Tag Archives: drawing

Scientists discover what they believe is the oldest known drawing by human hands Discovered in South African Cave

Seven red marks resided in a cave in South Africa for about 73,000 years until a few years ago when rocks from the cave were extracted for examination.

Now scientists believe they are the oldest drawings yet discovered that were made by humans. They are about the side of two thumbnails, and what they mean, if anything, is anybody’s guess.

They are made of red ochre, a naturally occurring pigment, and probably applied to the rock with a stick. This New York Times story has the details:

Using a microscope, a laser and a scanning electron microscope, they (the scientists) determined that the marks were on top of the rock and that they were made from red ocher, a type of natural pigment that was often used to make prehistoric cave paintings. In fact, ancient humans in the Blombos Cave were making ocher paint as far back as 100,000 years ago. Source: Oldest Known Drawing by Human Hands Discovered in South African Cave – The New York Times

Previously, the oldest known drawings were about 40,000 years old.


The courtroom sketch artist: art in a pressure-cooker

Courtroom sketch artists are people who can draw (or paint) quickly, accurately depicting what they see and unafraid to allow others — maybe millions of others — to see what they have done.

They work under seemingly impossible deadlines, sometimes only a few minutes, at best a few hours. There’s very little chance of editing or corrections.

Yet with the continuing ban on cameras in many courtrooms in America, the courtroom sketch artist is the only way we have of seeing what’s happening in the judicial system.

A few recent high-profile courtroom scenes (Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein) provoked Time magazine into doing an article of some of these remarkable people: What It’s Like to Be a Courtroom Sketch Artist | Time. The article includes this:

Courtroom sketch artists toe a line of talent, speed, accuracy and precision, as they often serve as the only individuals who can see what happens in some of the most high-profile court cases across the country. Their jobs have changed drastically recently as officials tweak the rules around when cameras can come into the courtroom and as the 24/7 news cycle creates tighter deadlines. All the while, these artists often create these sketches while squeezed into courtrooms, sometimes sitting behind pillars, using binoculars and, in Cornell’s case, shifting in their seats to see the central figures hidden behind bulky court marshals.

As someone who does a good bit of drawing and painting, I have often wondered what it would be like to work in these pressure-cooker conditions and what kind of drawings I would produce. How would I do what these excellent and talented artists do?

The answer I have come up with for myself would be twofold: prepare and practice. Before the proceedings begin, know what the scene looks like and who will be there. Then start drawing those folks in different postures and with different expressions. Practice, practice, practice.

And hope that when the time comes to produce, you’re having a good day artistically.

If this topic interests you, here’s a book to check out:

The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art  by Sue Russell  and Elizabeth Williams  (Author)

Illustration: Harper’s Weekly sketch of the arraignment of John Brown, 1859. Sketched by Porte Crayon (David Strother). 

Want it to last? Draw, don’t write

A review of Clifford Connor’s A People’s History of Science in the New York Times this month has this observation:

A great moment in the history of science was the publication of Andreas Vesalius’s anatomy book, De Humani Corporis Fabrica, in 1543. What made the book a triumph wasn’t the Latin text Vesalius wrote but the 420 illustrations. He never took the trouble to name the artists he’d hired to draw them. Nobody has ever translated the whole of Vesalius’s text into a modern Western language; the illustrations have stayed in print from that year to this.

The review was written by Jonathan Weiner.

Illustrators, even anonymous ones, can have a great impact on their audience – and this is a prime example of just that.

(Posted Dec. 31, 2005)