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Archive for April, 2015

FourPots
You might think that this is a sketch, to be elaborated on later. You might think this is a hasty scribble on the back of an envelope, a reminder of the rough composition so that the artist would later work out details and make a “presentable, salable work of art.”
So wrong.
To be able to see like this!
This is a very advanced form of seeing.
FourPotsPhotoAIt’s not about documenting the shape of the pots. The photo does that. It’s not about proving that you’re diligent, that you put in the time and now you’ll price the drawing according to the time you slaved over the drawing. There are people who think like that. So master-servant 16th century. And if you think your five-year-old can do this, well, you need to come to class.
What makes the drawing so great is the form. Not the shape of the pots. The form of the drawing! Seeing form is like reading between the lines in a story, reading deeper than the narrative. It’s seeing through the shapes, seeing deeper than what’s illustrated. The artist here is not illustrating pots. She is creating a page that stands on its own.
She creates a tug between positive and negative space. We expect the pots, being graspable things, to hold our attention. The ground they stand on is supposed to just passively support objects. But notice that the shape of the ground is more emphatically articulated than the objects. It’s dark and has a stepped shape of its own. The shape of the pots is predictable and our expectation projects more information into them that is actually given. Even though they are presented in casual curves and ellipses, we read them clearly. We as viewers are engaged in completing the presentation. A good thing. We also notice that the whole page is a dialogue between the severe,angular, rational edge of the black ground and the curved, flamboyant, irrational lines of the identifiable objects. So good.
Back to the sketch idea. The drawing, above, was preceded by a more elaborate working out of this FourPots2motif. The artist put in some folds of the cloth that covered the table. In other words, details. This is also an interesting drawing, but not as exciting as the one featured here. The artist had to wrestle with details, with the impulse to represent more literally what she actually saw,  to attain the view of form that marks the stark drama of the final drawing.
Drawings by Maggy Shell, charcoal on paper, ~14”x18”
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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GossaertMadonnaThe Flemish painter Jan Gossaert (c. 1478–1532) was much sought after, as a portraitist of Hapsburg royals and as a creator of altar pieces for Catholic churches. When I saw this Madonna and Child at the Met last December I just about burst out laughing. No, I didn’t actually laugh out loud, though that’s permissible in museums, but I did stand there for a long time, gaping at this extravagant and, yes, funny image of what was at the time a sacred subject.
He was a very busy man and it’s hard to imagine that he had time to paint for his own entertainment. But it’s also hard to imagine this undogmatic Madonna and Child hanging in a Catholic church in the early 16th century, during the Counter Reformation.
Let’s consider one bit of the historical context. In the Late Gothic, the S-curve of the Madonna becomes very pronounced and the baby Jesus becomes playful and fidgety, pure baby.
https://www.google.com/search?q=late+gothic+madonnas&biw=1536&bih=851&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=lYwoVabCJca8ggTs04GgCA&ved=0CCAQsAQ
But Gossaert’s Madonna is over the top. He shows her playing with the baby, but it doesn’t look like a lot of fun, does it. The baby looks terrified and frantic and mom–sitting on the floor with her knees pulled up–is more interested in posing than in bonding with her child.
The heap of blue cloth that we are supposed to accept as her gown is so overdone—even for the convention of the time—that I find it comically bizarre. It seems to be the work of an obsessive-compulsive. Or somebody who had an ax to grind.
Maybe Gossaert painted this not so much for his own amusement but as a satire. Satire wafted in the northern air. It was a time of political/theological upheaval and Gossaert may have had clients who were eager to see satirical views of the establishment’s icons. Who else would have bought a painting like this around 1500?!
Two contemporary northern satirists were Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), who had the nerve to poke at the papacy, and Hieronymus Bosch (1450’s-1516), who made no bones about his disgust with the corruption of the Catholic Church and the general insanity of the time. Sebastian Brant (1457-1521) published his satire Ship of Fools in 1494. Here’s part of Bosch’s illustration of that theme:

BoschShipFools
We don’t have personal details about Gossaert’s life that would provide insights into his playful, very human and possibly satirical Madonnas.
For more Madonnas by Jan Gossaert,
https://www.google.com/search?q=jan+gossaert+madonna+and+child&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=bIsoVfaQIIS8ggTD9IHACQ&ved=0CCEQsAQ&biw=1175&bih=829
Jan_Gossaert_-_the_virgin_and_child_with_white_lily_and_cherriesAll contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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15Jan2a
In whatever drawing you’re working on, try darkening the outline (=contour) of the shapes arbitrarily. If it’s a figure, darken the outline of the forearm. See how that affects your perception 15Jan2bof depth. Or press your pencil down harder when you’re outlining one side of the face. Immerse yourself in how this feels.
In the drawing shown above, the artist indicates the upper arm with a heavy line, while the forearm is drawn faintly. We immediately get the sense that the upper arm is in shadow and the forearm catches the light. She achieves this effect without classical anatomical drawing, using gradations of shadow and reflected light. But you can see that her coarse use of lines is actually based on an understanding of anatomy.
Drawing by Gaby Edgerton, aquarellable pencil on gloss paper, 17”x11”
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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Section
Sometimes a painting doesn’t work because it’s too complex. The artist may love the individual colors, while finding that they don’t hang together. Zooming IMG_5880in to a passage of the painting may lead to new inspiration. Here, on the right, is the original, troublesome painting, 30”x20”. By isolating the lower left corner and using it as a point of departure for a new, large painting, the artist saved the day and produced a fresh, dynamic painting. (See above)
Painting by Jane Donaldson, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 30”.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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15January2
As soon as you see the letters you want to know what that text says. Notice, however, that you don’t get obsessive about it. There are two reasons for this. One, the letters are not clearly outlined and the surface of the letters is painted in a chaotic, gritty manner. Two, the other surfaces of the painting lead you away from the text area. The red lines pull you to the upper right. The white triangle functions like an arrow that directs your attention to the right. The result is that your intellectual curiosity pulls you to the letters and at the same time you’re visually engaged by everything else. You find yourself moving through this painting, wondering how it works on your mind. Good thing.
It’s quite an accomplishment to have text in a painting without having it dominate the viewer’s attention.
Painting by Jane Donaldson, acrylic on canvas, 30” x 20”.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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FourNudesSpring15
For these two-minute life studies I worked with aquarellable pencil on gloss paper, 11x 17. Two minutes is enough time to work out some specific anatomical features. Compare these to the one-minute studies at https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/giacometti-and-me/.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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PinkBlack
An abstract painting should knock you out, leave you speechless, with only the compulsion to keep looking at it.
Here’s such a painting. I just want to look at it.
Ok, I’m expected to chat a bit here. Well, it’s pink, to start with. The color pink has endured some bad press, being associated with weakness, daintiness, feebleness, passivity. I remember reading (some years ago) that blue used to be the color for little girls and for boys the recommended color was actually pink because it was considered stronger, being derived from red. I looked it up just now and found this:
“…a 1918 trade catalog for children’s clothing recommended blue for girls. The reasoning at the time was that it’s a “much more delicate and dainty tone.” Pink was recommended for boys “because it’s a stronger and more passionate color, and because it’s actually derived from red.” See
http://www.npr.org/2014/04/01/297159948/girls-are-taught-to-think-pink-but-that-wasnt-always-so
Color suffers all sorts of cultural categorizations, honors and humiliations. We’ve talked about that before on this blog. But pink really gets the treatment in our time. Pink, eeaouh! I, for one, think pink is powerful stuff but I’m always aware that the vernacular consensus is against me.
Then, the black calligraphic lines on top of the pink. Where the pink says “dainty” (at least in the vernacular), the black lines say “assertion.” The black lines are painted with great insouciance and assurance. This “so-what” carelessness is shocking and fitting at the same time.
There’s a tiny speck of yellow on the circles, adding a maddening little focus. Look!

Painting by Cassandra Buccellato, oil on canvas, 36 x 36
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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