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Posts Tagged ‘finished’

13PattyBlueGalapagosSome students in my painting class like to start with a photo taken during their travels.  Here’s one from the Galapagos.  Texture, shapes, lines, a bit of blue.  The photo itself looks pretty abstract already, but the ocean at bottom right gives it away as representational.

In order to help her disassociate the image from its literalness, Patty rotates the photo 90° counterclockwise.  She tapes it to the top of the easel, dips a 1” paint brush into some thinned sepia and draws the main lines on the photo onto her large fresh white canvas.   At this point, it’s safe 13PattyBlue1to say, she may still be thinking rather literally, her loyalty latched to the Galapagos photo.  The more paint she puts on the canvas, the more her loyalty will shift to the canvas and away from the photo.  The paint takes over.  Easy to say.  In fact, paint comes with all sorts of frustrations; it just does not do what the sunny, equatorial photo does.

The challenge is to let the paint take over.  One way to move in that direction is to reach for the big brush.  How about this one here, brand new and clean and THREE INCHES wide.

Take a deep liberating breath. Ooh, now we’re paintin’!

Patty’s painting is not finished, but I like it already.

13PattyBlue2

My students graciously put up with me when I consider their painting finished long before they themselves think it’s done.

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I’ll have to ask my students, if I’ve ever actually shouted, “stop!”  I don’t think so.  But, as I make my rounds in the studio-classroom, I do occasionally say something like, “Do you think this drawing is close to being finished?”  or  “This might be close to being finished, don’t you think?”  or “This looks close to finished, what do you think?”  I can tell you, though, that this business of deciding when it’s finished has become a running joke in my drawing class.  When I lean close to a student and voice one of these questions about, you know, is it finished, there’s likely to be a chuckle in the room and maybe somebody’s mock- gagged voice will say, “stop!”  It’s funny and it’s also taken seriously by now because everybody at some time or another has overworked a drawing.  Whether to add one more crinkle in the drapery or to put in the decorative stuff on the crockery we’ve got in the still life set up—it’s tempting, but it may bring the power of the drawing down a notch or two.

Sometimes it’s a matter of time.  The artist/student expects to slave away at a drawing, because, well, because we think if we work hard and long, the result will deserve applause.  (People who sign up for a drawing class are always overachievers.  That’s my theory, anyway, certainly in MY drawing class.)

Karen G., working from a still life set up with lots of drapery and some pots and apples, the usual stuff, looked at her drawing and thought it might be finished.  She hesitated, because she had only been working at this for about forty-five-minutes.  When in doubt, we prop the drawing up on one of the easels and look at it from a distance.  There it is.  Another stroke of the pencil would obviously destroy it.  Serene, self-assured and reticent, it’s complete.

(For the photo of the still life set up and two other student drawings done from it, see the two previous posts.)

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

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In my drawing class, I like to create still lifes that don’t follow the classical model of decorum and grandeur.  My still life tends to look more like the left overs of a garage sale.  I do arrange the objects carefully and tug at the drapery to make it dramatic, but the whole thing is a mess only a poet could love.

Gabrielle, a student/artist, chose an enigmatic passage out of the already incoherent set up.  Of all the stuff—vases, shoe, balls of twine, crockery, flowers and garden hose—she chose this book peeking out from under some lush red velvet cloth.  That’s all, just this partially hidden side of a book and replica of a book, at that.  This is a two-and-a-half hour drawing.

Clearly, it’s not an illustration of this book and the velvet.  If it were, we would have to see more of the context.  As it is, you don’t know what this represents.  Now, that became the issue at the end of the class.  Should the drawing represent something and therefore have more information? Or should it be left as it is, enigmatic, suggestive, mysterious…and formally complete?

I do think it’s formally complete.  In one sense, it’s a visual trap, it’s got you going in circles. Slowly, convulsively up at the left;  fast, brittle and clean horizontally in the middle;  sleek and gooey and face-like on the right. These contrasting forms play off against one another to create tension.  But at the same time the whole thing is like a bit of pastry, circular and irresistible.

Yes, it’s finished.

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

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