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Posts Tagged ‘drawing’

The idea of “incompletion” is so rich and stimulating that I want to stay with it even more.

This drawing is 7-1/2 inches high, made by an unknown Italian artist in the 17th century. Notice how fast and scribbly these lines are.  We are witnessing an artist thinking intensely and concentrating on the assigned theme.

Forget the client. The artist is not concerned about the client or anybody else liking this page.  He is completely focused on the challenge of making this hang together.

This is why I love drawings—so called “preliminary“ drawings—above all, more than the painting that would be produced from it.  It’s through the drawing that you enter the artist’s mind.

Look at the forcefulness of the lines:

These marks, made over three hundred years ago—spring from a modern sensibility.

 

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While we were analyzing Bellini’s Madonna of the Trees, someone in the class said, but these paintings were not made to be analyzed, they were made as objects of devotion.  That is true, but as artists we have to analyze how these objects of devotion were constructed.

You can see how strongly this drawing emphasizes the horizontal and vertical axes.  The drawing has conviction because of that.  In a weaker composition the psychological focal points would be the faces.  But here, without that easy emotional appeal, the drawing holds our attention by the force of that vertical and horizontal intersection.

It would be great to see Bellini’s sketches for this painting.  In the Renaissance, preliminary drawings for paintings and frescoes tend to be more energetic than the final product. It’s uncanny. The paintings will  look  16th century and the sketches will look modern.

The last element added in this sketch was the background scribble in the upper left, over the woman’s right shoulder.  I say “background,” but it’s no less important than any other scribble in the drawing.  I think those last lines, without representing anything or being part of the figures, make the drawing complete.

Without them, we would merely have an attempted illustration. With the “background scribble” we have a complete page, where, in the modern sense, positive and negative space are equally worth looking at.

Jeanne Mueller, graphite on paper, ~14” x 12”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2019/04/22/bellinis-pleasing-tricks/

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15JanPots

This is how the drawing sat on the page.

You can see that the artist/student, Linné Dosé, has developed a love of composition and form.   The drawing suggests a still life, you know, the usual pottery. But notice, we don’t get details here, no loyalty to the objects, no shadow and reflected-light games.

A work of art tells you how it wants to be looked at. This drawing directs your mind away from literalness.  It says, forget the pots.

Shape, Form, Space!

As it sits on the drawing paper it extends horizontally and that suggests a setting, a certain degree of literalness.

Now look what happens when we crop it to a square.

15JanPotsCropRad

The forms are so much more pure forms.

The square format will do that.  Uncanny.  It speaks to our modern sensibility.

Why would that be?

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14MyClassDrawingsHands.  Oh, no!

But hands are just more of the same: shapes, shapes, shapes.

Easier said than done.

Of course, drawing hands is hard.  They’re so complicated!  Downright weird sometimes.

The tendency is to either overwork them or to just put down some scratchy lines and walk away from the challenge.

The challenge is to practice drawing the beasties so much that you get to the point where you can gracefully suggest the gesture of the hand without belaboring it.  Easier said…

HandsClasping

I brought in Xeroxed copies of these two hands clasping.  Turns out, you can put your non-drawing hand into the position of each of the two hands, more or less, and study the anatomy of your fingers to make sure you know what the photo is showing.

I did the demo, pointing out that you always draw from the general to the specific: draw shapes, not fingers. The fingernail should be faintly suggested, nothing more. Easier said…

One of the things I stress when we work from photos is that the drawing will not duplicate the photo.  The drawing “translates” the photo into its own visual language.  The students said that my drawing made the hands look more energetic than they are in the photo.  Yesss!!  Once you see that, you’re half way there.

Now all you have to do is practice.  Practice drawing hands!  A most rewarding way to spend an hour a day.  Think of it as a treat.  Instead of staying, now I’m going to sit down and practice drawing, say, woo-hoo, now I’m going to treat myself to an hour of drawing.

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13StudioGallKaren

Now it’s my drawing students’ turn in the Studio Gallery.  There are thirty-three drawings on exhibit, grouped by artist.  The work stretches over a two year period. You’ll see a variety of styles, in both still life and head/figure studies. 

13StudioGalMaggyDrawing is an intimate medium. You can’t look at a drawing from across the room.  You have to get up close and personal.  This is the medium that gives you the feeling that you are entering another mind as it tries to grasp the complexities of perception. Drawing is closest to my heart.

13StudioGalLinneThanks to Cynthia Bold, Linné Dosé, Gabrielle Edgerton, Karen Gerrard, Ale Podestá, and Maggy Shell for submitting your work.  Thank you, Ale, for helping me with hanging the show and applying your good eye.

13StudioGallAleThe work is for sale, at negotiable prices.  The show closes Oct 27. 

13StudioGalGabyDrawings are hard to document by camera.  You’ll just have to come in and see.  Here’s the notice from the Evanston Art Center web site:

http://www.evanstonartcenter.org/exhibitions/sketches-studies-studio-gallery

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In Indianapolis, at a sudden turn of Mass Ave, there’s a fresh new book store called Indy Reads.  I was there last week.  I was the only visitor in the book store.  Whenever I find a wonderful place I always wonder why it isn’t crowded.  I know, that’s precisely why it’s wonderful.  Anyway, there on the notices board, somebody had tacked: “Sit perfectly still.  Be moved.” (I didn’t have time to get the name of the poet, who was planning a reading of his work.)

That’s drawing in a nutshell:  Sit perfectly still. Be moved.

Back home at my kitchen table, I’m reading “A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium,” Phillipe Ariès and Georges Duby, ed.   The image in the open book shows a writing woman of Pompeii. The caption says, “The grace of hesitation.”

Hesitation is part of writing and also part of drawing.  So is grace.  Sometimes, the grace of hesitation and sometimes the grace of being moved to make a sudden turn.

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I worked with Utrecht marker on gloss paper, very fast.  The twisting of the feet and the weight-bearing shoulder had potential for development, but not in this medium, which does not allow for nuances. In markers, it’s all or nothing.  The figure as a whole can be seen as a diagonal line, not very interesting by itself.  Should I give up on this drawing?  Giving up teaches you nothing.  I prefer to dig in and see how a little nothing can serve as a point of departure for an exploration.  The figure invited some kind of counterpoint.  Earlier in the class I had given a demo on how various markers behave and so I just reached for some of my brighter markers and created a context for this languid,  passive, pretty boring figure.

Notice what happens with the addition of color in the “background.”

1. The abstract, freely invented background affects the way we interpret the figure. The figure, rather crudely drawn if regarded by itself, now can be read as an abstract design, a play on lines.  But it’s still a nude, with all the psychological and existential pull of that motif.

2. Enter the power of color.  The figure is a white empty space and the so-called negative space or “ground” –because of its vivid, stained-glass colors–now pulls our attention.  You get a tug, a dynamic, call it what you like, it’s the experience that counts.  And what you experience, going back and forth between figure and ground, is the whole image. That’s a paradox and when you’re inhabiting that paradox, you have what you can call an aesthetic experience.

This exercise illustrates the tremendous emotional pull of color.  If you put a scribble in pencil on paper, the scribble would have to dance in a most cultivated gesture to affect the viewer.  But if you take a bright marker and scribble any ol’ clumsy mess on the paper, it will have appeal—simply by virtue of the power of color in itself.

This goes a long way towards explaining why drawing classes are small and painting classes pull in a larger registration.  Drawing is harder.  The only tool you have to work with is a black line. Now, do something with that.  This assignment can be rather austere. You have to stick with it to cultivate your hand and eye.  Whereas, with color, the medium itself makes you sigh, ahhh, how beautiful, I love that color.  Add to that the comfort-food gooiness of the paint, and you’re seduced.  It’s deceptive, though.  If you rely on the power of color alone, you’ll produce sentimental stuff and we’ve seen too much of that, haven’t we.  You  do need to draw.  And once you do, you’ll experience the seductive power of the pencil line.  Or the marker line, or charcoal, or pen, or whatever you want to make a mark with.

Back to the drawing board!  Drawing is, so to speak, the bottom line.

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The National Geographic article (May 2012) called “The Common Hand,” starts like this:  “The hand is where the mind meets the world.  We humans use our hands to build fires and sew quilts, to steer airplanes, to write, dig, remove tumors, pull a rabbit out of a hat.  The human brain, with its open-ended creativity, may be the thing that makes our species unique.  But without hands, all the grand ideas we concoct would come to nothing but a very long to-do list.”

Hey, what about drawing!!!

I attended a lecture at the Fermi Lab in Batavia last Friday, called “Sleights of Mind.”  The researchers, Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde,  talked about how and why we are taken in by magic.  The brain, it turns out, cannot multi-task.  It can only focus on one thing at a time, which is why misdirection, the fundamental trick in sleight of hand, works.  Visual information is so complex for the brain to process that it takes 18% of the cerebral cortex to do the work, in the lump at the back called the Occipital Lobe.  Your eyes can only focus on one thing at a time, which is why we keep shifting our gaze if we want to take in a larger scene.  If we didn’t have to shift, i.e. if we could put our peripheral vision also into focus, the brain would have to be 500 times bigger than it is.

Seeing is a big deal:  hasn’t that been the thread through what I’m saying here!?

Just think, almost one fifth of your brain is about seeing.  And you’re telling me you don’t have time to refine your seeing…to practice drawing!!???

Master magician, Apollo Robbins, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjPVx4MNXoQ&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LBbmvXM0WY&feature=related

Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde,  “Sleights of Mind,”  2010

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There’s nothing like drawing from a live model.  It’s inspiring and invigorating and you can see the forms clearly.  In a pinch, if you feel the urge to draw but can’t get anyone to pose for you (good luck trying to find someone who’s willing and able to sit still these days), you can draw from photos.  But photos are so 20th century.

Instead, I recommend that you draw from YouTube.  Name a person, a topic, or an event, and you’ll find it on YouTube.  If you want to practice drawing faces, pick one of the thousands of clips of talking heads.  Run the video and decide which angle you’ll draw.  Stop the frame.  Voila.  Your model is sitting for you.  If you’re in the mood for gesture drawing, find a sport or a ballet.  Stop the frame.  You can be sure, no model would ever hold these poses.  You will get a work out, guaranteed.

Above, a page of studies after a ballet by Nacho Duato, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkC0hHat_ik

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“Walking Mad” is choreographed by Johan Inger to Ravel’s Bolero.  You know Bolero and now that you’ve been reminded of it you’ve started humming it and you will be humming it til you leave the house to hear Dashing Through the Snow from every street corner, you hear.  Bolero starts like a march, like an accompaniment to a Medieval processional straight to hell in a tableau from Hieronymus Bosch and it repeats at ever increasing insistence and volume til it falls apart in blaring discord and exhaustion.   It’s usually associated with sexual frenzy.  But Johan Inger takes a less lascivious view of the old chestnut.  There are pelvises, thighs  and groins to relate to and there’s a wall.  The dancers interact with a wall.  They hit the wall, they are slammed against the wall, they jump at the wall, they hang from the wall, they try to climb the wall;  the wall folds, opens and lies down flat and gets walked on.  Plenty of frenzy here–sexual, violent  and existential.

I saw this performance by  Hubbart Street Dance Chicago two months ago.  Two months.  It was such a knock-out, that I didn’t think I could come up with a drawing associated to it.  I watched clips on You Tube of other dance companies performing passages from this piece and kept being overwhelmed.  No way  could I do justice to this piece, as a concept and as theater.  A couple of days ago, on a sunny Sunday afternoon,  I just decided to watch the clip again and I started to draw.

The agony I had put myself through for two months was the same as the agony my students experience when they draw from life.   It’s the feeling that you can’t do justice to the grandeur and complexity of the model and the model will judge you,  implicitly.  So, I speak from fresh memory and insight, when I say, that’s not what it’s about.  It’s not about the model, it’s about you finding a new perception.  Yes, the drawing will refer to the model, but it will not be dominated by the model.  The drawing will be something new, will exist in its own right as a new object , never been seen before and full of surprises—most importantly to YOU.

Johan Inger was not paralyzed by the history of Bolero, not by its clichéd currency nor by any torture about what Ravel “really” meant to say. He did not hit a wall.  Well, yes, he did and then he put it into the work and worked with it.

We need to get back to this.  In the meantime, take a piece of paper and some pencil or marker, whatever is lying around, and draw. Draw something, the celery on the counter, the mug on your desk, the cover you just pulled off your printer.

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