The method an artist chooses directly impacts the look of the artwork, so we devised a set drawing experiments to compare the characteristics of different drawing methods: memory, observation, and tracing a live action projection.

Students were first asked to draw a bison from memory. The memory drawings were collected. Video footage of bison meandering around a field was then projected onto the far wall of the room and students were instructed to draw a bison from observation. The observation drawings were collected. The projector was then turned upside-down (mimicking the projection inside a camera obscura) and students were instructed to trace the bison. The tracings were collected and the three sets of drawings compared.

 

Memory

Observation

Tracing

 

 

Jared Frenzel-Sulyok (student)

 
The memory and observation drawings varied only slightly, with the observation drawing having a more proportional head and increased fur. The tracing, however, took on a completely different look. It has two tails and two heads, which describe the movement of the animal during the course of the tracing.
 

Tracings of Moving Images
(present day)

Engravings
(Paleolithic)

Student
  Top: M. Gatton after É. Piette
Bottom: M. Gatton after G. Bosinski

 
Comparing the results of the drawing experiments with actual Paleolithic plaquettes (small portable engraved stones and bones), it was notable that both sets shared repeated features that describe movement. In our experiments no student drew a nine legged bison from memory or observation. However, repeated features became routine in the moving image tracings. There were two factors that caused the repeated features: first, was that the subject moved and second was that the artist could not see the line as he made it. The light of the image overpowered any information on the drawing surface. Being unable to see one's own line was very peculiar, causing some areas to be repeated and some to be missed entirely. The invisibility of the lines in process had a distinct effect on the drawings, a distinctly Paleolithic effect.
 

Engravings
(Paleolithic)

Tracings of Moving Images
(present day)

Top: M. Gatton after G. Bosinski
Bottom: M. Gatton after É. Cartailhac


Student

 

Another tell-tale characteristic of a projected image is keystoning, the distortion that occurred when the projection surface was tilted out of parallel with the image source. Below is a tracing by a student where he tilted the drawing board out of parallel making bison's muzzle extend outward. Keystoning is also evident on certain Paleolithic plaquettes.

 

Tracing of a Moving Image
(present day)

Engraving
(Paleolithic)

Nate Jones (student)

M. Gatton after L. Pales

 
The extremely small heads and enormous midriffs of some Paleolithic artworks have been confounding, because no animal in the fossil record is known to have been so disproportioned. This stylization is reminiscent of the optical keystoning effect of an image projected on to a tilted surface.
 
 

Horse, Cave of Lascaux, France (M. Gatton)

The Image of a living horse projected inside
a camera obscura onto a tilted stone plaquette.
(M. Gatton)

 
We theorize that some Paleolithic engravings on small stones and bones hold direct tracings of images projected inside a hide tent camera obscura. Though these engravings are numerous and widespread they do not enjoy the recognition of the famous deep cave paintings. Tracing a moving image of a living animal is a very odd way of working and creates a distinct set of characteristics, including multiple legs and heads, as well as inexplicable blank areas, which combine to create astoundingly immediate and lifelike artworks, a signature of portable Paleolithic art. What we see in the deep cave is the visual lexicon of the tent-camera process sometimes being applied to cave walls, but this is a matter of translation, of applying a visual logic developed in the tent.
 

Tracing the outline of an Image of a living horse projected
inside camera obscura onto a stone plaquette. (M. Gatton)

Engraving of projected image on stone plaquette.
(M. Gatton)
 
 


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