Tuesday, 27 May 2014

YSP: Ursula von Rydingsvard and Ai Weiwei

I went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park over the weekend and there are two exhibitions on which you ought to visit, as they are both exemplary examples of artists working at the top of their game.

Ursula von Rydingsvard is also showing drawings alongside her sculpture. Her drawings echo her materials sensibility, the ones shown being a meditation on the processes of papermaking as well as paper’s ability to retain traces and impressions of actions and engagement with the process of markmaking. The paper chosen is a cotton laid paper. She has opened up the nature of the process by extending the papers beyond the papermaking frame, probably having the paper laid onto felt and while still wet extending the bottom edges by working with wet paper pulp and cotton threads, thus highlighting the way gravity effects the ‘run’ of water through the paper as it dries. Spots of pigment are also applied, these dissipating out through the wet paper and falling down towards the extended edges, again highlighting the awareness of gravity as a process affecting the construction of the images. The fact these papers are cotton based, is further emphasised by additions of threads sunk into the bottom edges of the papers, breaking the papers’ rectangles (see comments on grids below) and suffusing themselves into the pulp extensions. My previous two posts, ‘The Imprint and the Trace’ and ‘Letting things happen’ could both be read in conjunction with her drawings, as several of the points made are observable in her working processes.

Rydingsvard’s sculptures are also of great interest to anyone drawing. At their core they are three dimensional grids and no matter how far she pushes the carved exploration towards organic forms, the fact that she constructs these forms from regular blocks of cedar wood, means that the interplay between the three dimensional grid and the carving provides an underlying structural element not unlike layers of rocks laid down over millions of years, that are then revealed by erosion. The grid as an organizational and structural principle is something that I will be reflecting upon in a future post, but it might be worthwhile thinking about how far a grid can be ‘eroded’ away and yet still be used as a structural device. If you watch the film of her making, you will also see that she builds these sculptures up in a painstaking way, each block being marked out for cutting before it is attached to the next, again this might be a way into thinking through how a structural element can be carefully built as well as ‘found’.


 Ai Weiwei uses the grid format in his chapel piece, this time using the grid to organise his chairs and present them formally. The formal ‘frontal’ nature of this piece again echoing not only the underlying structural principles of making a chair, but carving the space of the chapel up in such a way that people are encouraged to sit in chairs that carry a heavy weight of cultural heritage.





Friday, 23 May 2014

Letting things ‘happen’

One of the common difficulties we all face is being able to let things happen. We have a tendency to predict what we want an outcome to be, but within art practice this can often be a hindrance rather than a help. Within Buddhist thinking in order to be in the now, to live life without worrying about ‘self’ or trying to break away from the all-consuming need to be unique, you need to develop a form of concentration that sits outside of the self, you might think of this as a type of concentration that might focus on on a mark or a brushstroke or a piece of paper, this is when drawing becomes a practice very like meditation.

The philosopher Heidegger had a concept that he called ‘at hand’. As in what you have at hand, what is simply there to be used.  ‘At hand’ is what you do when you just pick something up and use it, you might for instance need the door propping open and use a chair because it was ‘at hand’. Richard Wentworth has a collection of photographs he calls ‘Making do and getting by’, which are examples of this type of activity. Basically it is unselfconscious making.  When you draw you are sometimes doing exactly this, just responding to what is there. In everyday life, even though we might try to, we are rarely able to control the outcomes of our actions, and we can embed this acceptance in practice. Acceptance is perhaps a key word here. One aspect of Buddhist thought is that if you are to develop acceptance you need to learn to avoid craving for things.

You could argue that one ‘craving’ some of us have is for sense to be made, and we sometimes use theory to help us make that sense. However, when you are in the process of making something you are often lost in the making. So how can you reconcile the fact that you are often asked to write about what you are doing and the fact that when you are drawing you need to ‘let go’ and allow the process of making to take over.

Barbara Bolt states; “Heidegger’s discussion of responsibility and indebtedness provide us with quite a different way to think about artistic practice. In the place of an instrumentalist understanding of our tools and material, this mode of thinking suggests that in the artistic process, objects have agency and it is through the establishing conjunctions with other contributing elements in the art that humans are co-responsible for letting art emerge.”

She is arguing that artists work directly with their materials and this ‘cooperation’ with a material, such as charcoal on paper, or clay or metal, allows for their work to ‘emerge’. This is a type of material thinking. It also puts a focus on art making as a process, rather than looking at it as a series of objects to be contemplated. This relates again to the concept of acceptance. If your pen nib breaks for example, you can either get a new one or in that moment respond to the new mark making possibilities it has; if your paper has a flaw in it you can build this in as part of the image making process. This is again using what is at hand. If this is the case the final outcome is always unknown, therefore it is more likely that we will discover new things.

So how can this work? Think of making work by setting up situations where your materials can behave naturally.  How does gravity affect them, how far can an ink spread or how thickly can paint be laid down, how does an applicator affect what is being applied? Think of how you might help these substances fulfill their potential. If working with images there can be a dialogue between this process of materials discovery and image development. Watercolour washes can hold within them the potential to also be read as people, landscapes or still-lifes and so can charcoal drawings, but they will become very different things. If you are working on a computer this is exactly the same process, what is the potential of Illustrator as a tool? It will shape and change your imagery as much as when you are trying to make an image using a pencil. The point is, you must be attuned to the possibilities that present themselves and remain sensitive to the media being used, rather than trying to force the materials to make what is already in your head. If not you will always be disappointed by the fact that what you are doing is not as good as what you wanted it to look like before you started making. Of course you need an idea to enable you to start, but ‘letting things happen’ might allow you to discover something far better than your initial idea. This is a deeper insight into materials handling.

Another way to look at this is an acceptance of accidents. Life itself has evolved because of successful mutations or errors in the process of replication. In order to ‘accept’ these changes an organism needs to adapt to them and adaptations contribute to the fitness and survival of individuals.

Going back for a moment to think about mimesis (see earlier posts) Stephen Halliwell points to "world-reflecting" and "world-simulating" theories of representation. In this case we have a “world simulating” theory of representation. The work evolves and emerges in a similar way to how other things in the world evolve and change in relation to their environment. This type of interaction is one of autopoiesis. The deeper implications of this are fleshed out in Fritiof Capra’s book ‘Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter’, which is a wonderful text that allows the reader to build a wider framework within which to think about our interactions with the totality of any environment.


David Hockney ‘Accident Caused by a Flaw in the Canvas’

Further reading

Bolt, B (2004) Heidegger, Handlability and Praxical Knowledge Melbourne: IBTauris

Halliwell, S (2002) The Aesthetics of Mimesis: Ancient Texts and Modern Problems New York: Princeston

Capra, F. (1997) Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter London: Anchor

Sennett, R (2009) The Craftsman London: Penguin

Pallasmaa, J (2009) The Thinking Hand London: John Wiley

Richard Wentworth 'Making do and getting by'

Monday, 19 May 2014

The imprint and the trace

A few people have asked me to put up some information about the idea of ‘the trace’, this is my first post on this issue. Do remember that if you want me to open out an idea you have to let me know by commenting in the comments box.

In Nicolas Bourriaud’s introduction to Foucault’s ‘Manet and the Object of Painting’, he points out that like other philosophers of the time Derrida was a writer that explored the interval between the sign and the trace, the space between things rather than things in terms of singular objects, the event rather than the moment.

 Traces are usually traces of moments of surface contact. For example the imprint of feet as someone walks across a sandy beach, wet soles of shoes marking a hallway, a hand-print left on a steamy bathroom mirror. However traces can become more permanent, a tyre track left in mud can become ‘cast’ in hard baked clay as the mud dries out during a hot summer. A dead body sinks into a tar pit, becoming slowly materialized until revealed millions of years later as a fossil. A car runs through a pool of spilled paint, its tyres now leave a permanent print on the road.

 Traces are incomplete records of events, but ones that can often be read as signs. Traces of crumbs left on a table, can be signs of a recently eaten meal.  A deer leaves ‘traces’ of its passage, hoof-prints left in soft ground, velvet from its antlers, brushed off and held by low lying tree branches.  These traces can be read as signs, as a language that can be used to understand the deer’s life. A complex understanding will evolve as we learn to read the traces of its passage more accurately. We can work out which direction the deer was going in by close examination of its hoof-print, we can ascertain its height by measuring how far from the ground a twig holds a scrap of antler velvet, we can guess its weight from the depth of the hoof-track etc. We may even try to ascertain from the traces of its passage its mental state; was it rushing away from an enemy or calmly wondering through the woods?

The trace can be seen as at the root of the sign. The possibility of language embedded within our ability to interpret traces. Interpretation lays at the inception of the sign, it could mean this or that, but once interpreted as one thing, this can stick. Through inductive reasoning we shift the trace towards becoming a sign, i.e. we decide that something is probable based on the evidence before us, the probability leaking eventually into a generalization.

Traces are often imprints and therefore we can open the dialogue of meaning out into associated words, such as prints and touch. We might also include the idea of the cast, which could be seen as a three dimensional print. However some of the most compelling issues surround the fact that a trace or print taken from a three dimensional body is flat or two dimensional. 

At the core of much painting and drawing theory lies the paradox of trying to reproduce images of a three-dimensional world on a flat surface or two dimensional plane. (See Greenberg) However most three dimensional objects can be thought of  topographically as types of continuous surfaces, and if so, these surfaces can be flattened out as ‘diagrammatic’ ideas. For instance a cube can be visualized as six squares laid out in the form of a cross.  However the cross-like plan or net of a cube implies a ‘time of unfolding’, it suggests that it could be returned to three-dimensionality by refolding.

The interesting issue, and one that was highlighted by Abbot’s book ‘Flatland’ is that a two dimensional understanding of a three dimensional world is always lacking. A pyramid slowly passing through a flat plane initially appears as a dot, then as a triangle that is slowly increasing in size, but never as a fully realised three-dimensional object. One way therefore of thinking about a ‘trace’ is as a two dimensional piece of evidence of a three dimensional object. If so we can develop an account of how the incomplete account this trace, in relation to the totality of the object, leads to an ambiguity of read. For instance the ‘imprint’ of a box left on the sand, doesn’t tell us anything about its height or whether or not the top of the box is at right-angles to the bottom.

Traces are dependent on events happening between objects or things. For instance a bird flies into a window and leaves a trace or imprint of its collision. 

A trace or imprint in a drawing or painting reinforces our awareness of the paper or canvas as a flat material plane. It highlights the idea that a drawing can be an object, a thing in the world that acts upon it and can be acted upon, rather than being an illusion or window on the world. In this way a drawing can be seen as a record of facts after the event.  However an imprint can also be a representation, for instance a handprint not only captures a moment of touch between the paper and the hand, it operates as a representation of a hand. Drawing has this ability to operate in two ways at once. It can be simultaneously a copy or illusion of reality and reality itself. It can be both image and information, arena for action and/or window on the world. Every drawing could be seen as a collection of traces, marks left over from the hand’s passage, but as we step back from the image, some of these markings might look like landscapes, or portraits.

As has already been mentioned, traces are often imprints of three-dimensional solid bodies left on flat planes. Therefore another word we can use is ‘touch’. These traces are memories of what happened when one object ‘touched’ another. One of the oldest images we have is that of a human hand ‘printed’ onto a cave wall, the artist literally touching the surface in order to make an image.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines touch as “That sense by which a material object is perceived by means of the contact with it of some part of the body.” We can by analogy ‘touch’ one object with another. When my coffee cup is put down on the table it can be seen as ‘touching’ the table and a record of this touching might be the ring stains of spilt coffee that have run down the sides of the cup.

One of the key issues about touch is that it is both immediate and unmediated. There is no time-delay, no medium between the subject and the object, the sensing organ is in direct contact with the sensed object. Similarly a print from the surface of an object is a record of a direct contact, a one to one relationship.  Touch is also identified with the real. If you can’t believe your eyes or ears, and believe that taste is subjective, you can still argue that to touch is to prove.  In this way we come to another area of meaning surrounding traces, that of the direct imprint, a print off an original that suggests that what we have is a more authentic record than a drawn or painted copy because this trace or print maintains some form of original surface contact with an original.

Associated with touch is the idea of a ‘print’, defined as “to press upon a substance or surface, so as to leave an indentation or imprint” We conjoin the two terms touch and print of course when finger-prints are taken. Our most sensitive organs of touch are also our most unique attribute, the ends of our fingers having swirls that are always singular to ourselves. The most common parts of our body to be used to print with being those we associate with intimate close contact with others, the lipstick prints on millions of cups and mugs, perhaps in sheer numbers being higher than the millions of fingertip prints taken throughout the world’s police offices. 

Artists working in this area include Anna Barriball, her graphite rubbings are intense enough to eventually become as perceptually dense and solid as the originals; Dan Shaw-Town uses rubbing, erasing and sanding as well as folding techniques, Alice Channer has developed a body of work around skin, prints and stained surfaces, Susan Collis makes crafted versions of traces such as paint spills, Sian Bowen has worked with archaeological sites and is interested in touch, Dieter Roth’s ‘worktables’ were drawings that are actual traces left over from his working process, local Leeds artist Hondartza Fraga has done some interesting rubbings of old maritime books as part of a residency in Hull, the Ian Kiaer recent exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute displayed some of his traces of practice pieces, Max Ernst explored ‘frottage’ techniques to stimulate his imagination, these techniques nearly always consisted of taking rubbings from textured surfaces, Jasper Johns’ image ‘Study for Skin, 1. 1962’ is a direct imprint/trace of himself and Gyotaku or ‘fish rubbing’ printing is an established tradition in Japan. In popular culture the legend of the Turin Shroud highlights the emotional impact of the body as an imprint and one aspect of archeological practice was to take Lottin de Laval type rubbings of inscriptions, a response to these saw a terrific exhibition at the Henry Moore Centre in Leeds. As these were two dimensional casts from the surfaces of three dimensional buildings, they could be re-presented as both two and three dimensional representations.

A Lottin de Lavel rubbing taken from an Angkor Wat temple

Anna Barriball 'Door' Graphite rubbing on paper

Dieter Roth 'Worktable' 1979 Worktable top with stains

                             Ian Kiaer Black tulip, offset, stain, 2012: Tape, cardboard, aluminium, coffee and tea stains, glitter
Finally an accidental image, that is definitely a trace and is made by human beings but is it a drawing? Whatever it is it is a powerful image.
The imprint of a crashed Zero fighter plane on the side of a destroyer.

Books mentioned
Abbott, E (1992) Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions New York: Dover
Foucault (2011) Manet and the Object of Painting London: Tate
The debate surrounding Derrida and his understanding of how the trace becomes the sign is fleshed out in:
Critchley, S (2005) The Ethics of Deconstruction London: Motilal Banarsidass
In particular see page 37
‘The present is constituted by a differential network of traces.’ (Critchley, 2005, p.37)
‘The sign is what Derrida calls a trace, a past that has never been present.’ (Ibid)
‘The sign represents the present in its absence. It takes the place of the present.’ (Ibid)
The Chicago School of media theory has a wonderful blog which can be used to open out more theory behind these things, see for example:

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Andrew Lister: Drawing Exhibition

For the next couple of weeks there is a show in the college gallery of drawings by Andrew Lister. They appear so unassuming and quiet, that many of the issues they raise might be overlooked. Therefore, especially as Andrew and myself will be in conversation in the gallery on Wed 21st May at 2pm, I thought it useful to put forward a few points that could perhaps be opened out during the actual discussion.

Looking at Lister’s drawings: the frozen moment of the stare.

Pale, sometimes hardly there, pencil drawings on white papers float on white walls in white frames. These seemingly cool drawings are subtle doorways into a world of hot intense emotional wrestling with perception, but they can take a while to warm to, time is needed to unpick their engagement with the world of perceptual struggle.

The rules of engagement are chosen deliberately. Paper size, easel, board, drawing equipment, all determined by the fact that everything has to be carried onto a number 36 bus, Lister’s preferred transport out into his landscape of choice. The place itself, quiet, removed from the bustle of the city, a place of immersion, of solitude and with the frayed edges of rawness and control that most of our English landscape possesses after thousands of years of human interference. No actual ‘raw nature’ left in England, simply the constant growing through of plant-life, as it seeks to recover the ground it is always contesting with humans, some pockets of resistance being more established than others.

In the middle of this chosen landscape stands Lister, he has been walking or perhaps ‘stalking’ through it, now after selecting a viewpoint, attempting to erect an easel on uneven ground, trying to make its stance sturdy enough to carry the weight of his marks, getting his board and paper at an angle and height that will allow him to work; eye/hand co-ordination bring vital to what will take place.

At some point he will start to draw, the light of a particular morning or afternoon will hurt his eyes if he gazes for too long at the paper, but even so he will have to look at this paper for some time. It’s shape and position will talk to him, they are geometrical intruders into the curved space of nature and he will have to battle with this fact. He looks, he sees the leaves massed along a tree’s outstretched branches, he looks, he sees a space beneath a branch, he looks, he sees the solid mass of a tree trunk, he looks again and sees the passage of one moment of looking into another.

He starts to draw with a pencil; HB, not hard, not soft, undemonstrative in its nature, therefore more suitable as a recording device, as a seismic responder to the hand’s movements. He checks his position. He feels for the pencil, focuses on how he stands in relation to the paper and the first drawn marks, how does his body articulate in relation to these first marks, how does this relate to what has just been seen? His eyes flit over a bunch of leaves, they rustle in a soft breeze, light glints off leaf surfaces as they roll and tilt, a movement is set up between how the leaves move and how the eyes move over the leaf mass. The hand goes back to its job of recording, a few more marks are made. Once there these marks establish the drawings initial identity. It is about something as soon as it starts. But what? This might depend on circumstances. Look at these drawings and some interactions are easy to spot, a bird sits in a tree above the drawing and defecates, its droppings spatter the paper. Immediately the viewer is reminded of the reality of the paper surface, the marks just an illusion. The drawer also responds to this sudden intrusion of reality. Marks become more about surface and less about spatial illusion.  At other times a few marks set up a cross surface rhythm, they need stabilising and in order to do this more attention to verticals and their relationship with mass awareness develops.

Take time to look at these drawings and they will unpick themselves. Look for how erasure is used. Marks put in, marks taken out, marks put in, marks taken out again. What is it about this process? Look again at how this works. Some drawings are almost screaming out with emotional frustration, they cry, “No! No! No! It’s not like that.” As sets of marks begin to build a story, sometimes that story is clear, but often it’s not. The brave artist keeps beginning the story again, the story of the looking being hard fought, and often is only recognised once the struggle is over. Some of these drawings will have been taken home and left for a while before being picked back up and reappraised for what they actually communicate.

Look at the erasures again and you will see that they are of different sorts. Some simply remove, but others adjust. Some cut into the edges of a series of pencil  lines, subtly altering their spatial position. A line rubbed out from the left now sitting much more clearly into the space to its right, a bunch of marks once hovering around an open space beneath, now oscillating slightly forward and backwards, into and out of the picture plane, as marks alternate between varying degrees of darkness and lightness.

As Lister builds these drawings he opens out new problems for himself. Look around the room and you will see several drawings ‘hanging’ from the top edge of the paper. He is forced to build our spatial awareness from the top rather than the traditionally more straightforward receding floor plane. What so many image makers do when faced with the sort of perceptual struggle Lister is engaged with is to use an awareness of perspective and the horizon line to place spatial indicators into the image. These usually start from the bottom edge and are stepped back into the picture plane, using a receding perspective rhythm. If the artist is clever he or she will hide this rhythm by inventive placement, perhaps several clumps of grass are indicated, then a few tree boles and a broken fence. Lister simply doesn’t look down, he stares straight ahead and uses no visual props or clichés, simply asking us to re-enter the perceptual struggle on his behalf.

Sometimes spaces may 'pop', what was at one time the mass, becoming the space and vice versa. This is a product of his way of working, never prioritising the world of things over the world of spaces. At other times you become aware of the paper, some white papers are cooler in temperature than others and as they are grouped together in an exhibition, all these slight differences take on meanings. You begin to look at the paper edges and realise that they are carefully torn into shape, not cut. This together with the awareness of slight colour difference reinforces our awareness of the object-ness of the paper and breaks our suspension of disbelief, making a mockery of Lister's attempts to re-create space on a flat surface. 

We are asked some old questions. What is it to see? What is it to capture the traces of looking? How do you cope with the ‘madness’ of the stupidity of trying to make an object of a process? How can the rubbing of a graphite point against the rough surface of a white paper attempt to capture any of this process?

One answer to these questions is that there is a close connection between the eyes and the hands. A pencil is a tool that can leave traces of its passing, which is itself a record of the hand’s passage; its point leaving a thin line focusing all attention on one graphic element, one that can be read as a sign as well as a trace.

The hand is directed by the brain, he brain interprets the “petit sensations” it is receiving via the eyes, and as it does the game begins; a game of interpretation, deduction and induction. A drawing may start with a quite logical premise, if I make marks like this, I will be able to record the space I am looking at, or the rhythm set up by the leaf patterns. However what begins as a type of deductive logic can often change as a drawing progresses; specific observations can suggest patterns or ideas about what is going on. It is as if you are developing a theory about the drawing and what it is now doing, this itself may then lead to new interpretations as to its meaning. However then it can get all too predictable and the artists stops looking and has to reassert the perceptual engagement by going back to square one.

So what are the differences between signs and traces? Traces come before signs. The hand traces the flicker of looking, the brain then recognises this trace and interprets it as a space maker or as an image finder, whatever seems useful to it at the time. In this case these traces are like frozen heartbeats. They carry the energy of compressed anger, the frustration of the gap, the schism between the moment of looking and it’s understanding. How can the sensation of the now be captured? At what moment do perceptions turn into thought? These drawings are reflections on phenomenology, debates on the nature of reality and arguments set out around the process of awareness. They are stripped down images, naked, without the clothing of technological mediation. In this way 'traces' of the hand's passage, become 'signs' of perceptual cognition. 

Richard Hamilton Transition IIII 1954

Not long ago I was looking at some early images of Richard Hamilton. An artist thought of as belonging to the ‘Pop Art’ pantheon, not one who is associated with this type of perceptual reflection. However if you look at Hamilton’s painting ‘Transition IIII’ from 1954 it is easy to detect the powerful influence of Cezanne on his early career. Hamilton was looking out of a train window and trying to make an image that reflected the experience. The first person he turns to as someone who could provide an insight as to how to do this is of course Cezanne. Hamilton, together with others such as Victor Pasmore and Harry Thubron in Leeds had put together the foundation structures of art education in England and at the core of these structures were strategies designed to ensure that students engaged in unpremeditated looking. They wanted to strip away all the ‘training’, stop all the resorting to tricks and easy answers when engaging with visual responses to the world and the person they looked back to as a role model for this was one of the foundation stones of Modernism, Paul Cezanne. Lister did his Pre-Diploma year at Leeds during the late 1960s. It was a time when the staff teaching had all recently been working with Thubron and they still upheld the values and philosophies that he had installed. In fact, because the Leeds/Newcastle experiment became the model for all Pre-Diploma courses across the country, including the one I went to in Wolverhampton, no student who was serious about his or her art education could afford to ignore the lessons of Cezanne.  Whatever you did, whether it was painting or sculpture, would be tested against the long, often solitary engagement of struggling to find a visual language to cope with responses to nature. Pop Art may have opened our eyes to a much wider definition of what nature could be, but even so the model of a long protracted totally dedicated engagement was still there. I can still remember a tutor at the time telling me that what I was doing was all right, but it would not be until I had spent at least another 30 years of struggle and making, that anyone would begin to take me seriously, because it would only be after that time that the refinement of a new language could actually be put to the test, only then that an audience would be able to assess whether or not a lifetime’s investigations had born fruit or not.  We were little aware at the time that the 1960s were also a time of huge cultural change and that Post-Modernism was going to sweep away all of our cultural sounding posts.

Paul Cezanne Drawing of a tree 1895/1900

The time distance between Cezanne's drawing of a tree and Hamilton's painting of a view from a moving train is about 55 years and it is now 65 years since Hamilton's work was made. 

We now live in a time very distant to the one both Andrew and myself grew up in, but the experiences of youth stay with you and even if those experiences no longer chime with a younger generation, they still remain valid. One of the reasons I’m writing this post is that for art students studying now it is hard to realise how much things have changed over the 40 years that I have been teaching at the college.  Ideas are passed on like relay batons and as they pass on they change and are handled differently by each person. The idea of confronting perception and its affect on us will run and run, but it is not as central to the production of art images today as it was. The world changes and each generation’s environment is different, but each generation will have to come to terms with their experiences and some within each generation will want to reflect on what it is to have those experiences, hopefully these drawings by Andrew Lister will be a reminder of the excitement of raw looking and its translation into an image. 

Looking and drawing, drawing and looking, it doesn't get better than this.

A text that might help open out thoughts about the central role of perception in drawing is:
Merleau-Ponty, M. (1961) ‘Eye and Mind’, Edie, J., ed. 1964. The Primacy of Perception. Northwestern University Press, Chicago.

Download this: Cezanne's Doubt