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Archive for April, 2013

 

130411AlejandraWoodManCrop

What is that?  You look at this and you don’t know what it represents.  You look at it anyway and you keep looking at it.  Could it be that you look at this drawing precisely because you don’t know what it represents and that puts you into a visual mode.  You look for the pleasure of looking.

Now here’s the whole drawing from which the above is a passage.  Now you know.  But notice, this drawing, where you 130411AlejandraWoodMan1get the whole story, is not as much fun to look at.  Simple reason: now you know what’s what and being in that what’s-what state of mind is not interesting.  The mind prefers mystery—at least in a work of the imagination.

Alejandra cropped an intriguing passage out of a still life drawing that was too literal and saved the day.

130411AlejandraWoodManAll contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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13CanistersAle

We started the class by practicing the ellipse.  You can’t draw an ellipse, you have to swing it. You practice swinging your hand over the paper and then—keeping that swing—you lower the pencil and there’s your ellipse. You fill a couple of sheets of paper with these practice ellipses and then when you feel you’ve got that swing, you slide your drawing onto your board and you swing those elliptical canister tops into place.

13CanistersAleSliverAlejandra was faced with a still life consisting of ellipse-stressing canisters and some droopy drapery.  But in her drawing nothing is canned and nothing droops.  In her drawing, the drapery looks like oak tree roots and the ellipses seem to fade into memory.  She either found this set up very exiting or boring beyond tolerance, because something in her imagination popped.

Notice how the carefully cropped selection (right) coveys even more tension, drama and mystery than the whole composition (top). We will have more examples of cropping in the following two posts.

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130328DraperyArchMeg

It’s never JUST drapery. Drapery is uncanny stuff.  It has a way of looking like something else.  Its round, merging 130328DraperyArchMeg1shapes are reminiscent of the human body, so that if you practice drawing drapery you’ll find it easier to draw from the figure. When this drawing was almost done, the artist/student Meg, said, “it looks like muscles.”  So it does, like an arm and a shoulder.  We talked about the option of drawing more of the drapery in the still life and filling up more of the page, but the shape of what she already had looked complete in itself.

The shape is an arch.  Is the arch archetypal or symbolic?  We’ve had it in our architecture for about five-thousand years.  The Egyptians used it, the Etruscans developed it further and the Romans celebrated its grandeur and exploited its 13RomanArchunassailable transfer of stresses.  In western architecture, to the end of the 19th century, it remained the sturdiest and loveliest form for a portal, an entrance, a gate.  With the glass skyscraper, we abolished the distinction between outside and inside and, so, who cares about portals, it’s all the same, whatever.  I do love glass and steel, but give me a Roman Arch…and to get back to the question about archetypal and symbolic, I don’t know, but I can see and feel that it’s round.Life forms are round, all of them.  Round is where we live.

When this sliver of an arch appeared on Meg’s paper, it had enough life in it to stand alone.

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13SAIC9

The opening for the Masters of Fine Arts exhibition at the Sullivan Galleries is a gala event. “Gala”  can mean your most heartfelt grunge, your most glittering find at the resale shop or an original hand stitched gown.  It’s the place to see and be seen.  I went in my usual Left Bank black turtle neck and caught some frames in my little Sony.  I’ll go back to have a closer look at the art work before the show closes. But without the context of the crowd (and what a crowd it was, numerically and sartorially) the art work may actually not be decipherable.

April 12–May 17, 2013

Sullivan Galleries, 33 S. State St., 7th floor,  312.629.6635

exhibitions-saic@saic.edu | http://www.saic.edu/exhibitions

HOURS: Tue- Sat, 11:00a.m. – 6:00p.m.

I recommend going to openings, not only for the art, but also to get a reading on the “art scene.” To take in the art work, you’ll want to be on your own solitary self some other time.

You can find a comprehensive listing of gallery openings at http://chicagogallerynews.com/openings.

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The flipped version, where the stripes move from lower left to upper right, feels more optimistic, doesn’t it.  There’s an UP feeling.  (See previous post.)

At the same time, the stripes get paler as we move up KensettView-on-the-Hudsonover the hilly cloth.  This creates the illusion of great distance.  We know from our everyday experience, that things that are close to us are crisp and clear, while objects in the distance appear paler and less well defined. We also know this from looking at landscape paintings.  The painter will make distant mountains look hazy and thereby create the illusion that he’s painting a great vista.

13CanistersMegLooking at this delicate pencil drawing of tea and sugar canisters on top of some ordinary cloth, we get the weird feeling that these cylinders are humongous.  How is this illusion created?  Through the simple technique of making the stripes in the cloth paler as they approach the top edge of the cloth!   That edge now looks like the crest of a hill.   We now have cloth that looks like rolling hills, like sand dunes. The eye moves up the dunes and at the top where they crest, we see absurdly large cylinders.

They look ominous. 

They look ominous in the original.  The left-right flip trivializes them. (Previous post)  I prefer the ominous effect in the original.  It’s witty. It makes me sit up straight and say, whoa, how did you do that! My thanks to the artist/student, Meg Faga.

(John Fererick Kensett (1816-1872), “View on the Hudson.”)

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13CanistersMegFlip

Look what happens when we flip the previously posted drawing.

It FEELS different.  How?

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13CanistersMeg

A collection of canisters and a mess o’ drapery. Somewhere in this pile of stuff there’s a beautiful composition.  To find it, you 13Canistershave to choose a portion of the still-life and disregard the rest.  In order to choose, you first have to see form.

Meg’s drawing shows virtuosity in rendering the three-dimensionality of the cylinders. The vocabulary of the pencil work is delicate, the result looks solid and convincing.  But notice that she abandons that technique when she gets to the cloth.  The cloth is all lines. No shading, yet we sense the rolling hills of the cloth by the way the “stitching” comes in and out of view and fades into the distance. The fading into the distance creates an illusion that I want to discuss in a separate post, soon.

What interests me now is the very fact that the artist presents the two halves of the drawing, cylinder and cloth, in two different visual languages: shading for one, line for the other.  This formal choice takes the drawing out of the merely representational.  After all, given her skill, Meg could easily have drawn the cloth in the rendering style of the cylinders.  Instead, we get this play on perception and form.  For that reason, it’s art.

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