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Archive for the ‘Caricature’ Category

In 1910 in an ornate little church in Borja, a village in northeastern Spain,  a local painter named  Elias García Martínez filled a narrow white wall space with a little fresco called “Ecce Homo.”  It shows a scroll on which the suffering thorn-crowned Jesus-head is turning its eyes skyward.  Over the years the fresco deteriorated and Mrs. Cecilia Giménez (below), with the permission of the priest, set out to restore it to its original, of which she had a photo to work from.

The news broke last Friday and over the weekend little Borja was overrun with hundreds of tourists who were eager to see what was universally called a “botched restoration.”   One tourist, interviewed on Spanish TV, said that the original was nice, but this she really likes.

Now what?  What can the church and the town do?

1) Paint over the fresco with white paint and forget about it.

2) Hire a competent painter to duplicate the original and forget about the temporary embarrassment.

3) Leave it as it is now, the “botched restoration,” the “monkey face.”

The first two options seem to be out.  The organizer of the town’s patron festival is already happy about the new fame of Borja.  On the web, 18,000 people have signed a petition stating that the fresco should stay as it is now. A Facebook page, called “Señoras que restauran Cristos de Borja” has 38,874 fans and 58,048 followers (as of this writing), many of whom have created their own versions of the fresco. Here’s one, inspired by Rafael.  For more,  see https://www.facebook.com/SenorasQueRestauranCristosDeBorja

Let’s consider option #3.  The face as it is now is a confrontation with modernism.  The modern mind is rooted in the 17th century, when Leeuwenhoek first saw microbes through his microscope’s lens, Montaigne (a little earlier)  introspected and doubted, Descartes doubted himself to exhaustion and John Mill studied various translations of the Bible and said, whoa, we have 30,000 problems here. To name just a few of the people who showed us that things are not what they appear to be and that the mind makes stuff up.

Mrs. Giménez, in her mid-80’s, is now world famous.  She is notorious.  How could she do such a thing?  She’s apparently surprised at the results of her effort.  Is she crazy? Couldn’t she see what she was doing?  She may be asked to have her head examined and her introspection and free-associations would be interesting, but not as interesting as the FACT that we now have this image she made up.

That’s what’s important:  she made it up.  And another thing: the original fresco from 1910 by whatshisname was also made up.   Let’s see, what else can we name that’s been made up:  Michelangelo’s David, Michelangelo’s Adam, Rafael’s madonnas, Leonaro’s Last Supper;  Klimt’s Kiss, Munch’s Scream;   Egyptians invented Isis and Osiris, the Greeks invented Zeus and Athena, and so on and so forth.

The human imagination makes stuff up. You won’t find that statement anywhere in the 12th century.  The clerics who are ringing their hands over this fresco problem haven’t traveled through the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th, when Picasso and others blew the roof off our skulls.

When Picasso painted Gertrude Stein 1905 and 1906, she sat for him an estimated eighty-plus times.  Towards the end of 1906 he got stuck, dissatisfied with how he had painted the face.  We can only wish we had a documentation of that stage of the work. (We know Picasso owned a camera.)  In the fall of 1906 he went to Spain and when he came back he painted over the face. Giving into his fascination with African, Oceanic and early Iberian art, he now turned Gertrude’s face into a mask.  In other words, he invented.  He made it up.  We look at this painting at the Met and think it looks like Gertrude Stein—after all, that’s the title on the wall label—but at the same time we know IT’S ALL MADE UP.  It’s this awareness that makes us modern.

Picasso would have loved this “botched restoration.”

Sources:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/world/europe/botched-restoration-of-ecce-homo-fresco-shocks-spain.html?hp

https://www.google.com/#q=Borja+Fresco+site:youtube.com&sa=X&ei=Gog_ULqbHI7W9QT_m4GgBg&ved=0CDsQ2wE&hl=en&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=6c862fd85693d052&biw=1012&bih=589

http://www.spiegel.de/reise/europa/jesus-fresko-in-borja-stuemper-kunstwerk-zieht-hunderte-touristen-an-a-852168.htmlhttps://www.facebook.com/SenorasQueRestauranCristosDeBorja

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

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

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In the penultimate caricature class we dealt with the profile.  Here’s my demo on that topic.

But the inevitable finale to a class in the art of caricature would have to be what?  Of course, you have to draw the teacher.

This caricature class, earlier this summer, met for only five two-hour sessions.  Make no mistake, this is a serious class. (You can find earlier posts on specific demos.)  One of the topics we kept coming back to is the psychology of the whole business.  Drawing women, for example.  Or drawing people you know, your family or your friends.  It gets complicated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My students (only three were present for the last class, hey, it’s summer) rose to the challenge.  It really does take courage to draw caricatures.

You can tell, that they got the lesson on eyelashes for women.

One student apparently saw my Cruella de Vil side. That’s fine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When I caricatured myself about eighteen years ago, I also showed no mercy.  But then, for my business card, I had to go for a more show-biz look.  Did I mention…it’s complicated.

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

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When John McEnroe interviewed Serena Williams at Wimbledon (a couple of years ago?) he started out by asking her opinion of the clothes he was wearing (grunge).  That’s because she is known to be a fashionista and a designer herself.

We can be sure her semi-finals outfit at Wimbledon this year was one of her designs.  Two colors: white for the dress;  fuchsia for the headband, the wrist band and the underpants.  Now, Serena, what WERE you thinking?

And, dear girl, what WERE you listening to as you were putting this ensemble on paper?  Must have been some rapper.  Was it Fifty-Cent? Only rapper language can get to the bottom of your inspiration.

I know it’s a hard life, being way up there among the tennis players.  Several hours of practice with your coach every day. Then you go to a fancy dinner and a hot night life spot and then all that bench-pressing and then you have a photo op… with such a schedule, who has time to study composition!

Composition?

One of the topics we deal with in composition is “grouping.”   When you look at this cluster of shapes, you don’t just see disparate things. Your minds tends to look for patterns and associations and to see groupings whenever possible.  You can group the circles together, or the triangles.

Or in the next example, you group the black circles and you group the white circles.  You see two constellations.

If Serena had made the pants white, the pants would relate, or group with, the dress and we would not notice them as a separate unit.

But we do see them as a separate unit, as part of a grouping of four items: headband—two wristbands—round bottom.  It’s a constellation and it stands out.  All the more so because of the color, a hot pink.  When we watch Serena on the court, we see one, two, three, four and among these the greatest is…

This has to be intentional.  Serena wants us to look at her bum, as they say in the greater London area.  Or as the rappers say, ass.  As in, kick ass.  British athletes probably don’t say, “Righteeoh, I shall wield that racket with utmost force and aplomb and, as it were, kick bum.”   They probably also say, kick ass.  We can be sure that Serena’s buddies talk like that.

By this unfortunate design, she has transformed her statuesque, regal presence into a cheap joke.  Thus the picture of grace, power and concentration is sicklied o’er by trash-talk.

Composition is a tricky thing. What’s intentional?  What’s a happy accident? What subliminal associations can be formed in this, say, landscape.  Those are questions that involve the perception of groupings.  What associates to what?  You always have to squint at your work and ask, hmm, is this what I want the work to associate to.

You can argue that with Serena’s hot pants, it’s a moot question.  Intentional or not?  I vote intentional. Notice that her jacket doesn’t have any fuchsia trim.  If she had wanted more color, the jacket would have been the place.  So, yes, the  kick-ass pants, , are intentional.

(Here’s my caricature of Serena Williams from ten years ago. I guess I’ve been a fan for a long time.)

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

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

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I invite everybody who’s curious about how in the world the art of caricature can be taught to try to imagine the sound track as I scribble out these drawings. (The brown paper is 3 ft high and I work in markers.)   Each student has the identical photocopied face to work from.  It’s fun.  But we also get a work out. When you decipher the terms interspersed in the scribbling—philtrum, fusiform gyrus, prosopagnosia, epicanthus, gestalt—you’ll realize that there’s substance in this course.  Actually the substance is where the fun is.

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

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

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André Carrilho, in his late 30’s, is a caricaturist of the highest order. He’s Portuguese, lives in Lisbon, where he’s a national treasure.  His work frequently appears in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.  His daring is breathtaking.  There are no clichés in his work.  Every drawing I’ve ever seen by him has made me jealous:  I wish I had done that.

His work deserves close study, his gestures, his radical departure from anatomy, his mixture of drawing techniques, his psychological insights.

For now I just want to focus on the fact that he frequently dismisses the eye as the carrier of expression.  Rudolph Giuliani, for example (above), doesn’t have any eyes, just a darkish smudge.  To pull this off, you have to be very advanced in your art.  Go to http://www.andrecarrilho.com/ and immerse yourself in this work.  But be warned, you may lose track of time, miss your train, quit your job, and neglect your household chores.

Funny thing about the eye, the “window to the soul.”  That expression probably can be traced to Moroccan bazaars, where haggling over the price of a rug was made easier if you were so close to the other guy that you could see the involuntary twitch in his pupils every time he lied to you.  In general, I think, soul-talk is obfuscation.  The “soul” in art doesn’t just have a window here and there, but is more like a drafty place, a wide open canyon.

Imagine my delight as I’m looking at store mannequins and find that they have no eyes.  Where does this come from?  What happened to “the window to the soul?”   Is Maybelline suing?  Is this inspired by André Carrilho?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  The Art of Caricature is not silly or trivial at all.  It’s the brain’s preferred way of seeing.  Simplify, simplify.

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

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

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I’ll be teaching a 5-week course on The Art of Caricature this summer at the Evanston Art Center.  The class will be held on Thursday evenings from 7 – 9 p.m.,  starting June 14.  Due to an email glitch, the class is not listed in the printed summer catalog, but it will be listed online at www.evanstonartcenter.org

Here’s the blurb:  “For intermediate & advanced portrait artists.  Seeing through the “caricature lens” enables you to heighten your subject’s expression and will develop your personal style. A good caricature is a stronger likeness than a “realistic” portrait or even a photo. As you develop your ability to see in this new light, you can decide to what degree you want to “tweak” the features and still maintain the likeness. The notebooks of some of our great artists (Leonardo, Picasso) reveal that they were, at heart, caricaturists. This course broadens the view of a much-misunderstood art. The class is set-up so that students can see the instructor’s drawing as it emerges, step by step. “

That last part is important.  I tack a long sheet of brown paper on the wall and draw with black markers so that everybody can see.  Every student will have an 8½ x 11 printout of the face we’re working on and I will have the same face taped to my brown drawing paper on the wall.  We go at it.  How do you look at this?  What feature will you push and pull?  How do you enhance the expression? All this, while keeping the likeness.  In fact, the likeness will be enhanced by our pushing and pulling. A good caricature looks more like the person than a photograph.   It’s fascinating.  I will also sit next to individual students and draw along with them.  I provide the copies of the faces but students can also bring in their own choices.  Hmmm, friends and family. Of course, the  class is fun, but it’s also serious work and very challenging.

The number at the Evanston Art Center is 847-475-5300

(To see my caricatures of political and cultural luminaries: http://facefame.wordpress.  You’ll find the above caricatures of John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates  in that blog.

The photos from an actual Art of Caricature class were taken at the Indianapolis Art Center, summer 2010, where I gave a weekend intensive to some very enthusiastic students/artists.)

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

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

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When you Google something today, you’ll see a line drawing of Crown Hall.  Bravo, Google!

Crown Hall is the Architecture building at the Illinois Institute of Technology, designed in the mid 1950’s by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was born on this day in 1886.  The building often houses architecture exhibits and art events.  It’s well worth the trip to just be in this building.

Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization, replied “I think it would be a great idea.”  He died a few years before Crown Hall went up.  Too bad.  He might have had an aha-moment in this exhilarating, optimistic space.  He would have noticed the clarity of its thought.

The Main Building of what was then the Armory Institute of Technology was built by Patton & Fisher in 1893, the year of the Columbian Exposition.  You see it every time you drive down the Dan Ryan.  It’s Romanesque Revival and was cut from the same fearful cloth as all the gloppy grandeur down at the Midway Plaisance that year.  The powers-that-were apparently trembled at the changes– social, political, cultural, technological, spiritual, the works– that were in the air and exploded in the early decades of the 20th century.  Louis Sullivan was part of that change and his Transportation Building at the Fair was the only progressive structure there.  Poor Louis, came to a tragic end.

The 20th century turned a corner, any way you think of corner, metaphorically or technologically.  No wonder, “how to turn a corner”  became a major topic of discussion among architects.

Mies turned a profound corner.

Gandhi might have been drawn to sit in meditation in Mies’s chapel, which looks inconspicuous, without grandeur, affectation or cowardly historical revivalism.  The chapel at IIT looks more like a factory, a little workshop, a cubicle even, a place where you go to work on your stuff.

(Above, my caricature of Mies, 1986, when I was a docent with the Chicago Architecture Foundation and gave the Loop tours and the Boat Tour with great passion and the occasional quip about the powers-that-be, but you already guessed that.  )

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

www.khilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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