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Archive for February, 2014

Matisse could draw, make no mistake about that.  He knew anatomy, he knew faces and hands.  But in his paintings—go look at his paintings to verify this—he was not interested in showing off how convincingly he could render this or that.  He wasn’t illustrating.  He was interested in the painting as a whole, how your eye moves through it without pinning you down at any one part.  Details pin the viewer down.  Details put you into a fussy frame of mind, as in, did the artist get this RIGHT?!  Details reduce your viewing experience into a check list:  face, check; hair, check; hands, check, and so on. Pedantic, boring.MatisseYellowDressYou can see in Matisse’s “Yellow Dress,” 1930, that there’s something wrong with the hands. Specifically, her right wrist.  It’s disconnected from the hand.  He saw this.  Why the disconnect?  Because he wanted to get the hands over the row of ribbons down the front of the skirt.  In fact, he draws the hands as if they were part of that pattern.  They blend in and do not attract attention to themselves.  That’s why we accept his departure from anatomical correctness. 14MaggySleeveHatIn Maggy Shell’s delicate drawing we see a similar concern for the overall composition and how the eye moves through the whole.  The hands, notice, are not detailed.  If they were, we would read the drawing with different expectations—narrow, academic ones.  Instead, we get to enjoy a drawing that creates a mood, rather than conveys specific details.  The masses of solid shapes (hat, skirt) are not delineated by contour lines. Other forms (sleeve, hands) are suggested through lines only.  That creates a visual conversation and the viewer goes back and forth, drawn into the subtleties.

14ElizMendoza2In this context, the drawing I did of the same motif is too specific about the hands. You can tell that I love drawing hands and that  I’m showing off how well I can draw them.  Uh-uhh.  Not so good for the overall reading of the drawing.

Maggy Shell worked in charcoal and created smudging with her fingers for subtle, don’t-pin-me-down effects. This is not to say, you shouldn’t practice drawing hands.  You should. But when you practice drawing hands, you’re not putting them into a context in which they have to function as part of a composition. See,  https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/drawing-hands/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/drawing-faces-and-hands/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/frederic-bazilles-sleeve/

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lDiebenkornStudioSinkActually, the studio sink.  But the idea is the same: it’s not what you paint/draw, it’s how you see it. 14ElizMendozaKichen1After I gave a demo with Stabilo pencil and china marker on gloss paper, I encouraged the students to set time aside to practice—or what from now on I will call “treat yourself to drawing.”   One student did just that.  Her pleasure in drawing, the fact that this really was a treat, is evident in the five drawings she produced in one day.  They remind me of Diebenkorn’s sink with their strong diagonals, the repetition of arched shapes, the chiaroscuro drama of light and dark, and the un-heroic nature of the subject matter. Diebenkorn’s studio sink, E.M.’s kitchen sink.14ElizMendozaKichen3In the Diebenkorn we see his much used tripartite composition, which we don’t have in E.M.’s drawings, but that’s a subject for another day. 14ElizMendozaKichen2E.M. used china marker and Prismacolor marker on gloss paper to great effect.  The solvent in Prismacolors picks up—on gloss paper– the china marker’s black and creates a personal texture, a painterly quality, a feeling of transition and process.  There’s an urgency and concentration in these drawings that warrant the Diebenkorn connection. Pretty good company, there, Elizabeth!  14ElizMendozaKichen4Richard Diebenkorn, 1922-1993. Corner of Studio – Sink, 1963. Oil on canvas. 77×70 in

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14ElizMendHerself6There were just four frames, taken in rapid succession. Here’s the second one. (See previous post.)

It must have been the sleeve.

When I brought my drawings to class, students remarked on the sleeve.  The sleeve, its shape and drapery, take center stage.  I had thought that part of FredericBazillethe reason why I responded to this photo was that it associated to Frédéric Bazille’s self-portrait at the Art Institute of Chicago, my favorite hang-out.  But the students said they didn’t know this painting and for them the mystique of the white sleeve came through unmitigated.

Both this pose and the previous one show the figure turned away from the viewer.  The figure is introverted.  When a figurative drawing has appeal despite an averted gaze, you’re probably attracted to the quality of the drawing itself.   One student said, “I just want to look at it.”

14ElizMendoza2Highest compliment, thank you for that.

Notice that in both drawings, the figure is anchored in a pattern of rectangles, which was suggested by the patchy paneling on the studio wall.  The figure itself is a play of geometrical shapes and anatomically 14ElizMendoza3Bvague.  But the rectangles in the composition add solidity and gravitas and make the elusive figure convincing.(Left, the first study, in china marker.)

The drawings are made with china maker on gloss paper.  The final drawings have a touch of Stabilo pencil and some splashing with dissolved Stabilo.

Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870

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14ElizMendHerself1My little Canon is always in my pocket.  In class I take shots of students’ works in progress, of the view of the lake, of the photogenic mess in the sink, of finished work and even of unassuming students.  I think it must have been E.M.’s white shirt and black cap that made the shutter click. Once the photos were on the computer screen, I immediately saw the repetition of the square/rectangle motif.  (It’s easier 14ElizMendHerself1BWlinesto see this when the photo is black/white.) 

I couldn’t resist.  I treated myself to an afternoon of drawing. 

To start, a sketch in china marker, 11 x 8½.  Having learned from that exploration, I did a second drawing, 14 x 11, in china marker and Stabilo pencil. 

14ElizMendoza3A14ElizMendoza1Another drawing followed.  More on that and students’ reaction in the next post.

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14MariaRedIt’s a small painting, only about 12” x 14”.  As you look at it here, try to imagine it large, say 36” x 48”.  We react differently to paintings, depending on their size.  Small looks precious and controllable.  A large painting envelopes us, becomes part of the atmosphere.  Perhaps this work by Maria Palacios will inspire a larger incarnation of itself.

Not all languages have words for the same colors. But every language has a word for red, along with white and black.  Think of all the associations we have for red: blood, passion, danger, warning, stop, anger, love…strong stuff.

No doubt, this painting needs to be big.

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14MyClassDrawingsHands.  Oh, no!

But hands are just more of the same: shapes, shapes, shapes.

Easier said than done.

Of course, drawing hands is hard.  They’re so complicated!  Downright weird sometimes.

The tendency is to either overwork them or to just put down some scratchy lines and walk away from the challenge.

The challenge is to practice drawing the beasties so much that you get to the point where you can gracefully suggest the gesture of the hand without belaboring it.  Easier said…

HandsClasping

I brought in Xeroxed copies of these two hands clasping.  Turns out, you can put your non-drawing hand into the position of each of the two hands, more or less, and study the anatomy of your fingers to make sure you know what the photo is showing.

I did the demo, pointing out that you always draw from the general to the specific: draw shapes, not fingers. The fingernail should be faintly suggested, nothing more. Easier said…

One of the things I stress when we work from photos is that the drawing will not duplicate the photo.  The drawing “translates” the photo into its own visual language.  The students said that my drawing made the hands look more energetic than they are in the photo.  Yesss!!  Once you see that, you’re half way there.

Now all you have to do is practice.  Practice drawing hands!  A most rewarding way to spend an hour a day.  Think of it as a treat.  Instead of staying, now I’m going to sit down and practice drawing, say, woo-hoo, now I’m going to treat myself to an hour of drawing.

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14KarenPaperBagDraw.  Draw anytime.  Draw anything. There’s always something lying around that begs to be drawn.  A paper bag, for example.  I recommend that students practice and here’s an example of a motivated student, Karen Gerrard, producing a fine drawing at home of, what else, an inspiring paper bag.  It probably was a little more wrinkled than the drawing shows, but she simplified the planes to great effect.

14KEHpaperbagBetter than the drawing I did during class.  A face kept coming out and I ended up shading the right side of the bag to obscure the grimace.  Happens all the time with inanimate objects—oh, look, there’s a face.  Once you see it, you can’t not see it.   Drawing is always an adventure, full of unexpected turns and–crinkles. Simplify, simplify!

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