“Wright’s Aided Drawing series is the outcome of his performance of the 19th century artist working en plein-air. Going so far as to don the wide-brimmed straw hat, he took the studio out to the garden to begin his detailed studies. The idea of going on-site to sketch is typically understood as a way to force oneself to notice details of an environment that might otherwise go unexperienced and unseen. It seemed appropriate to this work for Wright to employ the aid of a camera lucida, a 19th century drawing tool essentially used as a way to ‘trace’ the image of an object in front of one. To use the apparatus one sets the angle and height of a prism, mounted on a table top stand in such a way that light reflects into the eye simultaneously from both the object and the paper to be drawn on. By aligning the eye with the prism just right, one experiences the illusion of seeing the image on the paper below and can draw its contours. Ironically, the practice of using the camera lucida is so particular that, much like using a piece of tracing paper over an image, the artist spends little time actually experiencing the look of an object, but rather focuses all attention on the discipline of coordinating the proper relation between eye, camera lucida, object, and hand holding pencil to paper.
As the prism of the camera lucida creates a soft focus edge it reinforced Wright’s understanding of the Gardens as a series of vignettes. The dissolve of the frame in the reflected image forced him carefully to compose what becomes central in the picture. The extensive foliage at Gairloch would prove difficult to read through this technology and Wright had to select subject matter that was clear and stable, so as not to resort to creating idealized forms. Thus the drawings diagram the exterior architectural forms of Gairloch Gallery, with its linearity capturing the appropriate amount of light contrast for its structure to be studied closely. Rather than leave the drawings simply as evidence of the artist’s work in the field, Wright skews the image by doubling it in places, creating an effect that unravels the unadulterated picturesque to highlight the image’s aided construction.”