Drawing Spaces like Bonnard

In our last session, we looked into the paintings of Pierre Bonnard, while analysing the words of Sargy Mann on the techniques this curious painter used in his works.

Sargy Mann was able to visit “Villa le Bosquet”, where Bonnard lived with his wife, and study the subjects of his paintings. He quickly realised that these were often of a wide or very-wide angle views; that “it was not uncommon for Bonnard to paint as much as 90º from left to right – more that the whole of what most people are even vaguely aware of at one time.”

Sargy Mann argues that the house in which Bonnard lived was tiny and that when we’re sitting in a small space that we know very well, we do tend to be aware of a great deal of things going on around us. Besides, this way of painting depicts more than just reality – it offers the viewer a feeling of what it is like to be in that space, as if we were suddenly transported into the painting itself.

With this in mind, we were asked to go around the campus and choose a space to draw, using Bonnard’s perceptions as our own.

We were then asked to do the same thing, only quickly drawing a space from memory that we know very well. I drew my bedroom back at home.

I quite liked this exercise. I found it fascinating how this technique makes it so easy for us (viewers) to understand and feel what it is like to be the person who made drawing in that space. It’s a very personal way of drawing.

We can tell, in the first drawing, that my attention was more drawn to some bits than others (depending on the amount of detail I provided) and that I was distracted by what was going on outside (otherwise I wouldn’t have drawn past the windows). In the second drawing, we can see that I drew my dog and therefore she must be important to me, or I wouldn’t have included her in a drawing of my bedroom. We can also tell that I care for my belongings, that I know exactly what’s on my bedside table and shelves.

It’s a very curious way of drawing and I do intend to use it when creating visuals for my current project. Note: If you have the opportunity do so, do read Sargy Mann’s book on Bonnard. I found it quite interesting.

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