Synesthesia and the Contour Method of Drawing
CitationClyne, Sandra. 2019. Synesthesia and the Contour Method of Drawing. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractThe contour method of drawing is a strategy for expressing visual form through line that relies on continuous observation of the model (as opposed to focusing on the drawing itself), paired with the artist’s imagining that the point of her pencil or pen is actually touching the subject. As such, the contour method is based on intentional, voluntary cross-modal perceptual synthesis, combining the artist’s senses of vision and kinesthesia with an imagined sense of touch. In this sense, the contour method mirrors the phenomenon of synesthesia. Serious empirical study by twenty-first century neurologists and neuropsychologists has led to the recognition of involuntary cross-modal perceptual synthesis, or synesthesia, as an atypical but authentic brain behavior. As a neurological phenomenon, synesthesia occurs when one mode of sensory perception elicits a perceptual response in another mode, due to cross-activation within brain centers. Prominent scientific researchers like Vilayaur Ramachandran and Richard Cytowic have hypothesized that understanding synesthesia could help clarify the origins of the human brain’s ability to find imaginative combinations and correspondences among seemingly disparate phenomena, as exemplified by metaphor, symbolism and even human language. Likewise, prominent modern visual artists have made creative use of synesthesia--either involuntarily, as in the case of Wassily Kandinsky or as an intentional strategy, as in the case of Piet Mondrian. Interest in synesthesia among contemporary creative artists has inspired this research, which encourages use of cross-modal synthesis in fine-art drawing pedagogy via the contour method of drawing. The research concludes with a commentary on the adequacy with which a sample of notable drawing texts incorporate contour drawing in particular and synesthesia in general into their expositions of fine-art drawing strategies.
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