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Archive for March, 2014

14EmergingHead

When we talk with people we tend to look at their eyes.  Involuntary twitches often offer a clue to  deeper, unverbalized feelings .  Small wonder that when we draw faces we zoom in on the eyes and we tend overdraw them.

MedardoRossoI encourage my students, when drawing a face, to put in the pupils last.  Let the other features and the quality of the markmaking itself, carry the expression. Put in the pupils with a flick of the pencil.

This requires self-restraint and students seem to find it hard to follow this advice.

What a surprise, then, to see the above drawing in class.  I asked the class what they thought of it, at this stage, without any eyes at all.  Approval all around.  Everyone found it moving, as is. One person said, the expression was “tentative.”  A good description.

This drawing by Laurel reminded me of Medardo Rosso’s heads of children.  He often sculpted in plaster and then delicately poured wax over the plaster form.  The effect is one of extreme introversion.  In his faces he does not emphasize the eyes, in fact he often veils them in wax.  But the face does not appear “eyeless” at all.  Instead the face conveys deep feeling .  Medardo Rosso’s faces are MedardoRoss2also tentative in the sense that they appear to be quietly paying attention to everything around them.

In 1892, Rosso sculpted this head of a boy after he merely glimpsed the child, not by having him pose. Rosso described the head as “a vision of purity in a banal world.”

Medardo Rosso, 1858-1928.  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1990.304

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14MarchPassageMThere he is.

This is a passage from a larger painting. (See previous post). The black shape is composed of energetic brush strokes, with no intention of depicting anything.  But there he is, you can’t miss him and once you see the man in the black brush strokes, you can’t not-see him.

This happens all the time.  You think you’re slashing away with your big brush and your gooey oil paint, with no thought of representation, and, behold, humanoid shapes keep emerging, faces and whole figures.  IF you can see him, you have to count on others also seeing him.  At that point there’s nothing to do except to decide whether to keep the form or to rework it to make it ambiguous.

If you decide to keep it, you have to count on the fact that this humanoid shape will dominate the painting.  That’s just how our brains are wired.  I’ll give you something you can recognize, especially something relating to your own species, and WHAMO, your brain can’t let go of it.

Abstract painting—painting “nothing”—is harder than that audience out there thinks.

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14MarchPassageLThis is a passage from a larger painting, which will appear at the end of this post.

When  you’re working on a painting, it may happen that you feel you’re getting carried away and that you can’t see the unity in what’s on your canvas.  You love all the parts but you feel that as a whole it  doesn’t hang together. This often happens as a painting draws near completing and the artist becomes self-conscious about having to please an audience.

In that case, you can pull out your camera (or phone) and take pictures of just passages of the painting.  You’ll discover that within your painting there are any number of potential paintings.  This exercise will refresh your eye and your mind.  It will remind you of what you love in a painting and lead you back to focusing on your individual sensibility.  The audience will find itself.

14MarchPainting by Patty Cohen, oil on canvas, 24”x24”

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Now consider the following passages from Patty’s painting as potential paintings in themselves.  Imagine them as large paintings.

14MarchPassage3 14MarchPassage4 14MarchPassage5

14MarchPassage114MarchPassage614MarchPassage2

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RedAtHomeWhen you forget the yarn about angles in a triangle and exponential progressions (see previous post), the hyperbolic plane looks like a sculpture. I positioned mine in my dining room, in relation to a plant on one side and a painting on the other.  The red curly hyperbolic plane relates to both.  Perhaps it functions as a mediator, like a thermostat, hmmm.  A discussion of when we think of an object as art and when we don’t can get heated because of strong opinions on either side.  The question, “what’s the difference between art and artifact,”  is really what the workshop was about.  But you already suspected that.

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13RedCrochetIt was a wild and wooly Saturday morning.

We talked about crocheting, Euclid and Eratosthenes.  Then came the non-Euclidians:  Bolyai, Lobachevsky and Gauss.  You think the sum of the angles in a triangle is 180°.  On a flat plane, sure, but on a sphere the sum is greater than 180 and in hyperbolic space, it approaches zero. How could this not be exciting!?

13CrochetClass1Coral grows like a crocheted hyperbolic plane. As does kale and other curly leafed plants.

Then we picked up some cultural threads.  The role of the opposable thumb in the making of civilization. Is this hyperbolic plane we’re crocheting an example of art or is it artifact?  Looks like a sculpture.  Is it?

Crocheting is repetitive, you have to count all the time.  Valuable as meditation?  Yes.

Would high school kids find this interesting?

In a year or so, we’ll have an exhibit of our crocheted hyperbolic planes.  Stay tuned.

I offered this workshop last Saturday.  Ten people showed up!

Here are a couple of emails, responding to the workshop:

13CrochetClass21) “It is addictive, that’s for sure. And are you kidding? This is the perfect match for you: An endeavor that combines the artistic and intellectual…it’s fascinating. I am having trouble grasping the formulas and details of the math, even though I was quite into math and esp geometry back in the day. So much has fallen out of my brain, but that is another story. I am just going on faith though, not getting hung up on having to comprehend everything all at once. This definitely feels good for the brain though.Seems like there are so many options for this with students.”

2) “Thanks for the workshop, the follow-up information and your enthusiasm for the project!  Yes, I can hardly stop doing the crochet.  It is growing and evolving—”

Addictive!  Good for the brain!  Growing and evolving!

Who could ask for anything more!?

To pursue this yarn further:

Taimina, Daina.  “Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes.”  2009

http://www.amazon.com/Crocheting-Adventures-Hyperbolic-Planes-Taimina/dp/1568814526

http://www.ovguide.com/crocheting-adventures-with-hyperbolic-planes-9202a8c04000641f80000000154ab61f

Euclid   http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/java/elements/bookI/bookI.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euclidean_geometry

Efi Efrati lecture at University of Chicago, “Frustrating Geometry”  http://jfi.uchicago.edu/~efrati/compton/index.html

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14OneMinutes copyWhen we have a model, the poses range from twenty minutes to one-minutes.  I like to start the class with a couple of fives and only then go into the fast and furious ones.  One-minute poses are exhilarating and also terrifying.  Hence. the fivers at the start.

We’ll have a set of six one-minute poses.  I encourage my students to draw all six on the same page, allowing the figures to overlap.  This creates a visual intensity and adds the element of time, not only in creating the illusion of motion, but in the urgency of the crowded lines themselves.

13MarchMultiStephI draw along—hey, it only takes six minutes to do six poses.  Students can then see what my page looks like, in all its raggedy incompletion.  While the next, longer pose is in session, I’ll work some atmospheric markmaking around the figures, tying them together and at the same time making them emerge out of and vanish into the invented darkness.  The scribbly anatomy studies then hang together as an image.

For studies like this I like to work with Stabilo on gloss paper.  Gloss paper has no texture and therefore no pressure is required.  Then, for the second stage of adding the dark “background,” the Stabilo, being water-soluble, allows for all sorts of smudging and atmospheric effects.

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14MariaRedBlueSquaresThis is quite an accomplishment, isn’t it.  You’re looking at rectilinear forms, four rectangles and two squares. From the verbal description, you’d expect a static image.  But it’s far from static.  You can’t help seeing these blue things moving. And what about the vertical divide, is that in the middle?

The suggestion of movement in the composition comes, to a great extent, from the little blue rectangle in the lower left corner.  It appears to be a fragment of the kind of square we see clearly stated on the right side of the painting.  The fact that there are two identical blue squares sets up an expectation in our minds that what we’re seeing in the lower left is one of that kind.  It’s uncanny, how powerful that little blue rectangle is. I would say, it makes the painting.  It sets everything in motion.

The other blue rectangle is that long thing in the middle.  It’s in the middle, right?  Wait, we can’t be sure, looks like the middle, but maybe not.  The large red rectangle appears to be just a smidge narrower than its light counterpart on the right, because a saturated color area will look smaller than a light area.  But, at the same time, red is a dominant color.  The illusoriness of the red half and the question of the mid-line are rubbed in our faces by this blue thin rectangle in the middle. Where’s-the-middle becomes an issue.  What’s static, what moves?

This painting by Maria Palacios appears to be simple, but is anything but.  Look at it.  It won’t let you go.

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