I wanted to do what art interpreters have always said the ancient Greeks did: use a written canon (rule) of proportions as an aid to make realistic figures. So I spent years researching past artists’ canons and designing my own.
I learnt you need a canon to be extremely detailed if you want to use it to make a realistic figure in a complex pose, and Classical Greek canons don’t seem to have been detailed enough. They seem to have contained about the same amount of detail as ancient Egyptian ones, which we know weren’t used to create art as naturalistic as Classical sculpture.
You also need a different canon for each sex, body type or animal that you want to create, yet, although Classical sculptors created many different forms (men, women, adolescents and animals), they recorded very few different canons.
I think art interpreters have traditionally put too little focus on investigating artists’ practical methods, and have misled us as a result. Exhibitions such as the British Museum’s ‘Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art’ (2015) have ignored a theory that is surely as significant in the history of sculpture as the Hockney-Falco theory is in the history of painting: Nigel Konstam’s theory that the ancient Greeks used lifecasting, that is, they covered living models in plaster to make moulds, made wax models from the moulds, and then cast the wax models in bronze.
In Positionism I support Konstam’s theory and explain why it’s likely Michelangelo also used lifecasting, and then transferred his models to stone and different scales using pointing methods.
I also wanted to build on Hockney and Falco’s accepted theory that the Old Masters traced images projected from optical aids. I think the Romantics, Pre-Raphaelites, Realists and Impressionists traced magic lantern projections. Even though art interpreters continually give the impression the Impressionists pretty much always painted in the open air, I think the reason the Impressionists were especially interested in colour, and created such beautiful colour schemes, is because they were working with black and white photographic lantern slides.
Artists’ secret methods and technological aids help explain the characteristics and emergence of art movements.
With computer aid we can design, share and improve canons of proportions, and use them to create increasingly realistic humanoids. I’ve shared my design in Positionism in the hope people use, adjust and refine it for art, computer graphics and humanoid robotics.
You can read the full manuscript of Positionism on this website. It was first published in e-book format on 5 April 2017. The e-book is available from the iBooks Store and in the British Library’s reading rooms. The hardback is available from Blurb.