Posts Tagged ‘beauty’


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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Never leave home without it:  your pocket Sony or your iPhone, not because you’re expecting a call but because it can take pictures.  I don’t mean pictures as documentation of facts, or because you’re planning a photography exhibit, but as an exercise in seeing. Pure and simple.

When you’re winding through your neighborhood on your power walk, you’ll notice the clever things people do with their entrances and shrubs and you’re reminded of how your own domicile will never make it into Architectural Digest. Your eye is outer-directed.

Now try an alley. Notice that you have the place to yourself and your seeing becomes more intense, more internal. When you veer off into an alley, you’ve turned off your “certified beauty” sensor. Your eye searches for shapes and juxtapositions.  Mmmm, garbage cans. But you don’t see garbage or think garbage, you just see the shapes and the negative spaces.  Click.

What you zoom in on teaches you something about how you see.  When I review my photos, I notice a repeated composition. What to do with that?  Puzzle over it, go deeper, work with it.

My ankle-weighted walking shots are composed in a sweating hurry. Some of them invite cropping in Photoshop, that fabulous tool for nuanced seeing.  Crop that shot!  Crop it again and again until you see form with only a sigh of memory of the garbage can.  Ahhh!

And then you can flip it and notice that it’s better that way.  Ah-hah.————————————————————-

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




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Daniel Chester French, (1870-1931) came out of the Beaux Arts decades which came out of the Renaissance which came from the ancient Greeks.  We love all that:  contrapposto, balance, measured grace, serenity, idealization of the feminine form.  You’ll find this lovely figure in the sculpture court in the Rice Building at the Chicago Art Institute.

For my drawing class, we have a model who knows her art history and often presents us with poses that embody all those well-loved characteristics I just enumerated.  Students are pleased when they have the chance to make a drawing that hooks into our western tradition of the beautiful.  That is, before modernism threw out the concept of beauty.  If you’ve had a chance to read some earlier posts here  dealing with the concepts from modernism that I keep introducing in class (you may be reading “pushing” here instead of “introducing”)  I need to remind you that I like to work both ends of the continuum. I really do share my students’ love of drawing “well,”  that is, in the classical mode.  Here’s one drawing I did recently from our model in class as I sat between two students who watched the drawing develop.  (Charcoal pencil, about fifteen  minutes.)   It’s very satisfying to slip into the 16th century and the 1890’s to draw in this idealized mode.

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