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This drawing is jumpin’.

In a River North Café in Chicago I once asked the drummer of a jazz group that had just completed a set, what they call it when they’re really playing well.  He said, “We’re jumpin.”

So, this drawing is jumpin.

It has no parts.  Just sweeps you up, like a good jazz piece.

You can look at the round forms and recognize the reference to round fruit but at the same time you also see the whole drawing.  Ditto for every element in the drawing.  Even the ellipse on top of the cup.  Behold the swinging ellipse!  That’s some jumpin ellipse you got there.  But it, too, is a seamless part of this jazzy drawing.  I can hardly talk about it, just want to throw myself into this compelling agitation.

Wait a minute, you say, this has parts.  Well, yes, of course it has parts but each part is so well integrated into the whole, that I don’t get stuck on any one part.  My eye moves through the whole page, over and over.  To stay with the music analogy, when you listen to music you don’t hear notes, you hear…music.

We haven’t talked about the knife yet.  Notice how in this drawing the part of the knife that’s closer to us is in focus and the part that recedes into the peach’s shadow is vague.  Not only is this how we see things in reality, but, in the drawing, if the whole knife were equally outlined (in focus), it would dominate the whole drawing. The still life is not an illustration of one thing. Everything hangs together.  It’s jumpin.

I invite you to use this drawing to review what we said about these still life drawings in the past four posts.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-1/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/13/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-2/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-3/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/15/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-4/

 

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

http://www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.khilden.com

Notice the smooth broad strokes in the objects on the table and in the table edge itself.  This effect is created by using the broad side of a graphite stick, not the tip.  With one well-placed stroke the artist can state the whole shadow of a round form, as in these fruits and a little less so in the cup.  It’s an elegant, classical technique. Notice also, that the contours of the objects are partly given with bold lines (at the bottom) and partly by having the background push against the form (at the top), a contrast that adds drama and three-dimensionality to the form, as we’ve seen earlier.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-mug-and-knife-1/

As for the background, if you review the three drawings we’ve studied so far, you’ll notice that they all have backgrounds that don’t go to the edge of the page and in that sense they make the drawing look unfinished.  You can see that in this drawing, too.

Whether a work is called finished or unfinished is a touchy subject. Who makes that call?  It’s a function of expectation, isn’t it?  Now, why would you expect that dark, agitated markmaking in the background to go to the left edge?  If it did, you would call that finished.  But, this “unfinished” left side has tension and mystery.  I, for one, love the suspense.  It draws me in, as if I were looking over the artist’s shoulders, entering his process.

What about the cup?  As in the previous drawing, the cup is not as convincing as the peaches and pear.  Once again, we’re looking at the ellipse. The cup swings a lively ellipse, but it deviates from your expectation of symmetry.  Can you therefore call it “imperfect,” or even “bad?” What if you just exhaled and allowed yourself to be amused?  As with the “incompletion” in the background, you are invited to enter the process.

Process is a central concept in modern art.

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of the cup, I invite you to look at the following pottery pieces.

https://www.google.com/search?q=irregular+shaped+pottery&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwi0_LzimbbpAhUN9qwKHeMXAZ0Q2-cCegQIABAA&oq=irregular+shaped+pottery&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQA1CBpgFYx7kBYO3MAWgAcAB4AIABXYgB2ASSAQE3mAEAoAEBqgELZ3dzLXdpei1pbWc&sclient=img&ei=jbe-XvSBMI3sswXjr4ToCQ&bih=808&biw=1425

Since clay work is so very tactile, it will be easy to empathize with the physicality of its process.  Practice seeing clay that way, then perhaps seeing a drawing in its physicality will become easier.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-1/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/13/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-2/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-3/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

http://www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.khilden.com

All the drawings in this set of still lifes are fascinating to me. This one holds my attention because it reminds me of what happens when an advanced artist gives a demonstration of what children’s art looks like and then makes very sophisticated marks anyway.

The childlike quality in the above still life is in the solid outlines that give us the shape of all the objects, the peaches, the pear, the knife and the cup.

This linear quality is also characteristic of “naïve and outsider art.”  For examples of naïve and outsider art, have a glance at:

https://www.google.com/search?sxsrf=ALeKk02O67wXC744byY8TUXLuzOheKvrlA:1589400179685&source=univ&tbm=isch&q=naive+and+outsider+art&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjhtfaI0bHpAhUNeawKHeLoA9IQiR56BAgLEBI&biw=1429&bih=808#imgrc=Z7rnQEFwh9FHWM

Notice that all these images  were meticulously, slowly and, one can even say, compulsively drawn. (The exceptions are the images from  mondoexpressionism. They are too loose and painterly to be in that category.)

Now look again at our still life drawing.  Does this feel slow or fast?  Fast, right?  You can tell that it was sketched with a sure hand and a feeling of urgency, like an artist’s quick sketch on the back of an envelope to lay out a composition to a fellow artist.  The artist brought a degree of self-confident abandon to the background scribbles and the table texture that is not found in naïve art.

It’s interesting that we can see a quick, lively ellipse (not naïve!) in the cup, but the ellipse is too rotund for that distant a view of the cup.  The cup also expertly renders the reflected light and the deep shadow.  At the same time, I want to ask the potter if she was tipsy when she threw this tipsy cup.

What we get in this drawing is something like “fine art technique meets naïve.“

Next, apropos tipsy cup, let’s talk about perfection and im-.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-1/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/13/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-2/

 

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

http://www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.khilden.com

 

A drawing can go through many stages of development. The artist may not aim for mimesis or may not have a particular style in mind at all.  The artist may try one kind of markmaking here and another style  there.  The drawing may develop with a progression from dark to light or various degrees of precision.

The drawing can be called complete even though it contains visual contradictions.  Let’s look at contradictions.

In the above drawing, the markmaking in A is vibrant and lively. The background to the objects on the table seems to shimmer. In B the markmaking is the opposite, it’s mechanical and tight.  This dense, dark stripe representing the table appears to have been made by a different hand, in a very different mood. The contrast between A and B does not add drama to the image as a whole. Rather, it looks arbitrary and therefore the drawing feels unresolved.

In modern art we often find contrasts, inconsistencies and contradictions that are witty.  Consider the following two examples.

The hand fits perfectly over the face, as when a woman is surprised or embarrassed. But hand and face are from different worlds, different contexts.  So they fit together in one sense, but are mismatched in another.  We smile at this surprising juxtaposition.

 

Collage, a quintessentially modern art form, lends itself very well to creating contradictions and witty juxtaposition.

 

 

It’s easy to play with photographs by collaging together disparate elements.

Place a cassette over a face and, voila, the two holes will read like eyes. As moderns we know that all images, symbols and myths are human inventions and so we chuckle when we see the invention process being made so obvious.

 

 

 

 

Back to the class drawing of the still-life.   This student/artist gives us a very credible rendering of reflected light and deep shadow of the cup at C.  As in the previous drawing, the ellipse is not “swinging” but is drawn slowly and carefully and therefore it falls flat.  Practice. Practice. Practice

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-1/

We will talk some more about this cup and the demanding but swinging ellipse in the next posts.

More at:

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/untitled-xii/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/plug-by-the-sea-side/

Aphrodite by seph

Videotape Eyes by Rebecca DiLiberto.

 

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

http://www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.khilden.com

In the next few posts we will see drawings by six students. The motif was a still life showing everyday kitchen objects.   We were working from a photo of a famous painting by a famous 18th century French painter– to be introduced after you’ve seen all six student drawings.

I’m showing the drawings first because I would like you to not compare the drawings to anything. Let’s see if we can look at what’s actually there on the paper instead of “what it’s supposed to look like.”

At (1), energetic markmaking.  This area reads as the background and as such is supposed to be “nothing.” But notice that it pulsates, it’s agitated, which injects energy into the whole drawing.  Squint a little and try to imagine the drawing without that “background.” Imagine it white. Blah.  Now imagine it solid, flat black, without the texture of the markmaking. Blah. There, you see.

At (2) the shape of the pear is articulated not by an outline, but by the background pushing against the contour and thereby indicating the shape of the pear.  This is an advanced, a subtle way of seeing. A simple, beginner way of seeing is to draw a heavy line to delineate the object.  What we have here instead is the complexity of seeing the interaction of foreground and background.

The articulation of the round form at (3) is accomplished by a contour line (at the left where it overlaps the pear) and by the background pushing against the upper arch. It’s a simple round form, but if you run your eyes over its perimeter, you’ll perceive it as a complex, three dimensional form.  That’s because it’s not simply, consistently outlined.  If it were, you’d read it as a flat disk.  You can apply this way of seeing to the other round forms in this drawing, too.

The light is coming in from the left. Therefore, on the right side of the objects we see reflected light on the objects and also the deep shadow that the objects cast on the shelf. (4)   Because of this technique these two objects, peach and mug, appear most palpably solid.   This technique of reflected light plus deep shadow was developed by Renaissance painters in the 15th & 16th centuries.  It is an exaggeration of how we perceive real objects in real space, but in pictorial space the effect is dramatic and mesmerizing.

The ellipse (5) is something we practice in just about every class, at the beginning, to get that hand swinging. I say “swinging” because you have to do it fast, otherwise it comes out stiff and lifeless. This takes a lot of practice,  because when you’re working on a drawing you’re likely to be over-cautious and that means, you’ll draw it slowly and therefore, sorry, lifeless. We can see that this ellipse was drawn slowly, but for now let’s encourage more practice and move on to notice how the shadow cast on the inside of the cup makes the three-dimensionality convincing.

And now, the edge of the shelf/table at (6).  Notice that there is a progression of three spaces, from left to right, from short to longer to very long, each indicated with different pencil marks.  This is an invention of the student/artist, not a reproduction of the original 18th century still life. It’s ingenious because it creates movement, like a crescendo in music.  Soft, louder, loudest.  Even though it indicates a plain ol’  table top, a restful horizontal line, it’s not static.  Pure invention! This can happen in beginning students, without suggestions from the instructor.  To me, the instructor, this is deeply moving because it means the student was so absorbed in the drawing process that this effect emerged intuitively—out of intense involvement in the process.

More to come: the ellipse, the concept “still life,” markmaking, positive & negative space, movement in composition, the concepts perfection and not so, incomplete, rhythm…

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/the-ellipse-is-in-your-hand/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

http://www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.khilden.com

KatRaeburn

If you squint a little, you’ll see two dark stripes.  At the same time you see a profile.  Stay with this.  Keep looking at the whole page.

The mark making in the dark passages is so rich that you’re drawn (!) in to dwell on the intensity of that texture.  The next second you’re reading the face with its clear profile and the hint of an eye in the shadow side.  Your brain flickers like a strobe light, back and forth in this paradox.

This is uncanny, very powerful.

Drawing by Kat.

Here’s what I mean by “two dark stripes”:

KatRaeburn copy

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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HenryRaeburnBWusdRaeburn’s portrait of Robert Brown hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago.  I admire it at every visit.  It is painterly, with quick, sure dashes of the brush: look at the hair, the edge of the collar.

Of all the student copies of this portrait (up-side-down) this drawing, by Mary, is most “painterly.”

When we see lines in a drawing or a painting, our attention traces the line and we feel assured of clarity and rationality.  Lines delineate shapes, orient us and tell us what’s what.

MaryRaeburn

Notice, there are no lines in Mary’s drawing.  Everything is effect, shades of gray, nuance. Imagine navigating over your drawing paper without the guidance of lines.  It takes intense concentration. This is quite an achievement.

When we draw portraits we are not satisfied with mere accuracy of facial features.  We always read the emotion in the face.  When you consider that this drawing was done up-side-down, is it not astonishing how such a process can result in such depth of emotion?

To review how this drawing exercise was set up, visit

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/facing-the-portrait-with-henry-raeburn-1/

To compare other students’ work:

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/facing-the-portrait-with-henry-raeburn-3/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/facing-the-portrait-with-henry-raeburn-2/

 

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.khilden.com