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IMG_5170
These passages from Matisse are a sort of gift in speechless delivery.

IMG_5183https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/%EF%BB%BFmatisse-zoom-three/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/matisse-zoom-two/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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IMG_5176
By now you’re probably thinking there must be more to this than looking. You’re tempted to guess what Matisse painting these passages are taken from. But no, it really is about looking.

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If you can’t let go of the guessing game, just keep looking. Stay with it and your mind will turn off the verbal mode and you’ll go visual. Ahhh!

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/matisse-zoom-two/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/


All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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IMG_5174
The intention here in showing you these passages from a large painting is to invite you to feast your eyes.

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https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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ArleneOct14
When you’re working on a painting you may get to a stage where discouragement sets in. Happens often, actually. You make a sour face as you look at the work; you wave at the latest section you worked on and you say, blecccchhhh; you’re ready to go over the whole thing with purging, purifying white because you see no hope in the mess you made. Let me stay your hand. The mess you made is full of new life and new ideas!
Above is an example.
ArleneOct14Crop1Right. It doesn’t work. Not as is, not as a whole. But there are passages in there that can spur you on to new insights and new directions in your work. Crop! Place strips of paper over your work and isolate passages. It’s all your work, you did all this, you just didn’t see it. By cropping you see what you actually did.
I particularly like the next passage. The yellow/ochre had been scraped away partially to reveal blue ArleneOct14Crop2underpainting, resulting in a rich texture and forceful markmaking, neither of which were appreciated before the passage was isolated. I look at this and imagine it as a big canvas.—————————————-————-
(Arlene Tarpey, acrylic and pastel on paper,~20×16.)
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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”

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

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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13ArleneTallRedWhiteMy painting class is full of surprises.

This painting started as a collage, or rather as a little window (about 2” x 1”)  chosen from a large 11”x17”  collage.  The painting, done in acrylic on two canvases joined in the middle for a total of 48” x 24”, takes its composition and color drama from the collage.  In the first layer, the red was red, but then it became black and then red again, but this time with the black under-painting showing through. (Click to enlarge.)
The decisive turn of events in the painting process was the drip.  There was, of course, no drip in the collage. But the painting seemed to need a linear element.  The artist, Arlene Tarpey, dislikes hard edges in her work.  What to do? Let the linear element create itself!  The drip, therefore, was not a result of a messy painting style, à la Jackson Pollock, but was deliberately engineered right there in the middle of the canvas.

Or rather, canvases.  The horizontal divide between the two canvases now became disturbing because the drip refused to ignore the break and emphasized the gap by oozing into it.  What to do?  Fussing with the drip would un-drip it and thereby highlight the awkward spot even more.

13ArleneTallRedTopSolution: take the thing apart and treat each panel as an independent painting.

This sort of thing happens only when you’re working in the abstract mode.  You’re not committed to representing an image and you’re not hemmed in by preconceived notions about what this thing is supposed to look like.  You are IN the process and responding to what happens brush-stroke by brush-stoke and, yes, drip by drip. You’re not even committed to the original size of your work.  You can just take it apart.

Surprise!

13ArleneTallRedBottomAll contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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13LindaGlobePhThe picturesque Harley Clarke Mansion, home of the Evanston Art Center, is a bit of an architectural sampler in the sense that it features turrets, balconies, gables, dormers and stone carvings. One of my plein air students has fallen in love with the entrance to the greenhouse, which combines a Palladian reference and a carved wooden door frame with overgrown vines.  In previous sessions she drew the door itself and the view towards the Clarke’s ornamented main entrance.  This week she turned to draw one of the cement globes that announce the fern-and-lily lined 13LindaGlobeDrawingStraightpassage to the greenhouse.

When Linda’s drawing was finished, we considered cropping possibilities.  The fence in the distance behind the globe forms a sturdy horizontal line.  Perhaps too sturdy.  When the drawing is cropped conventionally with the fence horizontal, the image is, well, too conventional.  Notice what happens when we tilt the drawing and chop off the top of the globe.  More tension, more movement.

13LindaGlobeDrawingTilt1While we were playing with these cropping choices, a photographer from the Chicago Tribune came by and, with our permission, documented the little tutorial scene. The next day, the Trib ran an article about the plight of the Clarke Mansion , not with the tutorial scene by the greenhouse, but with a wide-angle shot of the whole building, which was, after all the focus of the piece. The piece summarizes the debate over the fate of the mansion:

 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/evanston_skokie_morton_grove/ct-met-evanston-lighthouse-beach-hotel-20130714,0,849034.story

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1306KumiloStillLife1It’s well known that eyewitness accounts don’t carry much weight in a courtroom.  That’s because what you see is affected by your emotional state, your past experience, your desire to see order and on and on all the way to what you had for breakfast that day.  Well, you might say, that’s to be expected 1306ColleenStillLifebecause you’re witnessing a horrible scene, like a murder or a collision.

But what about the ol’ still life, a mess o’ drapery and a heap of pots!  Same caveat.  Five people in a tranquil setting on a lovely  June day will produce five very different takes.  It’s always amazing. Always thrilling.

1306LinneStillLife1306MegStillLife

And a wide view, with much information, perhaps too much…

1306JanetStillLife1…cropped for more tension, compositional cohesion and immediacy.  Notice how with the following, cropped view, you are more drawn into the scene. You feel more alert and you’re more inclined to pay  attention to the placement of lines and shapes, asking yourself “why is it like that?”

1306JanetStillLife1cropped

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1304AlejandraFaceCrop

I promise, we’ll move on to other topics besides cropping, but the power of cropping cannot be underestimated.

This face was one of four studies on the same page. The model was a magazine add with strong shadows, selling jewelry of all things. In setting up the exercise, I stressed that we were not after a likeness of this beautiful woman, but were using her as a point of departure for expressive studies of the face.  We already know that beauty and expressiveness are incompatible, a major thread in these conversations.

1304AlejandraFaceThe page as a whole did not work because the faces were too similarly drawn and were all the same size.  What to do?  CROP!  You can see the edges of the strips of paper we used in cropping.  The result is an expressive face.

But wait, there’s more.  What if we crop even more radically!  What if we slice the image through the eye on the right edge.  That’s the image at the top of this post.  It’s far removed from literalness, from illustration. Now we have a provocative image. It’s truly an image, in the sense that it is more than what it represents.

Let me point out just three things that make this image so rich.

1304AlejandraFaceCropLines*The left half of the page is all texture.

 *The contour of the face is varied, so that as we trace it we travel over three different “landscapes.”

 * One eye is in the middle of the page. Uncanny! There’s a study of this phenomenon (I can’t remember the author’s name now) that shows that portrait artists will compose their subject in such a way that one eye of the sitter is in the middle of the canvas.

 —————————————————————— Velazquez(1599-1663), Portrait of Juan de Pareja

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

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