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Archive for March, 2011

The class is called “Impressions of Landscape.”   In late spring, all summer and early fall, when the weather invites, we hold class outside.  In winter we work either from collages or from photos and always with a big dollop of imagination.

Danielle G. brought in this photo to work from,  a magazine clipping.  She worked in oil and started by mixing blues, partly on her palette but also directly on the canvas. (16 x 20, about)  When the blues and violets created the mood suggested by the photo, she felt she was ready to add the trees.  But first we looked at the painting in this preliminary state from across the room.  It’s very important to do this, to stand way back so that you can see the work as it is in its present state,  instead of as a work in progress.  It turned out that in its present “preliminary” state the painting already had such atmospheric depth and feeling, that we responded to it as a finished work.  Whereas the photo presented a flat stretch of land with trees in the foreground, the painting suggested a view into a valley.  Trees in the foreground would have made no sense.  The painting took Danielle in a different direction, away from her photo.  This work is never about copying, and instead demands that the artist/student always respond to the painting as it develops.

À propos  de blue, in the late 50’s and early 60’s, a French artist named Yves Klein (1928-1962) painted large canvases with an even coat of blue paint.  He produced many such canvases and became famous for them.  So famous, that the blue he used came to be called Yves Klein Blue.  It was actually ultramarine and not mysterious or magical at all.  But at the time, an all blue canvas attracted notoriety at a time of daring experimentation among young artists.   Klein was a pioneer in the development of Performance art and a forerunner of Minimal art and Pop Art.

Danielle’s painting not only provided a teachable moment about Yves Klein, but it also reminded me of the mysterious landscape in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa.  For company, not bad at all.

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

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Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women and Art. This exhibit will be at the Chicago Cultural Center, 4th floor, Randolph Street entrance, until April 13.  Admission is free.  Adults  should see this, but definitely without bringing children.

Photography and drawing are not permitted.

Two reviews can be found at:

http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/art-design/165325/off-the-beaten-path-at-the-chicago-cultural-center

http://chicagoartmagazine.com/2011/01/off-the-beaten-path-violence-women-and-art-at-chicago-cultural-center/

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This drawing is inspired by the Hubbard Street Dance Company’s performance of “Petite Mort,” by the Czech  choreographer Jiří Kylián, using  Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major  (Adagio) and  the andante from his Piano Concerto in C Major, 1991.  It was a stunning performance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7afrgC5l8I&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t0UuHvMI18&feature=related

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

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Creating a painting from a collage has a liberating effect, in that the process allows you to experiment freely with color and textural techniques.  You can study the emotional impact of color relationships and the expressive effects of brush handling without having to worry about verisimilitude since you’re not depicting any part of visible reality “out there.”   This 20×16 painting, inspired by a collage, afforded the student/artist Bea K. the opportunity to work with a limited palette of black, white, purple and green. But much of the compelling effect of this painting derives from her handling of edges, both hard and soft, definitive  and transitional.  (See “collage” under Topics.)

The next project, working from a photo of a willow tree and a lagoon, added the challenge of credibly representing a real landscape while at the same time remaining in the painterly mode that governed the earlier collage inspired  painting.

In fact, this new project demanded even greater freedom and experimentation. No element in this painting is the result of coloring-in an outlined form.  Everything is painted directly and that is what makes it lively. The finger of water in the distant part of the lagoon (3) had to be painted with one sure sweep of the brush. The willow tree would only be willowy if the paint were allowed to drip (2 and 5).  The dripping of the paint has its own wildness but at the same time it has to be controlled.

This dialog between chaos and control is repeated in the composition itself.  The spit of land (1) has a definite shape and dominates the right half of the painting while the willow tree (2) conveys total chaos, not only in its organic form but also in the very way it’s painted and it covers the left side of the painting. The parabola shape of the green meadow (1) is repeated over and over:  the sky under the drips of the willow bows (5),  the  sliver of lagoon (3),  and the island on the left (4).   This repetition of a motif, though not obvious or mechanical, focuses the attention of the viewer, like a melody in a song or a refrain in poetry.

How about putting in some people, maybe under the tree at 4?  No need.  Birds in the sky?  No need.  The painting does not need any trickery, no sentimentality, no cliché.

The painting is restrained in its color scheme: green, blue, a sigh of pink in the sky, some sepia and a stroke of deep purple in the shadow at lower left.   It’s quite an accomplishment to evoke this delicate mood and at the same time to work with clear formal elements.

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

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Faces from Stalingrad

An excellent source of  subject matter for drawing is the DVD.  You can watch a movie, stop it at any frame and make studies.  I find it particularly interesting to draw faces in this way because I can stop the frame at a certain angle or expressions.  Documentaries are best for drawing, I think, because they present people without makeup and without theater training.

Here are some faces from a 2003 World War II documentary by Filmmakers Sebastian Dehnhardt, Christian Deick and Jorg Mullner . I drew five of the survivors , in their 80’s or 90’s,  recalling the horror of Stalingrad when they were very young.

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

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This is a very moving exhibition, at least for me.  I’ve been twice in one week and will go back many more times before it closes May 30.  Around 1500 and a few decades before, this new sensibility emerged in France and it feels like home base to me.  It has a delicacy and grace that I miss in the Italian art of the same period where men are heroically muscular and women are passively dull. By comparison, these French ladies and courtiers enjoyed their playfulness and its possibilities.

I was fascinated as soon as I walked in last Friday. In the second room of the exhibit I was already completely enchanted (sorry, I don’t usually talk like this) by a modanna & child from 1470 called Notre Dame de Grasse.  She’s a girl with a delicate nose, dreamy eyes and a pouty innocent upper lip. The baby, with wavy hair and the same pouty upper lip, is scampering on her left thigh.  With one hand she keeps him from sliding off and with the other she lightly holds on to his foot under the blanket.  But her head is turned in the other direction.  She’s distracted by something, maybe a butterfly or a deer at the edge of the woods.  She is, you see, very young,  a girl of thirteen, no more.  The sculptor must have been very brave to create such a human, fallible, this-worldly image.  1470!

Not only photography, but sketching is also prohibited in the exhibit.  Ouch.  What’s a sketcher to do?  The urge was too great.  I went through the exhibit. Then at the end where the catalogues are laid out on tables, I looked for this little madonna from Toulouse, but she was not reproduced in the catalog.  So, I sketched from memory.  Got some of the basics down.  Went back, for a detail like the book she has tucked under her arm.  Then went back again for a third time.  So, it took three takes.  This is a good exercise, drawing from memory.   Recommend it highly.

http://www.artic.edu/aic/exhibitions/current.php

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

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The discussion in the previous post (2.8.11) finds ample illustrations in “real life.”

Here are some of my own life drawings that show the model displaying the neck-meets-jaw angle. Notice that this requires a foreshortening of the face, with the chin being prominent; the nose seen as a triangle (from underneath); the bridge of the nose very short;  the eye, a mere arc; and the forehead losing all of its real height, because it is the farthest section away from the eye of the artist;  oh, and the hair on the top of the head barely makes an appearance.

Pulling this off takes practice, both in seeing and in drawing.   Errmm–has anybody noticed!– that’s the theme running through these posts on technique.  Practice!

(The drawing at the top consists of five  three-minute drawings.  The standing pose, above, is a ten-minute drawing.  The seated pose, left, is a fifteen-minute pose.)

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

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