are indeterminacy and pure possibility. Indeterminacy describes how it is difficult to determine exactly where imagined objects begin or end or precisely where they are located. Imagination does not necessarily follow rules of perspective, and the scene 's edges might disappear or the scene itself might quickly change location. In this way, anything imagined has qualities of being possible. Pure possibility can be seen as '.the "purity" of imaginative possibilities [that] lies precisely in their independence of the mutually exclusive alternatives of reality and unreality ' (Casey, 1976: 113). This aspect of imagination makes anything hypothetical and all things possible.

The possibilizing activity allows the artist a wide field of play, since the creativity of imagination is further distinguished by its virtual autonomy. Freudian psychoanalysis, stressing pure possibility, introduces free associations which include memories, dreams, daydreams, imaginings and fantasies (Casey, 1976). Which brings this discussion to Carl Jung and his three forms of fantasy or imagination: voluntary, passive and active (Jung, 1953, 1979).

For Jung, passive imagination is the uncontrollable, where one is overwhelmed by the upsurge of one 's own fantasies. This seems very similar to the un-containing qualities of pure possibility. Active imagination involves a positive participation of consciousness, as the conscious self enters into its own activity (Jung, 1953, 1979). Contrarily, the passive imagination seems curious, for the activity of suppressing the conscious level of the mind indicates the lack of intentionality. Some architects, when searching for inspiration in a design process, sketch while accompanied by a distraction, such as television or music. This might be a method to externally stimulate the subconscious so as to allow the mind to have passive participation with the imagination and thus trust intuition.

Intentionality can be seen as the ordering principle for imagination. Before one calls up a mental impression, a decision must be made to do so, and the form envisaged is created by one 's choice. Even if the mind free associates and lets unusual possibilities flow, one is intentionally choosing to allow them. As in reminiscing, humans control to some extent whether or not they engage in free associations or change to another subject. These seem to exhibit acts of possibilizing which allow a creative solution of the future because all three functions are an indication of that which may have never existed. Although they are contingent upon memory to determine these various new conclusions, they are both intentional and creative.

It is timely to turn to a few examples that may illustrate the role of imagination for architects when sketching. An architectural sketch by Mayumi Miyawaki (Figure 3.12) is a design sketch for the Yokoo Residence (Akahira, 1982). Miyawaki was a founding member of the group Architext. Publishing their work in a series of monographs, this group of five Japanese architects was devoted to innovative and experimental architecture. Designing the Izushi Junior High School along with many residences, Miyawaki combined traditional elements with modern attributes.

FIGURE 3.12 Mayumi Miyawaki; Sketch of Yokoo Residence, 1979.

This sketch seems to be an increasingly more detailed series of exterior massing forms culminations with two plans. The volume drawings have a similarity of theme — a self-containedness. As in play, the shape is drawn repeatedly, with changes becoming more and more specific. Miyawaki emphasizes this connection by stating that certain drawings became stepping stones for the rest. Their associative qualities are evident in their subtle evolution, and the sketches reveal a controlledness in intention. The specific site and program guide this project, even to a note written on the sketch: 'low cost'. Miyawaki writes on this drawing about his intentions: ' [h]owever, an image of "primary box" which just fits the environment was already in my mind then.' This strict adherence to the program is contrasted by quick and incomplete sketches, which might indicate this architect 's ability to allow spontaneity within the framework. Miyawaki 's imagination combines program memories with the possibilities of form.

A sketch by Cesar Pelli (Figure 3.13) provides insight into the elements of imagination. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, once Cesar Pelli & Associates, is located in Connecticut. An immigrant

FIGURE 3.13 Cesar Pelli; Petronas Towers.

from Argentina, Cesar Pelli has built an incredible number of sophisticated projects throughout the world. The firm has received over 40 American Institute of Architects awards including the 1995 Gold Medal. Responding to the particularities of site and program rather than maintaining a distinctive ' style', Pelli and partners have completed such diverse projects as the Aronoff Center for the Arts, the Beijing World Financial Center, Rice University Herring Hall, Yale University Malone Engineering Center and the celebrated Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

This design sketch of the towers captures emotional and metaphorical dimensions of an architect 's imagination. Pelli writes: ' [I] did several oil pastel drawings of the Petronas Towers trying to imagine how they would react to the changing light and weather of Kuala Lumpur. ' 2 This sketch demonstrates a soft atmospheric allusion of the twin towers almost obscured by the use of pastels. The towers have been drawn in blue and, to blend the building with the background, Pelli has chosen the same hue of blue. The towers present little detail and act as an overall impression, not

2 From a statement by Cesar Pelli when asked about how he uses sketches.

unlike a dream or fleeting impression. The vagueness allows allusion in stark contrast to an illusion of a perspective intended for a realistic experience and instead this sketch epitomizes an emotional experience. Not necessarily meant to present information such as materiality, Pelli 's sketch conveys an impression of an imagined future. Pelli expresses this well when he writes:

In this particular drawing, I was thinking of the very heavy, humid haze that sometimes hangs on Kuala Lumpur like a veil. I was trying to capture how the forms of the Towers would blend with the sky. Now that the towers are built, this condition does occur occasionally, although not as often as I imagined, and it is best perceived at a good distance where there is some depth of atmosphere between the observer and the Towers. When seen like that they are a very poetical image.3

The indeterminacy of the architectural sketch makes it difficult to specifically locate objects, and thus provides fertile ground for the imagination. Pelli 's sketch, in light of his verbiage, shows an undefined combination of forms, where the background is somewhat indistinguishable from the foreground. The loose and fluid lines overlap and give a general haze to the whole drawing — merging the building with its surroundings. This vagueness provides the viewer with the ability to project onto the drawing, and thus project impressions from the ambiguity. The materials and functions of form stimulate multiple possibilities, as the observer is given a general feeling rather than the shape of a specific building.

The synthesis of sensory and mental faculties, which play with or transform impressions into concepts, has a dimension of creation which begins to consider pure possibility. Especially in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, imagination took on a new autonomous quality linked to artists and the madness of inspiration, not understood by the average person. Although fantasy and imagination are often interchangeable, the word fantasy evokes the image of that which has never been seen (unlike imagination which could be 'to bring a memory image to mind'). This discussion must turn to the future of fantasy.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Easy Step-By-Step Lessons How Would You Like To Teach Yourself Some Of The Powerful Basic Techniques Of Pencil Drawing With Our Step-by-Step Tutorial. Learn the ABC of Pencil Drawing From the Experts.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment