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Archive for May, 2013

130516Classroom1blog

When we have a model in class, I sometimes draw along.  These are ten-minute poses.  I worked with the Stabilo-All-Aquarellable pencil on gloss paper. Height of drawings, 11”.

130516Classroom2blog

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13LinneHeadsThreeOur habit of focusing on the eyes when we look at a face or the image of a face is so engrained that when we have an image in front of us where the eyes are missing, we still focus on the “eyes.”  In this case, blank circular spaces.  Notice, that instead of seeing the image as shallow, we actually project depth and authority into the absence of the eyes.  It’s uncanny.

13LinneHeadsTwo

Drawings by Linné Dosé, from photographs.

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13HaroldEnigmaWithApronHere’s a painting that Harold Bauer brought to my painting class, where the drift is towards abstraction with a landscape-y feeling.  He made this painting in another class with another instructor and from a seated figure.  It’s a real stretch to see a figure in this, isn’t it!  But if you rotate the painting you discover that you project different expectations into the different versions.  Perhaps a light bulb in one of them?  Perhaps you prefer one of the left-right flips because you prefer the movement in one of them over the other.  When you get 13HaroldEnigmaWithApron180back to the original orientation, you may sigh with relief in the recognition that this does suggest a figure after all.  It’s a disturbing figure, to be sure, but your mind drifts towards that expectation.  Doesn’t it? The mind desperately wants to recognize something and will willingly accept all sorts of weirdness to find some satisfaction.

13HaroldEnigmaWithApronCCWjpgThis painting may or not be finished.  I present this rotation game here to show how we grapple with the mysteries of composition in my painting class.

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1303MaggyFacesAquarelleThings change.  People change. Sometimes from morning to night. Your view of a person changes, perhaps even from day to day.  That’s an old idea.  In fact, pre-Socratic philosophers said so, as in Heraclitus’s “You can’t step into the same river twice.”  But then in the 4th  century BCE the Greek philosophers invented an idea called “essence.”

IngresPortraitWe’ve been wrestling with this concept ever since. For centuries, Western artists thought it was their job to get at the “essence” of a person.  You can see this ambition in the portraits of Ingres (1780-1867). Do you see “essence” here?  I don’t.  I see only theatricality.  Dress-up, veneer, pretense.

Ingres was a superb draftsman.  Maggy and I would admit that he was more accomplished than she.  But what Maggy’s page of studies gives me is more exciting than a meticulous  Ingres portrait.  I find her studies (above) engrossing and true to life.  Not in the sense of portraiture, but in the sense of liveliness and, yes, truthfulness.  This is how we experience people:  they move, they reflect, they introspect, they doubt—and all within the few minutes we have their face in front of us.

1303MaggyFacesAquarelleLinesJust to point out two techniques in this page of studies that convey the liveliness that I admire in a work of art:  1) repetition of vigorous pencil strokes (green)which don’t create the illusion of roundness and shading in the face, but exist in themselves, allowing the viewer to move through the page and interpret it as a work that emanates from the artist’s perception—not from the “essence” of the model; 2) movement of the viewer’s attention from #1 through #4, with each “take” presenting a different mood of the face, allowing us a glimpse into the complexity and intelligence of this individual.

Though it may look like scribbling, this is an advanced drawing.

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1304AlejandraFacesAquarelle

These studies were made from a photo of a man who was apparently in the middle of saying something or reacting to a situation with surprise.  He wasn’t posing. He wasn’t self-conscious or trying to look good for the camera.  He wasn’t trying to get his “essence” across.

Notice how animated this page of studies is.  The fragmentary nature of each face does not at all annoy us.  On the contrary, we move from one “take” to another and in doing so we sense the vitality of this character.

The artist/student, Alejandra, used the Stabilo All Aquarellable pencil on gloss paper and created the feathered edges with a damp paper towel.  This medium itself encourages movement in the drawing process and in the perception of the subject.  Nothing is static.

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130502ViewWindowLakeA72

The Harley Clarke Mansion situation on the lake by the lighthouse on Sheridan Road has been the home of the Evanston Art Center for decades.  The building is now for sale.  Location, location, location.  Rumor has it that James Pritzker wants to buy it and turn it into a hotel.  (The Pritzker family owns the Hyatt chain of hotels.)  The school will move to more efficient, spacious quarters, somewhere in Evanston.  When? Where?  Don’t know, don’t have any gossip on that.  But I know I’ll miss the view of the lake from my class room in 2 South.

http://www.chicagorealestatedaily.com/article/20121204/CRED03/121209948/james-pritzker-plans-hotel-at-evanston-mansion

130502ViewWindowLakeB72

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1304AlejandraFaceCrop

I promise, we’ll move on to other topics besides cropping, but the power of cropping cannot be underestimated.

This face was one of four studies on the same page. The model was a magazine add with strong shadows, selling jewelry of all things. In setting up the exercise, I stressed that we were not after a likeness of this beautiful woman, but were using her as a point of departure for expressive studies of the face.  We already know that beauty and expressiveness are incompatible, a major thread in these conversations.

1304AlejandraFaceThe page as a whole did not work because the faces were too similarly drawn and were all the same size.  What to do?  CROP!  You can see the edges of the strips of paper we used in cropping.  The result is an expressive face.

But wait, there’s more.  What if we crop even more radically!  What if we slice the image through the eye on the right edge.  That’s the image at the top of this post.  It’s far removed from literalness, from illustration. Now we have a provocative image. It’s truly an image, in the sense that it is more than what it represents.

Let me point out just three things that make this image so rich.

1304AlejandraFaceCropLines*The left half of the page is all texture.

 *The contour of the face is varied, so that as we trace it we travel over three different “landscapes.”

 * One eye is in the middle of the page. Uncanny! There’s a study of this phenomenon (I can’t remember the author’s name now) that shows that portrait artists will compose their subject in such a way that one eye of the sitter is in the middle of the canvas.

 —————————————————————— Velazquez(1599-1663), Portrait of Juan de Pareja

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

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