These photos are from my studio in Oxford, where I've been trying to draw with a contemporary remake of a traditional camera lucida. This! A camera lucida is mechanical drawing aid composed of a silvered prism mounted to a flexible arm and clamped to the drawing desk, so that when you look down through the prism at your sheet of paper, you see a superimposed image of the object positioned immediately in front of you. Then all you need to do is trace the outline of the image directly onto the page and you have a perfectly proportioned sketch.
Of course it isn't that easy. To begin with it's really difficult. It took me a good quarter of an hour even just to position the lens, the object and my eye in such a way that the object's image appeared somewhere on the page. For a long time I could only get crystal-clear images of my eyelashes, and then of the window in the corner of the room, and then finally, hesitatingly, the zoom recorder appeared. (It didn't matter much what I drew, so I chose the recorder because I'd just been reading about collecting audio and had it to hand. More about audio collecting soon...)
But even with the recorder's image positioned centrally on the page, and my eye practised enough to keep still so that the image didn't skid about on the page, copying the thing down onto the page was another challenge altogether. I'm quite happy with the drawings you can see taped to the wall, but these are my twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth attempts. Each time I worked through the drawing I learned more about the technique, more about the tricks of the apparatus, more about the surface of the page, the surface of the lens, and how the pencil seems to pierce through one in order to pin its sight down onto the other. It's immensely exciting process — everything completely new.
So the first thing I'm going to do when I get into the residency studio at Spike Island is unpack this little lens, fix it to my desk and spend a few solid days drawing, taking notes, then working those notes into a couple of coherent paragraphs about the unique relationships between pencil, page, image and eye presented by the camera lucida. Here's all I have so far:
eyes two, one each / pencil lost under paper wall surface / wall is paper paper is wall / upside down and back to front / swimming underwater / very slight movement all is lost / correct against original object / correct against emerging drawing / move all is lost