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Camera Lucida Lillies (2001)

Camera Lucida Lillies

Drawing of Lillies (Ink on Shikishi Paper)

Drawing of Lillies with Grown Elements (Ink on Shikishi Paper)

Camera Lucida Lilies, Study

Camera Lucida Lilies, Study

Camera Lucida Lilies, Study

The Lillies here were drawn in August 2001.

There were two plants and I drew them as they wilted. The Drawings look a bit photographic because they were drawn using a camera lucida, with a pencil directly onto 13.5x12cm white shikishi paper. They are the starting point for many ink drawings. It is very difficult to show the linear pencil drawings here, as they were not created for an online environment. Unfortunately the contrast needed to be increased and the drawings lost most of their very subtle feeling, but at least they can be seen online.

A camera lucida is an artist drawing aid. It is basically a prism that is positioned in a way so that it reflects the image of what is in front of it into the eye of the draftsman. The artist has the perception that a ghost image is projected onto the drawing paper. That image can be traced. Tracing sounds easy, but it is actually rather difficult to achieve even satisfactory results. It takes time to master drawing with a camera lucidal.

William Fox Talbot tried to use one of these devices and became so frustrated that he decided that instead of having the image reflected into his eye, it should be projected onto a surface that could then “remember” the image by itself. Making his interpretation unnecessary. And so he invented photography. As soon a photographic cameras became available, Camera Lucidas must have looked like dinosaurs. (Probably much more than digital photography is now making film look antiquated.)

Eventually nobody was using Camera Lucidas, except maybe for scientists, or people in museums, who prefer the interpretive photography drawings that can be made with this device. Many Camera Lucidas available on the market today seem to be from the turn of the last century. There has recently been an increased demand for Camera Lucidas. David Hockney observed that many old mastes (like Ingres) might have used Camera Lucidas to create their stunning, lifelike portraits. Hockney just published a book about his investigation. “Secret Knowledge” also explains other old master techniques. On the cover of the European edition of the book is David Hockney, with a Camera Lucida. The photograph does not really show how one draws with a devicea (the process is a less attractive, almost painful looking), but it shows the proportions of a Camera Lucid like the one I used to draw the lillies here.

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