Drawing with numb hands: Dexterity and draughtspuppets

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Platz, William
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2021
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Abstract

This essay is part of a wider research project that has introduced puppets into the drawing studio. Puppets are odd operators, and this is an unorthodox approach to drawing research. In this case, eccentricity is appropriate given that orthodoxies of skilfulness and good drawing are the subject of investigation. Unlike other contemporary practices that utilize puppetry as subject matter, motif and narrative device, this project invites draughtspuppets to make drawings. These draughtspuppets are distinct from automata and other drawing machines, and these distinctions are outlined. The paper focuses on the virtue and value of dexterity. In drawing and in puppet manipulation, dexterity brings scrutiny to the hands as the primary site of action and queries the relationship between ‘good hands’ and ‘good drawing’. The text begins by connecting traditions of dexterity, manipulation, drawing and puppetry before delving into the essence of puppets ‐ their animism and (semi-)autonomy ‐ and the tacit implications of dextrous hands. This article asks the question: can puppet ontologies expose the value of dexterity as a procedural component of (good) drawing? Connecting a range of puppet scholarship, the author’s interactions with the draughtspuppets and over 25 years of teaching experience, this article finally argues for the productive capacity of draughtspuppets to transform orthodox beliefs about the tenets of dexterity and good drawing. In the final passage, the motifs present in the draughtspuppets’ recent drawings are briefly analysed and correlated with this examination.

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Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice

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6

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1

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Visual arts

Art history, theory and criticism

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Platz, W, Drawing with numb hands: Dexterity and draughtspuppets, Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice, 2021, 6 (1), pp. 69-81

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