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Archive for May, 2014

14StillLifeBosMaggyBWhen you’re drawing the stuff of still life, there will be no hurt feelings. No box, bottle or drapery rag will accuse you of being shallow or insensitive or getting the proportions wrong. Not only is this, then, an 14StillLifeBosMaggyAinvitation to scribble away with abandon and produce new, improved markmaking, but it’s also an opportunity to see form, i.e., to go for abstraction. This is what happened with Maggy’s Stage Set with Circular Forms.
I find this drawing daring and exhilarating. Notice the tilted round container at lower left: it’s the only thing drawn with the illusion of three-dimensionality. All its shadows and reflected light are academically correct so that it looks convincing in the classical sense. Everything else in this composition is texture and a play on forms.
The z-curve as a suggestion of drapery exists in its own abstract world. You want to be reminded of drapery? Fine. But this line asserts itself for its own pleasure and as a counterpoint to the rectilinearity on the other side.
It may seem simple. How hard can it be to put an s-curve on a piece of paper! Well, not physically, that’s nothing. But to be so in tune with your drawing that you can see that this z-curve in that part of the drawing will be just right, for that you need to be having a good day at your drawing board.
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14StillLifeBoxGabyCHow long does it take to draw a still life like the one in the previous post? Three hours. This does not mean that graphite is being deposited on paper uninterruptedly for three hours. Much of the time is devoted to looking, considering, deciding, trying. The big decision, of course, is when to stop.
I tend to like a work at a very early stage of its development. That’s probably because of my love of abstraction and so a few lines on the page already speak to me. As for the love of incompletion, that’s an attribute of a romantic sensibility. I’m one of those.

14StillLifeBoxGabyEIn this second “stage set” Gaby again produced a fine drawing, this time with more delicate markmaking and with more devoted attention to shading . I’ll show it here in two stages, the one that starts the post being the final one. Final, not only in the sense of three-hours-are-up but also in the sense of “it is resolved.”

What’s particularly effective in the drawing is how the rectillinear edges on the left were worked out to contrast with the round billowing forms on the right.

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All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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14StillLifeBoxGabyAOf all the possible ways of displaying still life objects, my favorite is to create a proscenium stage with a small shipping box. I take off all the labels, paint the inside white and assemble a cast of small white bottles, hand-cream jars and other round objects. The whiteness keeps the artist/student focused on shape rather than drifting off into topical colors. (This is how artists used to be trained: from plaster casts of body parts, all white-white-white. )
The box is propped up at eye level to the artist, showing the depth of the box and, therefore, inviting the working out of perspective and deep shadows.
To soften the rectilinearity of the box, I drape a scrap of fabric or ribbon over one side.
It all sounds so simple, doesn’t it. But it’s actually quite a chunk of universe. Any number of technical and imaginative issues converge here. I’ve talked about all of them in previous posts. What I want to stress here is that this set up invites seeing and playing with abstraction. In this and the following four posts we’ll look at this invitation.

14StillLifeBoxGabyB
One artist /student, using the Stabilo pencil on gloss paper, drew with loose, quick lines that convey great energy and intensity. The round object in the front was actually a sphere, but left Gaby left it looking like a disk, without the shading and reflected light that would have rendered it three-dimensional. Because of its flatness—its self-consciousness as a shape– it invites abstract thinking in the viewer, which then affects how the whole composition is seen. If the still life had been rendered more photographically, the viewer would be judging it on its verisimilitude. But the loose markmaking and that white disk in front take the mind in a different direction, saying, let’s play with shapes, see how the round forms are being repeated here. How liberating!

Our drawing class, a ten-week term at the Evanston Art Center, always starts with three or four sessions with a still life. A still life is the most forgiving subject. It inevitably involves pottery, some plastic fruits and flowers and drapery. All this can be represented faithfully and classically or you can take liberties with how well-crafted that pot is or how plump the pear. And a crumpled piece of cloth is the most forgiving thing of all. Because of the benign disposition of the objects in front of you, you can experiment with and indulge in all sorts of wild drawing techniques, which we call markmaking. This is the time to experiment with drawing tools, papers, and different ways of “leaning into it. “
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://www.khilden.com
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com

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