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Archive for October, 2012

How hard is it to get somebody to sit still for you?  Very.  For free? Forget it.  The going rate for models at art schools is $45-$50/hr. You can’t afford that, just for your own practice.  So that’s out. But you need to and want to draw faces, hands, the figure.

Look around you.  You’re actually inundated with images.  The photography in magazines is excellent.  Some of it, of course, is touched up to a bland, lifeless  perfection.  But much advertising is excellent.  Part of your visual self-education involves spotting the good stuff.  A good image to work from has distinctive shadows, motion and asymmetry.

I bring magazine clippings to class for us to work from.  When it was demo time a couple of weeks ago, a student pulled out this clipping. My demo was about the versatility of the Aquarellable Pencil, using two tones, sepia and black and then going in with a wet brush.  Notice how the unpredictability of the wash adds character and depth to the face, which otherwise might have gone into the bland, lifeless direction.

(Btw, this was the demo that inspired Karen to make the three face studies I presented in the previous post.)

Moral: there’s no excuse to go for a day without drawing.

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

www.khilden.com 

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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When I fill a long studio table with materials for a demo—papers and various drawing tools—I only intend to offer ideas and present possibilities.  Nothing I say ever amounts to an assignment and if it did, ha, are you kidding we don’t do assignments.  So, no assignments for this group, but when it comes to inspiration they do respond in the most amazing way.

Here’s a student, Karen, who has only worked with pencil before and look what happens after a half hour demo with Aquarellable Pencil and Ink.

Not only does she use the aquarellable with complete abandon and ease, but she draws this face (from a photo) with pronounced and expressive  asymmetry.  Symmetry takes a bit of dexterity to pull off but basically it’s easy. Also… boring, static, dead.  What’s harder is asymmetry and, I think, that’s because it takes more courage.  So, does the facile, wipeable water-soluble pencil boost the artist’s courage?  Hmm.  Maybe. Since you can’t really make a mistake, you can try anything.  That’s a good state of mind to be in when you’re drawing.

Another characteristic of the Aquarellable Pencil is that it glides over gloss paper without pressure. It feels effortless.

All three drawings are on gloss paper, the first two in Aquarellable Pencil and the third in ink.

(Click for enlargements.)

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

www.khilden.com 

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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Today is Picasso’s birthday.

Yesterday the New York Times ran a two-page article about the analysis of his 1904 painting “Woman Ironing” which shows that it is painted over another painting, a portrait study, also by Picasso. Strapped for cash, he regarded the older, unfinished painting as mere canvas.

Go to http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/10/25/arts/design/hidden-picasso.html?ref=design to see the unfinished portrait of a man painted two or three years earlier.  (The image could not be copied and saved to file.)

The identity of the man is not nearly as interesting (though that is what fascinates the scholars and technicians who worked on this case) as the fact that Picasso abandoned the project and two years later thought it worthless.

The painting hidden under “Woman Ironing” is a competent study, of course.  Picasso had mastered all skills of drawing and painting by the age of fourteen.  Conventional portrait painting would have brought in a comfortable living. But Picasso, age twenty-two, did not allow himself to be satisfied with his prodigious technical skills. He was penniless and lived in a hovel.  He did not cave in.  The old way of seeing the world had to be abandoned.  How? And can you even do that?  And what will be the new way?  You sure?  Of course not.  But there is no evidence that Picasso ever doubted. His inability to doubt himself is not to be equated with complacency, however.  He worked every day of his life, long hours, way into the night.  He died April 8, 1973, shortly after getting up at 11 a.m., having worked, as usual, until 4 a.m.

Find the full NYtimes article at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/arts/design/under-a-picasso-painting-another-picasso-painting.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&hpw

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

www.khilden.com 

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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As the name implies, an aquarellable pencil makes a water-soluble line.  After you’ve put down some lines and shading with this pencil, you can go back in with a water-laden brush and make the lines “bleed” or create some other interesting havoc.  When you work this way on gloss paper, nothing seeps in, and if you want you can just take a damp paper towel and wipe everything off.  Your page, in other words, is infinitely malleable.  When you wipe off a passage (or the whole thing), it doesn’t feel like erasing , because the removal is instant and effortless—and does not involve a sanctified ERASER, you know, that thing that screams “you made a mistake” at you.  No mistakes here.  The aquarellable is a no-fault medium.  Easy, forgiving and you don’t know where it will take you.

I gave a couple of demos last class, one for the Aquarellable Pencil (made by Schwan) and the other for ink, permanent and water-soluble (by Higgins).  A couple of students took off—fearlessly.

The drawing, above, won everyone’s admiration.  It’s about 14 x 11.  You can move in close to study its subtleties and you can step back to share its atmosphere.  The wet brush dissolved the aquarellable pencil lines with messy control.  Without this kind of oxymoron you can’t get this kind of magic.  Gaby had worked with the aquarellable before, but never with such daring and with such delicate effect.

Although I describe this medium as forgiving, I strongly advise that you make studies of your subject to get thoroughly familiar with it and to allow yourself to develop an emotional take on the subject.

These are the studies  Gaby made before she produced her loose and very moving drawing. Click for enlargements.

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

www.khilden.com 

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In Indianapolis, at a sudden turn of Mass Ave, there’s a fresh new book store called Indy Reads.  I was there last week.  I was the only visitor in the book store.  Whenever I find a wonderful place I always wonder why it isn’t crowded.  I know, that’s precisely why it’s wonderful.  Anyway, there on the notices board, somebody had tacked: “Sit perfectly still.  Be moved.” (I didn’t have time to get the name of the poet, who was planning a reading of his work.)

That’s drawing in a nutshell:  Sit perfectly still. Be moved.

Back home at my kitchen table, I’m reading “A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium,” Phillipe Ariès and Georges Duby, ed.   The image in the open book shows a writing woman of Pompeii. The caption says, “The grace of hesitation.”

Hesitation is part of writing and also part of drawing.  So is grace.  Sometimes, the grace of hesitation and sometimes the grace of being moved to make a sudden turn.

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

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What the!

Yes, it’s a spray bottle wearing a pair of glasses.

I get paid for thinking up stuff like this.

Let me explain. This exercise combines two topics: perspective and profile.  In the previous class we had worked on the topic of perspective. Nothing elaborate, just one-point and two-point perspective, using architectural images to find the vanishing points.  For our purposes in this drawing class, perspective is not crucial, but it’s a useful tool.  It comes in handy, for example, when you draw a face in three-quarter view. The eye farther away from the viewer (the one behind the bridge of the nose) will be smaller than the eye closer to you.  That farther-away eye is tricky to draw, so we didn’t even go there.  It’s enough to just get the point of diminished size.   And to get that across, I set a pair of glasses on a spray bottle, one combo for each student.

Notice, that the perspective in the glasses is exaggerated in these drawings, according to my instruction.  Students are universally reluctant to exaggerate anything for the simple reason that they want to draw what they see.  Fine.  But to add drama and to make a point, you need to summon the courage to exaggerate.  Add that to the lesson in perspective and profile.

All in all, a profitable class.   Initially, eyebrows were raised at the goofy sight of spray bottles wearing glasses.  Then followed the challenge of getting all the elements together, representationally and technically.  The motif only works if the drawing technique is fairly precise and the object is shown matter-of-factly and in its entirety.  This is why one student found it necessary to add a strip of paper at the bottom of her initial sheet.  A fourth lesson learned:  it’s ok to do this, if you run out of paper, just tape on an addition.

I have since learned that one of these drawings has been framed and hung in a law office.

Do this at home:  grab a spray bottle, put your glasses on it, reflect on the complexity of reading a face.  See?  Not goofy at all.

(To enlarge, click on image.)

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

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You can explore urban myths about the origin and placement of Apple’s apple at

http://urbanlegends.about.com/b/2012/06/23/the-legend-of-the-apple-logo.htm and

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/05/upside-down-apple-logo/

But the left-right flip is even more telling than the up-down issue, which was finally resolved.

I bet the flipped version of the apple was not even considered.  Would you find this apple appetizing? Optimistic? Sympathetic? Appealing? Friendly?  Future oriented?  Steve Jobs, who was a student and avid practitioner of calligraphy and a fanatic about visual accessibility, would never have sketched this version.  Would you?!

Yet, there it is, same information.  Same factual, leafed, bitten apple.

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

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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