Whenever I go
to the doctor and get my finger pricked, I'm always surprised at how much it
hurts--at how sensitive the tips of our fingers are. Yet
at the same time, they are so utilitarian. Judith Ann Braun's work uses both these
qualities of fingers--their sensitivity and their strength--in her latest
large-scale drawings, in which she creates symmetrical, abstract patterns with
charcoal smudges made with her fingertips.
||Fingering #9 by Judith Braun, drawn with
fingers dipped in charcoal on 3 panels,
80 x 26 each, 2012.
description alone you might imagine something messy and "hand-crafted" in a
not-so-great way. But Braun's works actually have a lot of precision to them,
as she darts her hands across a pristine white (or black) wall to create
nimbuses, whorls, and scrolls. When I saw the drawings in person and realized
that the oval marks were actually the artist's fingerprints in charcoal, I felt
like I was being held in the artist's hand; enveloped by the work and the
artist's presence even though she was nowhere near.
photos of Braun's process, I started to recognize what I could learn from her
as a draftsman: the power of putting your whole body into a work of art. There
is a fluidity to Braun's marks that wouldn't be achievable if she were sitting
behind a desk or at an easel. Her motions, as she makes her marks, involve her
fingers and hands but also her arms, shoulders, back, and really her entire
body. That serves as a reminder to me about how stiff and still I can become
when working on a drawing. Sometimes when I move, I'll ache because I've been
frozen in place for so long. Braun's drawings have taught me to step back and
really allow my whole body and the forces of motion of all my limbs to come
|Fingering #5 by Judith Braun, drawn on wall with fingers
dipped in charcoal, 9 x 16, 2010.
Braun's works because they are decorative and ornamental, but if I were
choosing to create a more realistic drawing, I probably would not use my
fingertips, no matter how deft I thought my touch could be. Instead, I'd reach
for a pencil--and the control such an implement gives me--and probably The Art of Portrait Drawing, which covers how to draw people, heads, faces, and more. This resource gives the artist a compendium of
drawing techniques and sketching lessons that are as inspiring as Braun's
drawings--but with a bit more realistic appeal. Enjoy!