Tuesday 2 October 2007

Life Drawing - Male

Nothing is as interesting to human beings as looking in a mirror, or looking at each other. Humans evolved on the African savannah and as a species became very good at some specific things.

We can hurl medium-sized rocks and sticks a medium distance. We can run and throw at the same time, better than any other animal.

We are excellent at recognising patterns, to the point of finding frequent, imaginative false-positives.

We can instantly see the mistakes or novelties in depictions of the human form.

A strange thing has happened while reading two different books at the same time. I was reading the hard-sci-fi novel about global warming, Fifty Degrees Below, by Kim Stanley Robinson, and I am still enjoying philosopher Daniel Dennett 's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and both of these books are mentioning Acheulean hand-axes.

I had never heard of these before, and they are a fascinating part of our prehistoric heritage, throughout the Old World continents, really, that I am quite upset this was never mentioned in school. I mean, they were in use for almost a solid million years! Some mysteries still elude us as to their use, but they were obviously important enough to be so abundant, and in my book, by age 12, should have been mentioned, studied and discussed.

One of my favourite characters that I have read in years, is Frank Vanderwal in K.S. Robinson's Fifty Degrees Below. He finds out about these hand axes from some target-frisbee-throwing freegans, and decides it is a nice neolithic way to get exercise.

After a nearly a million years of making and teaching about Acheulean hand-axes to generation after generation, might there be a propensity for making and caring for tools, and feeling satisfied when using them well that is reinforced neurologically? Do we have a receptor that releases a trickle of endorphins when tool use is successful? As an artist, I feel it seems likely. However, that is anecdotal, and not worth as much as evidence pursued, double-blind trials followed, and theories confirmed.

In the spirit of our forebears, those deadly upright artisans, this post contains images of life drawings I did last spring, where the model was holding a long pole throughout the poses.


Anonymous said...

If two of us agree, will it be the beginnings of scientific proof?
I definitely have the neurological-tool-use-satisfaction thing going on.
You should see me going slightly prehistoric when I have lost my favorite pencil...
And I, too, lament the shortcomings of the education I received. There is truly so much interesting stuff to learn. I used to wish we did more on the Pyramids, but we skipped right to who won what war...
Very thought provoking post...

Anonymous said...

P S Great life sketches!

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Leslie.

Going slightly prehistoric, eh? A favourite pencil is a thing to be coveted and not used for checklists or jotting down a phone number. I use a mechanical .3mm pencil and it gives me such headaches as it is always being finicky and breaking down. But I wrestle, and curse and get the bloody thing working again, and draw myself back into forgetfulness.

Anonymous said...

Ah...drawing into forgetfulness...what? Me?
I really like your hypothesis about the endorphins and satisfactory tool use.
It's easy to extrapolate that thought to a visual of a man waxing his new car...

The Key Question said...

I can imagine one day in the far future when humans meet another space-faring alien species somewhere in deep space.

Flashing colourful lights and blaring radio communications at each other, both parties try in vain to communicate.

Everything was just too different. Then the aliens had an idea and decided to pass something that looked like an Acheulean hand-axe to the human astronauts.

The astronauts recognized it immediately. "Ah, we've got one of these too... wait a sec."

The two spaceships immediately sped off in opposite directions into the great void.

Glendon Mellow said...

Awesome, Lim. The intergalactic greeting: Acheulean hand axes.

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