UnknownThough the camera lucida is not a conventional bit of the book manufacturing process, now that I am no longer working, I am planning to use one to create an illustrated edition (one-off) of Thomas Hardy’s book-length poem, The Dynasts: An Epic-Drama of the War with Napoleon, in Three Parts, Nineteen Acts, and One Hundred and Thirty Scenes. The Time Covered by the Action Being About Ten Years. A somewhat daunting task when one reads the subtitle Hardy gave it: I hope that this hostage to fortune will not come back to reproach me. The piece is so graphically dramatic that I kept thinking it should be a TV mini series — but who’d risk money making such a thing for a potential audience of one (well maybe two or three) viewers. An illustrated edition seemed the perfect solution, and with a big blank book (a dummy rescued from work) I am ready to go.

It was David Hockney who drew attention to the camera lucida about a decade ago, and below in three rather abruptly divided bits is an interview with Charlie Rose, which gives you a lot of the history of its use. I am not however building a contraption which will result in an upside-down image projected onto a wall — technology has saved me from that. I have bought an app for the iPad! At $4.99 it is truly a bit of magic, and I cannot imagine anyone involved in the graphic arts who wouldn’t be totally delighted to have such a thing.

I plan to use the iPad to project the text onto the page (I do have a PDF of the text as a starting point). I will be reproducing every letter with my Rapidograph, and I admit that just writing this does make my right hand feel tired. The app will obviously be invaluable for many illustrations, though I expect as time goes by my fluidity in drawing Napoleonic soldiers will develop beyond this “crutch”. As the Charlie Rose interview shows people find it hard to get beyond seeing the camera lucida as “cheating”, though it is of course foolish for any craftsman/artist to abjure any technique which advances his aim. It’s interesting to see how David Hockney, the artist, almost can’t understand how anyone could have any objection to the use of a camera lucida.

IMG_0049Here’s drawing of Izzy, one of my granddaughters, which I had copied from a photo ten minutes after getting the app.