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Archive for the ‘Seeing’ Category

KatRaeburn

If you squint a little, you’ll see two dark stripes.  At the same time you see a profile.  Stay with this.  Keep looking at the whole page.

The mark making in the dark passages is so rich that you’re drawn (!) in to dwell on the intensity of that texture.  The next second you’re reading the face with its clear profile and the hint of an eye in the shadow side.  Your brain flickers like a strobe light, back and forth in this paradox.

This is uncanny, very powerful.

Drawing by Kat.

Here’s what I mean by “two dark stripes”:

KatRaeburn copy

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

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HenryRaeburnBWusdRaeburn’s portrait of Robert Brown hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago.  I admire it at every visit.  It is painterly, with quick, sure dashes of the brush: look at the hair, the edge of the collar.

Of all the student copies of this portrait (up-side-down) this drawing, by Mary, is most “painterly.”

When we see lines in a drawing or a painting, our attention traces the line and we feel assured of clarity and rationality.  Lines delineate shapes, orient us and tell us what’s what.

MaryRaeburn

Notice, there are no lines in Mary’s drawing.  Everything is effect, shades of gray, nuance. Imagine navigating over your drawing paper without the guidance of lines.  It takes intense concentration. This is quite an achievement.

When we draw portraits we are not satisfied with mere accuracy of facial features.  We always read the emotion in the face.  When you consider that this drawing was done up-side-down, is it not astonishing how such a process can result in such depth of emotion?

To review how this drawing exercise was set up, visit

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/facing-the-portrait-with-henry-raeburn-1/

To compare other students’ work:

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/facing-the-portrait-with-henry-raeburn-3/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/facing-the-portrait-with-henry-raeburn-2/

 

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

www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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20190905_123041.jpg

Students gasped when this drawing was turned around, to be seen right-side-up.

It was drawn up-side-down, remember. Btw,  No student cheated by turning the drawing right-side-up before it was finished.

When you’re drawing up-side-down, you enter a state of –hello!—pure seeing.  Sounds corny, but the name of this class is simply Drawing as Seeing.  It’s thrilling!

Notice how the sliver of reflected light on the face’s shadow side makes the drawing three-dimensional. So subtle, so powerful.

The time allotted for this assignment was a little over an hour.

Drawing by Shweta.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/facing-the-portrait-with-henry-raeburn-2/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/facing-the-portrait-with-henry-raeburn-1/

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

www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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JudyRaeburn

This student, Judy,  also working upside-down, stayed with the assignment.  So difficult, remember.  It can be very frustrating not to be able to outline the eyes with some clarity.

But look, turned right-side-up, the face comes through with eerie intensity.  Most striking is the eye on the shadow side of the face.  Notice, that the only thing that says “eye” is the white of the eye.  There is no other anatomical feature stated.

We will continue to work with faces in this class.  What makes a likeness, an emotional expression–what draws a viewer in—all that is quite nuanced and fascinating.

To review the basic set-up of this assignment, visit:

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/facing-the-portrait-with-henry-raeburn-1/

 

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

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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HenryRaeburnI like to present my students with art work that feels modern but was actually done centuries ago.  Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) was a Scottish portrait painter with a modern, romantic sensibility.  In our fourth drawing class we were working from Raeburn’s portrait of one Robert Brown of Newhall (1790’s), about whom I know nothing, but Raeburn must have seen him as self-confident and introverted at the same time.

Now, the catch is that we drew Mr. Brown upside down from a b/w Xerox copy.

HenryRaeburnBWusd

This is a difficult assignment!

It’s difficult because, even looking at it upside down, you know it’s a face and that means you want to do it justice.  You want to get it right. You know, for example, that the grayish smudge you’re looking at in the Xerox copy is actually representing an eye. An eye is a highly intelligent feature and it’s super important in getting a likeness.

20190905_114033

As you can see, this student could not resist the temptation of drawing a clear face with clearly articulated features.  It’s interesting that Robert Brown’s keen intelligence somehow comes through in Justin’s line drawing.

But, alas, the assignment was not to produce a line drawing but to observe and duplicate the various shades of gray. So difficult, takes so much patience and detachment.  We will have more exercises like this to practice.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Raeburn

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

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Gainsborough

As some of you know, I recently moved to Indianapolis.  I am now happy to let everyone know that I have recently started a drawing class in nearby Columbus, In.  Columbus is famous for its world class modern architecture with a tourism center kept busy by an international crowd lining up to see those eighty (!!) famous buildings.  This city of 47,000 has a branch of Indiana University but it did not offer a drawing class for the public until—tatah!—I jumped in to fill that vital void.

Our Columbus drawing class meets in the library–designed by I.M. Pei.  The class, called “Drawing as Seeing,” has met only four times so far.  I’ll start by showing the work done in our third class. Ready?

Our topic was “Markmaking,” which is a scribble/shading technique that is as individual and unique as your thumb print.  After a brief demo with students looking over my shoulder, I sent everybody to their seats with a Xerox copy of Thomas Gainsborough’s masterful drawing called “Landscape with Horsemen.”  You can see it at the top of this post.

What happened in class was highly rewarding and led to the discussion of an important topic:  “incompletion” in a work of art.

ShwetaGainsborough

The time allotted for this exercise was only an hour and that proved to be an advantage because it meant that students had to leave with their drawings incomplete.

JudyGainsborough

I held up all the drawings and introduced the idea of Incompletion as a topic in modern art.  I suggested that it’s precisely because these drawings are incomplete that they are so engaging.

MaryGainsborough

Incompletion in a work of art reaches us with evocative power. It engages us—paradoxically, perhaps—more than an image that’s carefully worked out in every detail.

Katlandscape

The next drawing was done by a left-handed student.  I had copied him a mirror image of the original Gainsborough to work from because the left hand moves in a different radius than the right hand.

JustinGainsborough

I reminded students that they had the option of leaving the drawing as is, “incomplete,” or doing more work on it at home.

MaryLandscpe1

In the next class, this teacher was gratified that none of the students had “completed” the drawing.  Every student seems to have gotten the modern bug.

We will get back to this Topic of Incompletion many more times.

We are off to a promising start!

Thomas Gainsborough, 1727-1788  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gainsborough

Columbus, Indiana https://columbus.in.us/architecture-story/

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

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While we were analyzing Bellini’s Madonna of the Trees, someone in the class said, but these paintings were not made to be analyzed, they were made as objects of devotion.  That is true, but as artists we have to analyze how these objects of devotion were constructed.

You can see how strongly this drawing emphasizes the horizontal and vertical axes.  The drawing has conviction because of that.  In a weaker composition the psychological focal points would be the faces.  But here, without that easy emotional appeal, the drawing holds our attention by the force of that vertical and horizontal intersection.

It would be great to see Bellini’s sketches for this painting.  In the Renaissance, preliminary drawings for paintings and frescoes tend to be more energetic than the final product. It’s uncanny. The paintings will  look  16th century and the sketches will look modern.

The last element added in this sketch was the background scribble in the upper left, over the woman’s right shoulder.  I say “background,” but it’s no less important than any other scribble in the drawing.  I think those last lines, without representing anything or being part of the figures, make the drawing complete.

Without them, we would merely have an attempted illustration. With the “background scribble” we have a complete page, where, in the modern sense, positive and negative space are equally worth looking at.

Jeanne Mueller, graphite on paper, ~14” x 12”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/04/22/bellinis-pleasing-tricks/

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

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