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Posts Tagged ‘black’

17marchblack

So elegant, witty, lively!  The white lines are scratched into the black, revealing the white under-painting.

Additional texture comes from glued-on fabric, including burlap. The painting manages to have gravitas and levity at the same time.

Terry Fohrman, acrylic on canvas, 24” x 48”

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BubbleWrapYellowRip
Well, we don’t know. Is the Yellow on top of the Black? Or was the Yellow there first and then the Black invaded, covering most of the canvas and leaving some Yellow? Enter into the painting, let it fool you, one way, then the next. There’s no solution and that fact is the source of pleasure.
The other surfaces are clear, either on top or on the bottom. The Blue is on top of the Red and the white dots (printed with bubble wrap) are on top, in fact topmost. And all of these are on top of Black.
Whether you notice the Yellow-Black puzzle first or you look at the Blue-Red-White issues first, you immediately get the point: what’s-on- top is the game here. Some of this game will let you win, but the Yellow-Black part will leave you dangling and that’s your reward.

Painting in acrylic, about 24×24, by Maria Palacios.
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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
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Take a box  or a pile of books. Throw some cloth over it, or a t-shirt.  Put an old lace-up boot on top of this.  Look at this pile, say to yourself “this is really beautiful, I’ve got to draw this.”  Turn off your phone, grab a soft pencil and a piece of paper, sit down for a couple of hours and make a work of art.

I didn’t take a shot of the still life, but the above describes its simplicity.  How ordinary.  How intriguing!

It’s not about documenting the silly boot.  It’s about, how can I see this in a new way, surprising myself in the process.  As you look at Gaby’s drawing, remind yourself that the boot and the laces were black.  She invented the inversion.  She chose the placement of the boot way on top and its radical incompletion.  The laces set up a paradox: we are reminded of the arbitrariness of their real-life softness and at the same time they appear to support the thing at the top, which we identify as a shoe with the help of the crisscrossing at upper right.

The drawing plays with your perception.  Shoe-notshoe.  Laces-notlaces.  Form-content.  As an exercise in seeing, notice repetition of forms, rhythm, positive-negative space.  When you’ve said everything about the drawing that you notice, you will still be fascinated by it.  You can’t talk this thing to death.  It’s art.

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My direction at the beginning of the class was to work with charcoal pencil and stompe and to aim for a dense drawing with deep black.

Charcoal comes in different forms. Thin twigs and thick cigar shapes are good for working large and messy.  In pencil form it can be sharpened but, in my experience, the charcoal core is often already broken into sections.  There’s another pencil form where the charcoal core is wound in paper strips and here the charcoal core will be intact.  The pencil form for charcoal leaves your hands fairly clean, which may be regarded as an advantage.  Use either medium or soft.    A stompe is a stick of tightly wound paper and the thicker the stick the better, I think.  It can be sharpened with a utility knife or a single-edge razor blade.

The still life we worked from this class was exceptionally ho-hum and the work my students produced from it turned out to be– exceptional.  One of the things I stress in my still life classes is that you can pick whatever passage of the set up you like.  It’s gratifying to me to observe how students will take the time to look at the drapery, crockery and plastic apples before they start to draw.  This little initial meditation is a sign of maturity.  Beginning students don’t do that, they just start drawing what they think they are “supposed to draw,” usually some vase or bowl because these things are most clearly identifiable.

In the next three posts I will feature three drawings inspired—yes, inspired—by this ho-hum set-up.

The first, by Gabby E., has the ingenious invention of a low horizon.  Because there was very little space for the horizon line (at left), just drawing a line would have made it hard to read.  So she darkened the area below the horizon line, creating the illusion, as it turned out, of an ocean and a seashore.  The drapery and box on the table now become cliffs.  The drawing becomes surreal and tickles the imagination. The tomato is still a tomato—but what a tomato!

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Traditionally, flowers are a sentimental subject in art.  The perfume of the cliché hangs over them. The viewer’s mind goes soft.  Oh, how pretty!  Oh, how boring.

Still, there it is, a luscious amaryllis.  It helps, of course, that it’s presented with a twist: just plopped down on this heap of cloth with the plastic stem coiling and creasing, like a cheap garden hose.   This is good for the imagination.

In her drawing,  Maggy S. is working in china marker on gloss paper, about 14 x 11. On gloss paper the china marker can be scraped off with a razor blade, but only to a limited extent, making for a pretty focused drawing process.

The artist puts down the amaryllis in red and then starts to work the background in black, keeping the texture lively. The flower is readable as what it is and the stem coils clearly, though it alerts us right away to the possibility that what we’re facing here is not all plain, up-front and literal.  Now, what to do with the black!  If she fills in the black as background, which is what she actually sees (please go back to the previous post to see the still life set up), then the whole thing will become too literal—red flower on black background, get it!!—and the drawing will fall flat.  But if the black “background” goes beyond being merely background and takes on a life of its own, we may be getting into art.  The artist restrains herself from filling in the left side of the page with black and just leaves that to the imagination, with two results:  1) The white on the left sets up tension in relation to the black on the right. 2) The black now moves through the page in an s-curve of its own.  This black s-curve echoes the s-curve in the flower’s stem.  Just seeing this is thrilling.  Because of that, the drawing may be considered finished.

Given their sentimental association in our history, flowers present a challenge to the modern artist.  But many of our mentors-in-modernism have approached the subject with plenty of irony and grit.  You may want to look up paintings of flowers and still lifes by Cézanne, Redon, Schiele and Van Gogh.

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Beatrice K. finished this painting yesterday.  The collage that inspired it was quite small, 3 inches on the long side, and itself a result of cropping from a much larger collage.  While collaging, she found this gem in the corner of a large collage measuring about 11 x 17. (See previous posts under “collage”)   It was so powerful that it had to be painted in large format and its odd dimensions had to be accommodated.   Working out the proportions and considering that the painting had to be carry-able, the final painting was going to be 18 x 32 inches.  But that size canvas is not readily available.  What to do?  Build the custom support out of high grade ply wood and reinforcing borders.  A new adventure, and well worth the trip to the lumber yard.

When we work from a collage we don’t slavishly copy.  The paint has a mind of its own and we enter into a conversation with it.  So, when it drips, the artist has to decide whether to honor that drip or to erase it.  The drip at #3 adds vitality and immediacy to the painting. It adds the elusive dimension of time:  here’s something in the process of happening in a random way. We know the drips must be dry by now but at the same time they convey the feeling that they could go on.  This note of uncertainty draws us in.

It also acts as a chaotic counterpoint to the otherwise layered, rational-appearing composition.  Black (3) is the topmost layer.  That’s clear in relation to 1 and to 4, where at 8 the artist created a faint backlighting to create the feeling that 3 is floating.  We can see that 2 overlaps 1, but at 6 things get disorienting.  3 is on top of 2, but at the same time 2 drips over 3 and therefore 2 overlaps 3.  Oops, not so clear and rational.  Where are we?  Can’t figure that one out, so the viewer’s mind drifts and most likely zooms up to 5, where the contours are clear.  What a relief, we know what’s going on there!  That rectangle is nicely delineated, has a white sliver around it and a prominent white wedge leading up to it and on top of all that, it’s got texture.  How nice.  It’s restful and clear.  Oh, but wait, 5 relates to 4, by virtue of being the same color.  If 4 is the bottom-most layer and 5 is the top-most layer, how can they be connected, of the same cloth, so to speak?  The artist has created a visual paradox that is both pleasing and disquieting.  There’s nothing to do but to go into a visual mode and let the experience take a hold of you.  This is how art works. And I’ll have to say that again at the end of this essay.

What about #7?  What’s going on there?  #7 is stippled with the tip of the brush.  It forms a textured swarm over the already atmospheric #2.  The swarm of #7 takes the form of a wedge and therefore relates to the white wedge at the right.  Once you see that, you also see the wedge under #5.  We have a play on this triangle-form  that keeps the eye moving from one to the other.

There is an even larger repetition of a motif and that’s the L form.  We have it in the yellow at left and the large mass of black.  Even the turquoise in #4 intimates the L form and the burned sienna of #2  suggests that underneath the whole black thing there’s a massive L in reddish brown.  The repetition of a motif in a painting, as in music, focuses the attention, keeps us in the piece.

None of this was articulated before the collage was chosen as material for a painting.  When that little collage bit was framed with white strips of paper, there was a gasp of recognition:  this was something worth exploring.  The understanding of why it was brilliant—all that came later, in the doing.  This how art works.

(I use numbers to refer to passages in the painting in order to make the discussion clear and simple.  I want to avoid “artspeak.”  I recommend that you read through this and then go back and look at the painting—without numbers—just look.)

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