This whole ‘medium is the message’ train of thought has been making me think the last couple of days and mainly in relation to drawing and sketching.
First up, I’m not really sure that I understand the phrase in the first place but its fun to play away with anyway…
Secondly, over the last couple 0f years have found it increasingly hard to draw or doodle.
There seems to be a couple of components to this.
Number One, I increasingly find it hard to ‘see’ what to draw.
It’s not that my eye sight is ‘failing’, yet in another sense it has been.
What if using this laptop (my poison of choice) has been training my eyes to ‘see’ in a certain way that makes it harder to draw when out in the open air or focusing on a vase of tulips?
When someone uses the laptop for hours on end their eyes are focused on a glass rectangle no more than a few feet away, a glass rectangle that is spewing out light and bright constantly.
Hour after hour, day after day, year after year focused on a rectangle of light no more than a few feet away with your head neither turning left or right.
Does this type of daily exercise train our eyes in certain habits and ways of expecting to see?
For instance if go into Belfast to do some drawing will my eye automatically try to see the world of Belfast in a rectangle shape,no more than a few feet away and slightly pointed downwards? Will it be harder to see the things outside that square and take more effort to concentrate on them?
The other thing to say is that using a lap top trains your hands and fingers in certain movements, especially if you only use a touchpad mouse and keys.
Generally you can rest the bottom of your wrists on the laptop and leave them there for hours on end and still do your work. It requires very little movements, and any movement there is tends to be back and forth jabby little movements.
If you use a laptop for hours on end, day after day, year after year then your hand movements will be trained in certain ways that will come into play if you go to doodle or sketch. For instance drawing longer lines from your elbow may seem like a foreign world because you don’t really use that movement much. When you pick up your pen the pen marks will probably start reflecting your hand movements when using a computer.
Back to seeing the world. If the medium is the message, what sort of message does glass give?
This has only hit me but glass is the common medium of the digital screen. PC’s, Apples, ipads, mobile phones, TV’s. And of course its there in our cars and buildings, glasses etc.
It’s like the medium that we don’t notice but is always there. I actually have a good example of this from where I’m writing this.
My window is open and around the edges I can the world unfiltered through glass and filtered through glass.
At the top of my window there is a gap where I see a starling with a beak full off worms for the nest. The sky behind it is blue, an outdoor blue.
Directly below it through the glass of the window the sky is blue but slightly less blue. It seems to a different sort of light coming through the window and the are specks of dirt and bird poo from the starling nest on the window.
The thing that is noticeable though is that my eye seems to be automatically drawn to look through the glass and window at the outside world. Partly this is because it takes more effort to raise my head a bit and look through the gap, but also because the level of light coming through the window seems more in keeping of what I expect from the world I inhabit and naturally suits my eye.
My eye almost expects to see things through windows, glass and screens like that is the natural world.
In one way it seems easier to see things to draw when looking out a window at the natural world, like in a coffee shop out on to a street that in drawing in the open air.
Another aspect about drawing is that when it comes to looking at the paper my eye is in another foreign world.
Paper does not look glassy like a computer or mobile phone screen, the sort of light involved is different and my eyes feel like they are working harder to use it. It’s another unatural world.
This has come into play when it comes to reading novels. A few years ago I read novels but now I find my brain can’t concentrate properly and gets tired a few pages in. Originally I put this down to using the www too much and flicking from one web page to another.
But what if its not the flicking around on the www so much, but the glass on the digital screens that make it ‘harder’ work to read a book? Perhaps that is why the Kindle is so popular. Not that you can store all your books on it, but that it’s more in tune with the message our eye and brain, hands and fingers have been picking up the last number of years?