The picture you draw every day

     Do you think that you don’t draw at all?  Betty Edwards, author of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” points out that nearly every day almost all of us do a line drawing.  Perhaps you never thought of a signature as being a drawing, but it is.   Not only is it a drawing, but it tells a lot about the person who made it.

     Although graphology (handwriting analysis) is not taken seriously by most people as a way to “read” personality, nobody denies that each person’s handwriting is unique.  A signature is as much a part of a person as his or her fingerprints.

     Every signature is unique.  Although an “a” is an “a” no matter what it looks like, the line a person uses to draw the letters of their name reflects that individual and no one else.  Although forgers may try, no one can precisely duplicate your signature.

     As an experiment, look at signatures of people you do not know and try to imagine what the person is like.  Tiny, precise handwriting might make us think of a person who is introverted and perhaps a perfectionist.  Big scrawly handwriting suggests an extroverted, action-loving person.  Look at the signatures of your family and friends.  Does the line match the personality?

     Write your own name on a piece of paper, as if you were signing a document.  Analyze it as a drawing, not as words.  Don’t criticize yourself (“My handwriting is really messy.”)  Instead look at the shapes the lines make, whether the line suggests speed or slowness, relaxation or tension.  Many artists turn their pictures upside down or look at them in a mirror to analyze them; try this with your signature.   You’re looking at a picture of your personality, characteristics and attitude.

     Now try using your other hand — the hand you don’t normally write with — and write your signature underneath the first one.  Someone looking at this “drawing of you” would imagine a different person that in the first signature. 

     Put the pencil back in your dominant hand and write your name backwards — begin at the right side of the paper with the last letter of your name and write toward the left.  Do you have a picture of a different personality?  The line is probably unsure, possibly even wobbly.  What is this person like?

     Switch the pencil to your other hand and write your name again, but don’t watch your hand as it writes.  Close your eyes, if you have to.  This signature will probably be very unsure, possibly even reflecting stress.  Pretend this is a stranger’s signature.  What kind of person would write like this?

     You have written your name four times; the name is the same, but the line quality is what changes the effect on the viewer.  The first drawing gives the truest picture of you, because you didn’t have to deal with suggestions from the outside as to how to write.  But the other signatures also give a picture of you — they show how you respond to imposed limits.  Each signature gives information about your feelings, conscious or unconscious, at having to write a certain way.

     Our brains are capable of “leaps of intuition” that help us instantly understand the message of the line — whether it is calm, frazzled, nervous, stressed, uncomfortable, or something else.

     The same information can be gained by looking at artists’ drawings.  The line can be read with the same leap of insight.  Did the artist spend a lot of time on the drawing, or did they just scribble it out quickly?  Is the line assured or nervous?  Was the artist happy, angry, upset, or nervous when the drawing was made?

     In her book “Drawing on the Artist Within,” Edwards tells a story that illustrates how much can be read from the line used in a drawing.  She gave a college art class the assignment of drawing their own feet.  She noted that one student’s drawing, although it was accurate and very well done, was full of jagged lines, redrawing, and generally gave the impression of anxiety.  Parts of it were erased to the point of putting holes in the paper.  Edwards gently asked the student if something was bothering her. 

     The student looked surprised, and then laughed.  “I’ll tell you something,” she said, “I really HATE my feet.” 

     See how much you can learn by looking at drawings — and signatures.  It’s fun and surprising!

By Kay Sluterbeck/AAPJ

Published by on January 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, HowDoit PB dept, Paint Box Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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