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Posts Tagged ‘cropping’

16Jan
This drawing is a dramatic departure from the literal. The artist happily gives up illustration and instead moves into a play on form. Such a venture calls for omissions: you don’t have to draw everything that’s in that pile of stuff, you pick and choose as you go with the call of the composition emerging on your page. Notice how this page teases you out of your prosaic, fact-loving mind and leads you into the pleasure of pure form.
16JanNumbersIf there had been more stripes, they would have nailed you down in the simple association to hey-that’s- a-tablecloth. Instead, the artist skips the literalness of the tablecloth and picks just three stripes (1) which lead you to the little pot (2) that plays second fiddle to the grand pitcher (4). The pitcher, however is also underplayed, it’s incomplete, but you know everything you need to know about it: look at that superb curved handle. Then, to balance the composition on the right we have nothing but a line. But what a line. So elegant, it hold its own against all that drama at (1) and (2).
16Jan Crop2The class debated whether the drawing should be cropped and considered this version. The question was left open.
Drawing by Linné Dosé. Graphite, 14”x16”
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15JanPotsDrapeBalls
Another admirable drawing by Barbara Heaton. Here she prepared the paper as before (https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2015/02/15) but this time she mixed charcoal and graphite. At a distance this mixture reads well enough, but close up or viewed at certain angles, the graphite is shiny while the charcoal is dense and black. That’s what the camera picks up, too. You can see that the drapery is done in charcoal and the tall vase in graphite, an undesirable effect, I think.
15JanPotsDrapeBallCrop

The spiral on the left, like the one in the middle of the drawing, suggests a ball made of twine, but this one is drawn like a spiral without any three-dimensional shading. You can think of it as unfinished or you can think of it as suggesting a whole other way of seeing. The other way becomes more apparent when you crop, one of my favorite visual games.
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IMG_5184
I took all these close-ups at the MoMA earlier this month. What you see is how I framed the shot as I stood in front of the Matisse painting. There was no tweaking in Photoshop. Now that I have these passages in a series, I can see my eye at work. They all have my compositional bias and look like something I might have painted, if I say so myself.
Tomorrow you’ll see the whole Matisse painting here. I invite you to copy and paste the image into your own computer and play the cropping game. Chances are, you’ll learn something about yourself.

IMG_5185

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/matisse-zoom-four/

https://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/


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MaggyStillLifeCrop
Round shapes tend to feel comforting and harmonious. But when they’re cropped they move right up to our eyeballs and they become conflicting: harmonious by virtue of the roundness, but also in your face and a little too close for comfort. The black disc at right, representing the bottom of a reclining pot, becomes ominous. This is a good effect in a work of art. We don’t want to be complacent and sweet.
MaggyStillLifeWholeIn the full view of the drawing we get the comfortable view. Oh, look, some pots, well drawn and easily identified. The zig-zag at right indicated drapery in a playful sort of way. Uncropped, this is a fine drawing, but cropped (above) it’s dramatic and, in my sensibility, more powerful.

Drawing by Maggy Shell, charcoal pencil.

(Images in this blog have shown up pixilated lately.To be fixed.)
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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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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

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130411AlejandraWoodManCrop

What is that?  You look at this and you don’t know what it represents.  You look at it anyway and you keep looking at it.  Could it be that you look at this drawing precisely because you don’t know what it represents and that puts you into a visual mode.  You look for the pleasure of looking.

Now here’s the whole drawing from which the above is a passage.  Now you know.  But notice, this drawing, where you 130411AlejandraWoodMan1get the whole story, is not as much fun to look at.  Simple reason: now you know what’s what and being in that what’s-what state of mind is not interesting.  The mind prefers mystery—at least in a work of the imagination.

Alejandra cropped an intriguing passage out of a still life drawing that was too literal and saved the day.

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13CanistersAle

We started the class by practicing the ellipse.  You can’t draw an ellipse, you have to swing it. You practice swinging your hand over the paper and then—keeping that swing—you lower the pencil and there’s your ellipse. You fill a couple of sheets of paper with these practice ellipses and then when you feel you’ve got that swing, you slide your drawing onto your board and you swing those elliptical canister tops into place.

13CanistersAleSliverAlejandra was faced with a still life consisting of ellipse-stressing canisters and some droopy drapery.  But in her drawing nothing is canned and nothing droops.  In her drawing, the drapery looks like oak tree roots and the ellipses seem to fade into memory.  She either found this set up very exiting or boring beyond tolerance, because something in her imagination popped.

Notice how the carefully cropped selection (right) coveys even more tension, drama and mystery than the whole composition (top). We will have more examples of cropping in the following two posts.

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12LinneHeadOfNude

In the recent posts about The Contour and Leonardo’s sfumato I said that a drawing can be described as “painterly.”  The difference between linear and painterly is this:  a linear style outlines the figure and separates it from the ground; in a painterly work, the figure and the ground flow into one another.  In studying Western art, the Swiss art historian Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) noticed that the earlier art is linear and then in the 16th century, the line opens up and the image becomes painterly.  You can find the whole theory in his “Principles of Art History,” a book that is surprisingly lively and readable, considering when it was written.

Contemporary art teachers wouldn’t go into that kind of scholarship—and I don’t, in class.  Basically, what we want to get at is, “Hey, everybody—loosen up!”  Easier said than done. The tendency for beginning students (as with our ancestors) is to firmly outline your subject.  Opening up the contour is far from being sloppy.  It involves a whole other way of seeing and thinking. You see the contour and visualize it as you draw, but you don’t state it directly.  This requires tremendous concentration and getting to that ability to concentrate takes practice over time.

12LinneNudeHere, then, is Linné’s recent drawing from a model.  I sometimes blow up my students’ drawings at the Xerox machine so that they can appreciate their own progress.  It’s also helpful to isolate one passage, such as the head, in order to take it out of context.  Cropping your drawing like this helps you focus on the qualities in your drawing, rather than your representational skills.

Learning to draw can often be discouraging, but actually you’re better than you think. You develop not gradually, but in spurts and part of my job is to help you notice that you just made a spurt.

Yeah!

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