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Posts Tagged ‘drapery’

20160922_144150The artist/student saw the turquoise drapery as a shape. When he drew this shape, his mind simplified it into geometrical planes which sit on the page as a stepped pattern.  If you expect the drawing to document the real thing, you’ll be disappointed.  But if you look at the shape on the page and see it as something new, you’ll be intrigued.  Don’t ask, how accurate a depiction is this, but why is this so much fun to look at. 

Drawing by Charles Stern, graphite on paper, 30” x 22”

16septcharlstilllife

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/how-it-sits-on-the-page/

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Drapery_Study_for_a_Seated_Figure_c1470_Leonardo_da_Vinci

Leonardo was about eighteen when he made this study of drapery.  Doesn’t matter how old he was.  He was making drapery studies when he was forty-DraperyStudyLeonardoDetaileight, too.  It’s not something you master and then you’re done with it.  Drapery is mesmerizing, both for the artist working on it and for us, the viewers.  It draws you into a universe that envelopes you and at the same time feels utterly alien.

The Leonardo drawing activates your sense of touch, convincing you that you’re inhabiting a real world, as if you were feeling your way through a cave with a bizarre topography that nevertheless completely seduces your senses.

DraperyStudyLeonardoAnalysisYou can snap out of the trance, however.  And when you do, you’ll notice that some passages are unreal.  He just made some crinkles up—out of whole cloth, so to speak.  With your (momentarily) sober mind you can look at this passage, for example, (pink circle) and realize that cloth does not behave this way.

Leonardo lied.  He created this fiction. Why?  Because it’s fun to create fiction.  He creates the illusion of reality but he’s actually playing with form.

Look at Rogier van der Weyden, who’s about fifty years earlier than Leonardo.

Full title: The Magdalen Reading Artist: Rogier van der Weyden Date made: before 1438 Source: http://www.nationalgalleryimages.co.uk/ Contact: picture.library@nationalgallery.co.uk Copyright © The National Gallery, London

Are these green folds hammered out of aluminum?  You know very well, cloth does not drape, fold and crinkle this way.  Yet, here it is, captivating us, compelling us to its rhythms like a fierce drummer.  (Ha, I’m looking at 15th century drapery and thinking of Gene Krupa and Art Blakey.)

Drapery, in other words, is a wild thing.

Linné Dosé, whose love of form and composition lead to daring omissions in his choice of still life elements, came up with this cloth floating in space.  No table to rest on.  He apparently saw that shape, found it compelling and that was enough.

16AprilDrapery

Now, when you see this thing sitting there on the page, it harmonizes with the Drapery15%behavior of drapery, but it also becomes something in itself.  Your imagination kicks into the surreal.  What is this?  It looks like a critter, doesn’t it.  You’re now in that cave with Leonardo and Rogier.

Leonardo and Rogier worked for clients who were all-powerful and dictated the subject matter to be depicted.  The artist then set out to work as if he were saying, fine, I’ll give you your mythological characters, but I’ll go wild with the drapery. You can have your Magdalen, but the drapery is mine.

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452 – 1519

Rogier van der Weyden, 1400 – 1464

Linné Dosé, graphite on paper, ~12” x 18”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/the-square/

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PicassoNudeDrapery
Drapery? Where? You mean those whitish-bluish triangles and trapezoids?
Picasso was twenty-six when he painted this. By the time he was fourteen, he had mastered the skill to create the illusion of drapery or any other illusion he might have felt like creating. There was big money in illusions in the 1890’s. But not for Picasso. With Picasso the illusion-achievements of the Renaissance come to an end. And that means, for one thing, drapery is dead. Finished.
The question is, do you have to master the Renaissance skills of drapery, anatomy and perspective to be an artist? The answer is “no,” but it’s an uncomfortable no. I’m uncomfortable about dismissing the value of drapery drawing/painting for two reasons. One is in the looking: drapery in an image draws the viewer in and focuses the mind like a labyrinth; more on this in the next post. The second reason is in the doing and for similar reasons: drawing drapery develops visual concentration since you are always drawing from the image in your mind; and it focuses the mind, resulting in the kind of high that comes from a)intense concentration on a limited problem and b) repetition of minutiae. This is drawing for the sheer pleasure of drawing, meaning the “high” you get from moving that pencil.

Drapery
This is my pencil drawing of some drapery I set up for a demo in drawing class last week. Students watched over DraperyGreenDemomy shoulders and asked questions. As I was drawing I explained the procedure. This 17”x11” page took about an hour. Without my talking, I estimate it would have taken less than a half hour. It looks so easy and the principles of light-shadow-reflected light are a piece o’cake.
But the doing takes practice. But, hey, it’s not like there’s ever nothing to draw. Look around you. Throw your coat over a chair, leave the dish towel on the kitchen counter, don’t make your bed—drapery drapery everywhere….
In “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the need and result of practice. He has made the 10,000 hour rule famous: to get good at anything takes 10 years or 10,000 hours of practice. That comes to 3 hours a day.

130207DilbertHoursPractice
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14StillLifeBosMaggyBWhen you’re drawing the stuff of still life, there will be no hurt feelings. No box, bottle or drapery rag will accuse you of being shallow or insensitive or getting the proportions wrong. Not only is this, then, an 14StillLifeBosMaggyAinvitation to scribble away with abandon and produce new, improved markmaking, but it’s also an opportunity to see form, i.e., to go for abstraction. This is what happened with Maggy’s Stage Set with Circular Forms.
I find this drawing daring and exhilarating. Notice the tilted round container at lower left: it’s the only thing drawn with the illusion of three-dimensionality. All its shadows and reflected light are academically correct so that it looks convincing in the classical sense. Everything else in this composition is texture and a play on forms.
The z-curve as a suggestion of drapery exists in its own abstract world. You want to be reminded of drapery? Fine. But this line asserts itself for its own pleasure and as a counterpoint to the rectilinearity on the other side.
It may seem simple. How hard can it be to put an s-curve on a piece of paper! Well, not physically, that’s nothing. But to be so in tune with your drawing that you can see that this z-curve in that part of the drawing will be just right, for that you need to be having a good day at your drawing board.
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13CanistersMaggie

The merit in this drawing lies in the fact that the artist/student, Maggy Shell, went beyond the literal depiction of these still life 13Canistersobjects.  The realistic depiction of the canisters and the drapery is skilled enough, but that’s not what makes this drawing interesting.

What makes it interesting is that there are three distinct motifs: ellipse, chaos and triangle.  The ellipses form a nice rhythm on the top layer.  Under the ellipses comes the chaotic, 13CanistersMaggieAnalysiscloud-like, wafting swoosh of the cloth. (Green) The precision of the ellipses and the indeterminacy of the cloth make for a dramatic contrast, one highlighting the other.  The cloth, furthermore, is ambiguous:  is supports the solid cylinders but at the same time appears to be insubstantial and not supported by anything.  Ambiguity adds tension and tension is a good thing in art.

Enter the triangle, always a provocative shape. (Pink)  Where does this come from?  Two sources: 1) Among the cylinders there was a box with a partially open lid and under the white cloth there was some triangulation of additional fabric.  2) The imagination.

You guessed it, I’m rooting for #2.  The dark triangles at the left and right edges of the drawing are pure invention.  Notice how the triangles, pointing toward the center, focus your attention and keep you IN the composition. And it’s in the center that the geometry of the cylinders meets its opposite, the amorphous drift of drapery.  We have a little drama here. So, of course, we pay attention.  And paying attention is what the whole thing is about.

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In my drawing class, I present demos on various techniques and then stand back to see who will use those techniques and to what degree.  The lesson on shading, for example, will make quite a different impression on different students.  A student takes what he or she can use at that moment—and feels like using.  That is, I think, as it should be.

One student, Gaby, has been using a careful shading technique for drapery studies that fill the page with a compelling presence and at the same time invite associations to anatomical features.  The illusion of three-dimensionality of these round forms is difficult to achieve and requires intense concentration and visualization.

Another student, Linné, working from the same still life set-up (see previous post) avoids the articulation of light-shadow-reflected-light and instead suggests the drapery with his own forceful lines. In some passages of the drawing, he goes into the sheer pleasure of markmaking and simply invents.  Mysterious humanoid forms emerge while at the same time clearly representing drapery.

‘Twas not ever thus.  Individual expression was not tolerated among the Renaissance and Baroque artists who worked with numerous assistants in their spacious workshops.  For example, Raphael (1483-1520) and Rubens (1577-1640) trained their assistants to specialize in certain aspects of a painting like drapery, clouds, water,architectural detail and flesh.  The assistants had to reproduce the master’s technique so faithfully that the whole tableau appeared to have been painted by the same hand–the master’s.  We tend to forget this—and we’re supposed to—when we look at these enormous paintings and frescoes.  Rubens’ paintings celebrating the life of Marie de Medici measure about 14 feet in height.  Raphael’s School of Athens fills a wall in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

Let’s not be overwhelmed by the achievements of these masters and let’s instead give credit to those unnamed assistants.  We moderns, lucky us, can study the techniques of those big guys from the past and then enjoy the freedom to find our own individual approach.

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We started the fall term with drapery.  I’ve talked about drawing drapery in many of these posts.  You can find these posts at

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/?s=drapery    and

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/?s=reflected+light

Because it’s easier to draw from a photo of drapery than from drapery itself, I’ll show the photos from our drapery class here for anyone who wants to practice.  And, you know practice is also a big theme in this blog.  Practice, practice, practice.

How much time should you spend in drawing this? Do not draw the whole. Break each photo up into sections, manageable passages.   Each of these four photos provides enough material for, say, five drawings, each 2-3 hours in length.

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