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Posts Tagged ‘ellipse’

This drawing is jumpin’.

In a River North Café in Chicago I once asked the drummer of a jazz group that had just completed a set, what they call it when they’re really playing well.  He said, “We’re jumpin.”

So, this drawing is jumpin.

It has no parts.  Just sweeps you up, like a good jazz piece.

You can look at the round forms and recognize the reference to round fruit but at the same time you also see the whole drawing.  Ditto for every element in the drawing.  Even the ellipse on top of the cup.  Behold the swinging ellipse!  That’s some jumpin ellipse you got there.  But it, too, is a seamless part of this jazzy drawing.  I can hardly talk about it, just want to throw myself into this compelling agitation.

Wait a minute, you say, this has parts.  Well, yes, of course it has parts but each part is so well integrated into the whole, that I don’t get stuck on any one part.  My eye moves through the whole page, over and over.  To stay with the music analogy, when you listen to music you don’t hear notes, you hear…music.

We haven’t talked about the knife yet.  Notice how in this drawing the part of the knife that’s closer to us is in focus and the part that recedes into the peach’s shadow is vague.  Not only is this how we see things in reality, but, in the drawing, if the whole knife were equally outlined (in focus), it would dominate the whole drawing. The still life is not an illustration of one thing. Everything hangs together.  It’s jumpin.

I invite you to use this drawing to review what we said about these still life drawings in the past four posts.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-1/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/13/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-2/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-3/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/15/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-4/

 

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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Notice the smooth broad strokes in the objects on the table and in the table edge itself.  This effect is created by using the broad side of a graphite stick, not the tip.  With one well-placed stroke the artist can state the whole shadow of a round form, as in these fruits and a little less so in the cup.  It’s an elegant, classical technique. Notice also, that the contours of the objects are partly given with bold lines (at the bottom) and partly by having the background push against the form (at the top), a contrast that adds drama and three-dimensionality to the form, as we’ve seen earlier.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-mug-and-knife-1/

As for the background, if you review the three drawings we’ve studied so far, you’ll notice that they all have backgrounds that don’t go to the edge of the page and in that sense they make the drawing look unfinished.  You can see that in this drawing, too.

Whether a work is called finished or unfinished is a touchy subject. Who makes that call?  It’s a function of expectation, isn’t it?  Now, why would you expect that dark, agitated markmaking in the background to go to the left edge?  If it did, you would call that finished.  But, this “unfinished” left side has tension and mystery.  I, for one, love the suspense.  It draws me in, as if I were looking over the artist’s shoulders, entering his process.

What about the cup?  As in the previous drawing, the cup is not as convincing as the peaches and pear.  Once again, we’re looking at the ellipse. The cup swings a lively ellipse, but it deviates from your expectation of symmetry.  Can you therefore call it “imperfect,” or even “bad?” What if you just exhaled and allowed yourself to be amused?  As with the “incompletion” in the background, you are invited to enter the process.

Process is a central concept in modern art.

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of the cup, I invite you to look at the following pottery pieces.

https://www.google.com/search?q=irregular+shaped+pottery&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwi0_LzimbbpAhUN9qwKHeMXAZ0Q2-cCegQIABAA&oq=irregular+shaped+pottery&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQA1CBpgFYx7kBYO3MAWgAcAB4AIABXYgB2ASSAQE3mAEAoAEBqgELZ3dzLXdpei1pbWc&sclient=img&ei=jbe-XvSBMI3sswXjr4ToCQ&bih=808&biw=1425

Since clay work is so very tactile, it will be easy to empathize with the physicality of its process.  Practice seeing clay that way, then perhaps seeing a drawing in its physicality will become easier.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-1/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/13/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-2/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/14/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-3/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

http://www.katherinehilden.com

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http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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A drawing can go through many stages of development. The artist may not aim for mimesis or may not have a particular style in mind at all.  The artist may try one kind of markmaking here and another style  there.  The drawing may develop with a progression from dark to light or various degrees of precision.

The drawing can be called complete even though it contains visual contradictions.  Let’s look at contradictions.

In the above drawing, the markmaking in A is vibrant and lively. The background to the objects on the table seems to shimmer. In B the markmaking is the opposite, it’s mechanical and tight.  This dense, dark stripe representing the table appears to have been made by a different hand, in a very different mood. The contrast between A and B does not add drama to the image as a whole. Rather, it looks arbitrary and therefore the drawing feels unresolved.

In modern art we often find contrasts, inconsistencies and contradictions that are witty.  Consider the following two examples.

The hand fits perfectly over the face, as when a woman is surprised or embarrassed. But hand and face are from different worlds, different contexts.  So they fit together in one sense, but are mismatched in another.  We smile at this surprising juxtaposition.

 

Collage, a quintessentially modern art form, lends itself very well to creating contradictions and witty juxtaposition.

 

 

It’s easy to play with photographs by collaging together disparate elements.

Place a cassette over a face and, voila, the two holes will read like eyes. As moderns we know that all images, symbols and myths are human inventions and so we chuckle when we see the invention process being made so obvious.

 

 

 

 

Back to the class drawing of the still-life.   This student/artist gives us a very credible rendering of reflected light and deep shadow of the cup at C.  As in the previous drawing, the ellipse is not “swinging” but is drawn slowly and carefully and therefore it falls flat.  Practice. Practice. Practice

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/still-life-with-peaches-pear-and-cup-1/

We will talk some more about this cup and the demanding but swinging ellipse in the next posts.

More at:

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/untitled-xii/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/plug-by-the-sea-side/

Aphrodite by seph

Videotape Eyes by Rebecca DiLiberto.

 

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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One of the themes in these past few posts has been the challenge to look critically at much admired paintings by much admired artists.

Giovanni Bellini is one of the celebrated Venetian painters of the 16th century. At first glance, his Madonna of the Trees seems harmonious, pleasing and perfect.

But look again.  First, the woman has no right shoulder. Her right arm would have to be attached to that (missing) shoulder.  Therefore, quite a bit of anatomy would have to be visible behind the baby.  Second, the drapery over the right forearm abruptly stops behind the baby’s ankles. You would expect it to circle around, but no, it mysteriously breaks off behind the baby’s crossed ankles. This abruptness would be more obvious if the legs were separated, so he makes this plump newborn stand up straight and cross his ankles. If you consent to the missing shoulder, why not also accept absurd drapery and a posturing newborn!

As I’m writing this, I keep looking at the reproduction of this painting in a book.  Even after my analysis and my full realization of Bellini’s trickery, I find this painting totally appealing.

Once that happens, I have to figure out why that happens, of course.  The appeal of this painting, I think, comes from the rational organization of the composition. It’s as if your brain said, how can something so carefully laid out not make sense?  As for the interrupted drapery around the arm, notice how the curve of that cloth is echoed in the left elbow’s drapery, forming a perfect ellipse.  There you are, your brain says, I rest my case.

For more on how your brain accepts trickery like this, including optical illusions, see Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.  Readable, relevant, highly recommended.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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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.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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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.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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13AleOmiDraw2Old family photos are great to work from.  They’re usually pretty grainy, which is good because you won’t get interested in details.  Enlarge the photo on a Xerox machine to a comfortable 13AleOmiPhoto8-1/2 x 11.   Pick one from two generations ago or more.  If you can, go back to 1910-1920.  Folks wore hats then and elaborately tailored coats.  Don’t forget the umbrella.  Dressing for the photographer was serious business.  All for you, you know, coming along a century later.  Look at that costume—gives you something to work with.  It has angles and pleats and drapey effects—all zig-zagging from collar to hem for maximum drama.  And then on top, ta-tah, an ellipse just with you in mind, so that you can practice swinging your wrist.

Let me point out just three things that make this drawing by Alejandra exiting:

13AleOmiDraw2numbers

Green: the zigzag line, always energetic in a visual work.

Yellow: here the contour is omitted completely, engaging the viewer, who has to fill in the gap.

Red: the shading of the cuff and the shading of the background mimic one another, adding depth to the drawing.

You can be sure, the photographer back in 1910 also knew what he was doing when he set up this pose. Ma’am, the umbrella just a little bit over, ah,  yes, that’s right, hooooold.  Thank you!

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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