Movements of the Drawing Hand

By Paul Clarke

How can you study the movements of the drawing hand? Although completed drawings can be interpreted, much the same way graphologists analyse the sequencing and flow of handwriting, can we see an architecture in the movements of the drawing hand? Can we be inside a drawing, and witness, as paper does, what happens amidst these patterns of movements?

On film, Álvaro Siza’s hand reveals a sort of bee dance: an implicit knowledge encoded in gestures; of mark-making and hovering balances; a register of spontaneous action ahead of thought. Keith Jarrett said that he trusted the hand to lead him beyond what he knew as a musician in order to take him into an unknown territory – which was both uncertain and expert.

As part of PhD research by Peter McNie into drawing, and the exploration of what we have termed ‘performative drawing’, the hands of architecture students have been studied in their multiple movements through a light-box camera. When compared, their symphony of movements can be observed within the space of a sheet of paper, with all of their hesitations, jumps, flows, and shadows. Perhaps it is not the finished drawing that should become our focus in trying to understand the process of drawing, but instead the shapes, patterns, and shadows of the hand that makes it.