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Archive for January, 2013

13WoodFiguresThey’re totally useless for studying anatomy, of course.  Anyone can see that the limbs of these humanoids can be twisted and bent into impossible poses.  But, still, they’re fun to draw and in a drawing, not surprisingly, they often take on insect characteristics or look like extraterrestrials.

13JanetWoodFigure

Above, in Janet’s drawing, notice how the humanoid’s head participates in a triangular configuration with the two large, visually dominant veggies.  This drawing basically consists of these three round forms and striped surfaces.  Because these two motifs dominate, the humanoid body doesn’t present itself as more important, which gives the overall composition a high mark.

13GabyWoodFigure

In Gaby’s drawing the still life is irrelevant and instead she draws the hominoids from different angles and makes them overlap.  To do this, you have to visualize how they would relate on the page as a design pattern, without projecting some corny expression or narrative into them.

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13RetinalEnhancedIpad

Recently, while I was browsing among the tablet options in my local tech emporium, the sales person directed me to the new ipad with Retinal Enhancement.  Oh, yeah! The word “retinal” gets my attention.  When you add “enhancement,” I light up, of course.

The immediate response was, wow, total seduction.  Everything is sharp and clear. My enchantment lasted as long as it took you to read that last five-word sentence.

Aw, what happened?

I was hoping to store art works on my tablet and have them at my fingertips when I wanted to refer to an artist in class.  The tablet would be so much more convenient than those heavy art books. Instead I learned what the tablet is really for:  it’s for playing games, not just any games, but those in which the fastest response wins.  Therefore, the outlines on the screen—monsters,  cliffs, buttons of all sorts—should be as sharp as possible.  The sharper, the better.  The games consist of stimulus-response, no subtle considerations.  The advantage goes to the player who functions most like an automaton.  Therefore, if your seeing is retinal, nothing more, you’re it, dude!

Seeing is actually not retinal.  It’s a complicated process that involves your whole mind, which links all sorts of nuances in a web that I don’t claim to understand.  If your seeing stops at the retina, you’re good for target practice and boot camp and we know how sad that is.

In five or six years we’ll probably have studies on how retinal enhancement has affected the brains of players.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/money/review-new-ipad-enhanced-retina-display-screen-worth-upgrade-article-1.1040786

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

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12Gaby4OneMins11

By tradition, Life Classes start with a few one-minute poses. This is called “warming up.”  What does that mean and what are we warming up, exactly?

Warming up is what athletes famously do and have to do so that they will not strain a muscle.  Warming up for an athlete means going slow and easy, stretching gently and gradually increasing tension, weight and speed.  That makes sense.

But in an art class, warming up means going fast.  Drawing a figure in one minute, believe me, is fast.  It’s actually a bit scary, anything but slow and easy, as with athletes warming up.

Why, then, do we do it?  We do it in order to switch on our heightened seeing, which means seeing the whole figure all at once.  Psychologists call it the “Gestalt,” the whole thing, no bit by bit scanning. On the way to class, as we drive and walk, we’re scanning the visual landscape through which we navigate.  But to draw, we have to see intensely.  To switch on this intensity, we—POW!—we draw a nude body in one minute.  Then another and another, all on the same sheet of paper, because, well, because there’s no time to take out another sheet and position it on the drawing board.  What we’re warming up is the mind.

The result is a lovely play on lines,  creating a rhythm on the page.  What’s most important is that we don’t get continuous contour lines when we draw with this speed.  The contour lines are interrupted.  The drawing breathes. It suggests life and it engages the viewer.

Drawing by Gaby, graphite,  December 2012

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12LinneHeadOfNude

In the recent posts about The Contour and Leonardo’s sfumato I said that a drawing can be described as “painterly.”  The difference between linear and painterly is this:  a linear style outlines the figure and separates it from the ground; in a painterly work, the figure and the ground flow into one another.  In studying Western art, the Swiss art historian Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) noticed that the earlier art is linear and then in the 16th century, the line opens up and the image becomes painterly.  You can find the whole theory in his “Principles of Art History,” a book that is surprisingly lively and readable, considering when it was written.

Contemporary art teachers wouldn’t go into that kind of scholarship—and I don’t, in class.  Basically, what we want to get at is, “Hey, everybody—loosen up!”  Easier said than done. The tendency for beginning students (as with our ancestors) is to firmly outline your subject.  Opening up the contour is far from being sloppy.  It involves a whole other way of seeing and thinking. You see the contour and visualize it as you draw, but you don’t state it directly.  This requires tremendous concentration and getting to that ability to concentrate takes practice over time.

12LinneNudeHere, then, is Linné’s recent drawing from a model.  I sometimes blow up my students’ drawings at the Xerox machine so that they can appreciate their own progress.  It’s also helpful to isolate one passage, such as the head, in order to take it out of context.  Cropping your drawing like this helps you focus on the qualities in your drawing, rather than your representational skills.

Learning to draw can often be discouraging, but actually you’re better than you think. You develop not gradually, but in spurts and part of my job is to help you notice that you just made a spurt.

Yeah!

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In his 1914 essay, “The Aesthetic Hypothesis,” Clive Bell distinguishes between “life emotion” and “aesthetic emotion.”  Here’s an excerpt:

“Representation is not of necessity baneful, and highly realistic forms may be extremely significant.  Very often, however representation is a sign of weakness in an artist.  A painter too feeble to create forms that provoke more than a little aesthetic emotion will try to eke that little out by suggesting the emotions of life.  To evoke the emotions of life he must use representation. Thus a man will paint an execution, and, fearing to miss with his first barrel or significant form, will try to hit with his second by raising an emotion of fear or pity.  But if in the artist an inclination to play upon the emotions of life is often the sign of a flickering inspiration, in the spectator a tendency to seek, behind form, the emotions of life is a sign of defective sensibility always.  It means that his aesthetic emotions are weak or, at any rate, imperfect.  Before a work of art people who feel little or no emotion for pure form find themselves at a loss. They are deaf men at a concert.  They know that they are in the presence of something great, but they lack the power of apprehending it.  They know that they ought to feel for it a tremendous emotion, but it happens that the particular kind of emotion it can raise is one that they can feel hardly or not at all.  And so they read into the forms of the work those facts and ideas for which they are capable of feeling emotion, and feel for them the emotions that they can feel—ordinary emotions of life.  When confronted by a picture, instinctively they refer back its forms to the world from which they came.  They treat created form as though it were imitated form, a picture as though it were a photograph.  Instead of going out on the stream of art into the new world of aesthetic experience, they turn a sharp corner and come straight home to the world of human interests. For them the significance of a work of art depends on what they bring to it;  no new thing is added to their lives, only the old material is stirred.  A good work of art carries a person who is capable of appreciating it out of life into ecstasy;  to use art as a means to emotions of life is to use a telescope for reading the news.  You will notice that people who cannot feel pure aesthetic emotions remember pictures by their subjects, whereas people who can, as often as not, have no idea what the subject of a picture is.  They have never noticed the representative element, and so when they discuss pictures they talk about the shapes of forms and the relations and quantities of colours.  Often they can tell by the quality of a single line whether or not a man is a good artist.  They are concerned only with lines and colours, their relations and quantities and qualities;  but from these they win an emotion more profound and far more sublime than any that can be given by the description of facts and ideas.”

Clive Bell (1881-1964) was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and the husband of Vanessa Bell (neé Stephens), the sister of Virginia Woolf.  As an art critic he promoted the concept of “significant form.”

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