Art Tutorials, Reviews, and more
About Michael Newberry
Drawing and Painting
See art in a
Michelangelo's Drawings: The Conceptual Transformation from
Touch to Sight
One of the most rewarding
studies of painting and drawing is discovering how a thought,
perception, or emotion is transformed into a purely visual
medium. Michelangelo's drawings serve as examples of
translating the perception of touch to sight. In other words,
his drawings convey to our sight not what we would see but what we would
This is a great conceptual
flip and it is one of the aspects of art I love most.
To experience this tutorial
fully I need to ask you to humor me and get physically
involved in it. In the privacy of your own home it should be fun.
Ok, let's start.
In the middle of the blue
circle is a darkened shadow right under the rib cage. I would
like you to feel your rib cage, feel the solidness of it and as
you move your hand underneath the ribs, just above and off
center from your belly button, you will feel a quite significant
cavity. That is this darkened area.
If you continue to move
down, you will sense a valley between the mounds of your stomach
and your waist. That valley is the softer shadow running through the
bottom of the blue circle.
Switching to the red circle
notice the pinched tendon in the pocket of the inner elbow. The
odd thing here is that the arm is totally relaxed. We might
see this tendon if the arm was under duress but we are not
going to see it in a relaxed arm. Yet, if we locate this pocket
on our own relaxed arm we do indeed feel a tendon with a very deep
cavity off to the side of it.
Hence the tendon of a
living, relaxed arm is available to our sense of touch but not
to our eye.
Christ on the Cross,
1541, black and white chalk.
The examples of this type of
transformation are everywhere in Michelangelo's drawings. Here I
have chosen a little, deep pocket below the thumb and nestled
just above the wrist bone.
It's uncanny but when I feel
that spot on my wrist it feels exactly like in the drawing, yet,
my forearms are not nearly so formed. Again Michelangelo accents
the depth of the cavity and not just skimming across the
Study of Haman for the
Sistine Chapel, 1511, red chalk.
This is one of the amazing
studies for the figures of the Sistine Chapel. If
you feel your upper breast bone and where it meets the thorax at
the base of the throat you can get a sense of some of the ribs and planes of muscle and the deep cavity of the
Once when I was visiting
the Louvre and seeing Michelangelo's Captives, which at
that time were in the subterranean vaults, a young women turned
the corner, walked down the steps , and looked overwhelmed
by the sculptures. She, unconsciously started feeling her chest and the
bone structure to it. She like many millions of other people
connected to Michelangelo communicating the sense of touch.
the blue circle notice how distinct the knob of the
elbow is. Hold out your arm and feel that area-the
joint of the elbow feels like a made out of stone.
These drawings are
masterpieces and can be studied for their light and shadow,
movement, and form. But I think it is Michelangelo's
communication of touch that took drawing onto a dramatically new
conceptual level of art; one in which, your eyes experience what
your hands would feel.
I hope you enjoyed seeing
(and feeling) art in a fresh way.
New York, July 5th, 2006
Other related art presentations you might enjoy.
copyright 2012 by Michael Newberry