Direct Drawing and Painting
A development of automatic drawing and painting in which
the hand of the automatist is not made use of, and sometimes
even drawing and painting materials are dispensed with, the
sketch being precipitated in the darkness in a time that is usually
too short for normal execution. It is a fairly well known mediumistic
phenomenon but also one that is always open to suspicion
of fraud as the transcendental pictures are often found to
be feeble copies of existing works of art and since practitioners
of direct drawing and painting have often been caught in deception.
Mary Marshall’s direct pencil portrait of Goethe was a close
copy of an engraving in The Life of Goethe; many illustrations of
David Duguid’s Hafed were identical with pictures in Cassell’s
Family Bible; and still-life paintings of Mrs. E. J. French, of New
York, were similarly wanting in originality.
Taken to task, the controls of Duguid defended themselves
by saying that they often took impressions from the medium’s
subconscious. His defense drew support from the hypothesis
that the mind of the sitter may also contribute the subject. On
occasion, for example, visitors to Duguid recognized, in the direct
paintings, scenes they were acquainted with in America
and Australia, which the medium could not have seen. An art
dealer found a direct painting strangely familiar and later discovered
its facsimile among some pictures he had bought.
Frank Miller writes in the Journal of the American Society for
Psychical Research of a well-known artist who could paint
scenes he never saw but that she remembered having seen.
Duguid specialized in miniature paintings in oil. They were
done under the alleged control of the spirits of Dutch painters
Jakob Ruysdael and Jan Steen. The size of the pictures was
sometimes as small as a sixpence and the execution, done in
the dark, was always very fine. While the medium was tied to
his chair, or held by the hands, the noise of the brushes was
heard above the table and sometimes half a minute later the
brushes or pencils and the picture fell down. Occasionally the
drawings were obtained in a few seconds in sealed envelopes on
folded sheets of paper.
Mrs. E. J. French excelled in still life paintings done under
a small table that was surrounded by a shawl. For eight to fifteen
minutes furious scraping and rubbing was heard, then a
signal, then the brushes and pencils dropped out and, fresh
with paint, a brightly colored picture was produced from under
the table.
Samuel Guppy, in his anonymously published Mary Jane, or
Spiritualism Chemically Examined (1863), describes drawings of
varicolored flowers obtained, often without any drawing or
painting material, in the presence of his first wife. Specially
bought and marked paper was placed in a box that was itself
carefully wrapped in paper and sealed to remove any chance
of deception. Yet the picture appeared occasionally in as many
as seven colors, covered with a varnish of unknown origin.
In one instance the effect appeared to have been produced
at a distance. In a letter to the London Dialectical Society,
Countess Panigai described a visit to D. D. Home during which
she was promised a distinct sign from her deceased child the
following day. The promise was well kept. At her home, which
the medium never visited, she heard raps, apparently coming
from a drawer where, unknown to all, the last pair of boots her
child wore was hidden in a box. ‘‘Unlocking the drawer and the
box, on the elastic of one boot was imprinted a perfect star, and
in the centre of the star an eye,’’ the countess recalled. The substance
with which it is drawn is black. It has since faded slightly,
but remains still thoroughly distinct. So mathematically perfect
is the drawing that great skill and precision is necessary for an
accurate copy to be taken.’’ Letters at each point of the star
formed the name of the child, ‘‘Stella.’’
The most unusual demonstrations in direct art were given
by the Bangs sisters of Chicago. On paper-mounted canvases
held against the light near the windows, they produced spirit
portraits in plain sight of the sitter, who was usually advised to
keep about his person a photograph of the departed friend
whose spirit picture he desired to obtain. Admiral Usborne
Moore often witnessed the phenomenon and describes it in
Glimpses of the Next State (1911)
‘‘We had to wait some time. After a few minutes the canvas
assumed various hues, rosy, blue and brown; it would become
dark and light independently of the sun being clouded or not.
‘‘Dim outlines of faces occasionally appeared in different
parts of the canvas. . . . We had been sitting forty minutes when
the right and left edges of the canvas began to darken, and the
face and bust suddenly appeared. It was finished in thirty-five
minutes—i.e., one hour and fifteen minutes from the time we
first sat down. On separating the two canvases it was found that
the picture was on the further side of the one nearest to me,
and the material was quite damp; the other canvas, which had
Direct Drawing and Painting Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
been pressing against it all the time, was unsoiled. The stuff
comes off on the finger, a smutty, oily substance. . . .
‘‘The actual picture therefore, took thirty-five minutes to
precipitate. It is richer in tone now than it was when put on a
sofa after the sitting, but in other respects just the same. The
likeness to the cartes-de visiti in my dollarpocke is not remarkable,
but there are points about it which show that the invisible
workers had access to these photographs.’’
Reported pictorial appearances of the Virgin Mary in
churches and other places of worship have caused some to hypothesize
that the phenomena under this heading also occur
in a spontaneous manner. It was reported in the London Press
in the summer of 1923 that, on the plaster wall in Christchurch
Cathedral, Oxford—under the Burne Jones window that Dean
Liddell had caused to be placed there as a memorial of a dearly
loved daughter and close to three tablets erected to the memory
of the dean and his family—there had gradually emerged,
over a period of two years, a remarkable likeness to the late
dean, whose life and work were so closely associated with
Relating the Liddell portrait to the phenomenon of psychic
photography. Frederick Bligh Bond argues in the October
1923 issue of Psychic Science that ‘‘. . . instead of a photographic
plate and the chemical changes in salts of silver, there is in the
smooth white plaster wall and the mineral salts contained in the
plaster, a combination susceptible to slow chemical change;
and instead of the presence of a physical medium required in
psychic photography, there is the physical atmosphere of a
building constantly dedicated to prayer and aspiration, full of
spiritual and psychical emanations of countless worshippers
tending to provide the conditions necessary for the accomplishment
of a process in which the alchemy of thought may
succeed in affecting the grosser particles of matter.’’
This portrait of Dean Liddell remained unaffected by the
passing of years. Barbara McKenzie, wife of James Hewat
McKenzie, writes in Psychic Science, October 1931, that ‘‘the
Dean’s face is beautifully clear and there certainly seems an
emergence of other outlines close by which bear a resemblance
to two human heads.’’ One of these was noticed to be forming
in 1923; the other is more recent.
Similar appearances have been noticed in other parts of the
building. Mrs. McKenzie was shown a gray marble pedestal
base. About a foot from the floor a white patch appears on the
marble, containing a very clear face of an elderly man with
bushy hair and full whiskers and beard. An even clearer face
was to be seen on a wall behind the organ and within twenty
yards of the choir stall. It was popularly associated with a chorister
who for many years sang in the cathedral.
The evidence for the genuineness of direct drawing and
painting is far from satisfactory. Both Duguid and the Bangs
sisters were exposed in mediumistic frauds, and the amateur
conjurer David P. Abbott successfully duplicated the sisters’ direct
painting phenomena by trickery.