In today's excerpt--drawing through the use of the 'picture plane,' a device made of clear glass or plastic through which the artist sees the object to be drawn and 'traces' the image on the picture plane. Picture planes often have lines drawn on them that divide the pane into sections to further aid the artists:
"[A]dult students in art generally do not really see what's in front of their eyes--that is, they do not perceive in the special way required for drawing. They take note of what's there, and quickly translate the perception into ... symbols mainly based on the symbol system they developed throughout childhood and what they know about the perceived object.
"What is the solution to this dilemma? Psychologist Robert Ornstein suggests that in order to draw, the artist must 'mirror' things or perceive them exactly as they are. Thus, you must set aside your usual [symbolic] categorizing and turn your full visual attention to what you are perceiving--to all its details and how each detail fits into the whole configuration. In short, you must see the way an artist sees. ... Basic realistic drawing is copying what is seen on the picture-plane.
" 'If that is so, you may object, 'why not just take a photograph?' I believe one answer is that ... by slowing down and closely observing something, personal expression and comprehension occur in ways that cannot occur simply by taking a photograph. ...
"Use of the picture-plane has a long tradition in the history of art. The great Renaissance artist Leone Battista Alberti discovered that he could draw in perspective the cityscape beyond his window by drawing directly on the glass pane the view he saw behind the plane. Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's writings on the subject, German artist Albrecht Durer developed the picture-plane concept further, building actual picture-plane devices. Durer's writings and drawings inspired Vincent Van Gogh to construct his own 'perspective device,' as he called it, when he was laboriously teaching himself to draw. ... Another renowned artist, the 16th-century Dutch master Hans Holbein, who had no need for help with his drawings, also used an actual picture plane. Art historians recently discovered that Holbein used a glass pane on which he directly drew images of his sitters for the overwhelming number of portrait drawings required of him when he lived in the English court of Henry VIII."
Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Penguin, 1999, pp. 81-102.