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lDiebenkornStudioSinkActually, the studio sink.  But the idea is the same: it’s not what you paint/draw, it’s how you see it. 14ElizMendozaKichen1After I gave a demo with Stabilo pencil and china marker on gloss paper, I encouraged the students to set time aside to practice—or what from now on I will call “treat yourself to drawing.”   One student did just that.  Her pleasure in drawing, the fact that this really was a treat, is evident in the five drawings she produced in one day.  They remind me of Diebenkorn’s sink with their strong diagonals, the repetition of arched shapes, the chiaroscuro drama of light and dark, and the un-heroic nature of the subject matter. Diebenkorn’s studio sink, E.M.’s kitchen sink.14ElizMendozaKichen3In the Diebenkorn we see his much used tripartite composition, which we don’t have in E.M.’s drawings, but that’s a subject for another day. 14ElizMendozaKichen2E.M. used china marker and Prismacolor marker on gloss paper to great effect.  The solvent in Prismacolors picks up—on gloss paper– the china marker’s black and creates a personal texture, a painterly quality, a feeling of transition and process.  There’s an urgency and concentration in these drawings that warrant the Diebenkorn connection. Pretty good company, there, Elizabeth!  14ElizMendozaKichen4Richard Diebenkorn, 1922-1993. Corner of Studio – Sink, 1963. Oil on canvas. 77×70 in

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14ElizMendHerself6There were just four frames, taken in rapid succession. Here’s the second one. (See previous post.)

It must have been the sleeve.

When I brought my drawings to class, students remarked on the sleeve.  The sleeve, its shape and drapery, take center stage.  I had thought that part of FredericBazillethe reason why I responded to this photo was that it associated to Frédéric Bazille’s self-portrait at the Art Institute of Chicago, my favorite hang-out.  But the students said they didn’t know this painting and for them the mystique of the white sleeve came through unmitigated.

Both this pose and the previous one show the figure turned away from the viewer.  The figure is introverted.  When a figurative drawing has appeal despite an averted gaze, you’re probably attracted to the quality of the drawing itself.   One student said, “I just want to look at it.”

14ElizMendoza2Highest compliment, thank you for that.

Notice that in both drawings, the figure is anchored in a pattern of rectangles, which was suggested by the patchy paneling on the studio wall.  The figure itself is a play of geometrical shapes and anatomically 14ElizMendoza3Bvague.  But the rectangles in the composition add solidity and gravitas and make the elusive figure convincing.(Left, the first study, in china marker.)

The drawings are made with china maker on gloss paper.  The final drawings have a touch of Stabilo pencil and some splashing with dissolved Stabilo.

Frédéric Bazille, 1841-1870

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14ElizMendHerself1My little Canon is always in my pocket.  In class I take shots of students’ works in progress, of the view of the lake, of the photogenic mess in the sink, of finished work and even of unassuming students.  I think it must have been E.M.’s white shirt and black cap that made the shutter click. Once the photos were on the computer screen, I immediately saw the repetition of the square/rectangle motif.  (It’s easier 14ElizMendHerself1BWlinesto see this when the photo is black/white.) 

I couldn’t resist.  I treated myself to an afternoon of drawing. 

To start, a sketch in china marker, 11 x 8½.  Having learned from that exploration, I did a second drawing, 14 x 11, in china marker and Stabilo pencil. 

14ElizMendoza3A14ElizMendoza1Another drawing followed.  More on that and students’ reaction in the next post.

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In this table full of drapery, pottery, apples, spheres and the mighty amaryllis (see previous two posts) there was a well-lit part with a red sphere and some zig-zag drapery.  Gabrielle E. chose this passage, outlined in green, at right.

Her drawing shows powerful compositional elements.

1) The sphere at #3 is in the middle and threatens to dominate the whole page, simply because it’s a perfect circle, the most focused geometrical shape we have.  It has only one dimension and traps the eye in its centripetal force. Notice that the artist does not outline it with a continuous line and does not overstate the shading, thereby allowing the eye to escape to other parts of the drawing.

2) The almighty sphere finds its comeuppance in the zig-zag at #2.  The zig-zag, I would argue, holds its own even next to a sphere.  Wow, here we have a pile of stuff that, to the non-artist, must surely look boring, with the juxtaposition of these two dynamite shapes.  Notice, that the zig-zag is clearly, emphatically drawn.

3) Both the sphere and the zig-zag are highlighted by the empty space at #1.  This is a concave form, pushing upward…to the sphere.

4) The last stage of the drawing was putting in #4.  The area at #5 was faintly sketched in and the drawing didn’t know where to go next.  The bottom, with sphere, zig-zag and concave space, was so powerful, that it needed some upward swing.  The bowl in the still life set up on the table was way up and the drawing paper didn’t have that kind of space.  You know, the wonderful thing about drapery is that you can fudge it.  The artist summoned her courage and simply brought the bowl down, along with a bit of triangular drapery.

Now, back to the sphere.  The sphere is the star of the show, but it doesn’t swagger, glitter or make an acceptance speech.  On the bottom of the drawing, it gets the fanfare from the zig-zag and the concave space.  But now, with the bowl at #4 it has an echo because the bowl it also round, only an ellipse, but still in the round family.  The eye, therefore goes back and forth between these two round forms.  For a while…and then we’re back in the force field of zig-zag and concave.  And on and on.  You just want to look at this thing.

By the way, this is a no-fault drawing, done in china marker on fairly high paper (meaning textured)—no erasing possible, no corrections of any kind.  A bravura performance!!

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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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Models for life drawing do whatever they want.

A model will alternate standing poses with crouching poses and then she may feel like folding herself up and after that she’s likely to invert herself, feet up against the wall.  Since I like to create a dense drawing surface, with overlapping figures, I tend to have several sheets of paper in the works.  Let’s see, now her head is down and her arm is draping off the model stand…where should that go…there’s not much time to decide.  The pose may last only three minutes. Then the paper has to be taped down…the timer ticks away.  But this urgency is all for the good.  It concentrates the mind.

The paper here was prepared in the manner discussed  May 6, 2011.

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These are some of my ten minute drawings from last Monday.   We are a group of artists who meet at the Evanston Art Center for three hours to draw and paint from the model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I drew on gloss paper with China marker; 11 x 14.

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