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Posts Tagged ‘mind’

13RetinalEnhancedIpad

Recently, while I was browsing among the tablet options in my local tech emporium, the sales person directed me to the new ipad with Retinal Enhancement.  Oh, yeah! The word “retinal” gets my attention.  When you add “enhancement,” I light up, of course.

The immediate response was, wow, total seduction.  Everything is sharp and clear. My enchantment lasted as long as it took you to read that last five-word sentence.

Aw, what happened?

I was hoping to store art works on my tablet and have them at my fingertips when I wanted to refer to an artist in class.  The tablet would be so much more convenient than those heavy art books. Instead I learned what the tablet is really for:  it’s for playing games, not just any games, but those in which the fastest response wins.  Therefore, the outlines on the screen—monsters,  cliffs, buttons of all sorts—should be as sharp as possible.  The sharper, the better.  The games consist of stimulus-response, no subtle considerations.  The advantage goes to the player who functions most like an automaton.  Therefore, if your seeing is retinal, nothing more, you’re it, dude!

Seeing is actually not retinal.  It’s a complicated process that involves your whole mind, which links all sorts of nuances in a web that I don’t claim to understand.  If your seeing stops at the retina, you’re good for target practice and boot camp and we know how sad that is.

In five or six years we’ll probably have studies on how retinal enhancement has affected the brains of players.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/money/review-new-ipad-enhanced-retina-display-screen-worth-upgrade-article-1.1040786

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

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12Gaby4OneMins11

By tradition, Life Classes start with a few one-minute poses. This is called “warming up.”  What does that mean and what are we warming up, exactly?

Warming up is what athletes famously do and have to do so that they will not strain a muscle.  Warming up for an athlete means going slow and easy, stretching gently and gradually increasing tension, weight and speed.  That makes sense.

But in an art class, warming up means going fast.  Drawing a figure in one minute, believe me, is fast.  It’s actually a bit scary, anything but slow and easy, as with athletes warming up.

Why, then, do we do it?  We do it in order to switch on our heightened seeing, which means seeing the whole figure all at once.  Psychologists call it the “Gestalt,” the whole thing, no bit by bit scanning. On the way to class, as we drive and walk, we’re scanning the visual landscape through which we navigate.  But to draw, we have to see intensely.  To switch on this intensity, we—POW!—we draw a nude body in one minute.  Then another and another, all on the same sheet of paper, because, well, because there’s no time to take out another sheet and position it on the drawing board.  What we’re warming up is the mind.

The result is a lovely play on lines,  creating a rhythm on the page.  What’s most important is that we don’t get continuous contour lines when we draw with this speed.  The contour lines are interrupted.  The drawing breathes. It suggests life and it engages the viewer.

Drawing by Gaby, graphite,  December 2012

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Your brain loves a straight line.  It’s quick, leads you from one end to the other in an instant.  It divides one side from another and no ifs or buts about it.  Then the brain dusts off its hands, congratulates itself on a job well done and moves on to something else.

When you put a clean crisp line into your painting you tickle that part of the brain that wants to know what’s what and therefore your attention will go to that line and you will be pleased.

Let’s look at a recent painting by Ellen G.  Here on the right you see it in the almost-finished stage.  We get the sense that this is a construction (it was derived from a collage, measuring less than 2 inches) and that directs us to see is as an abstraction, an invitation to engage in interpretation, that necessary pastime of us moderns.  What am I looking at here, the eye says.  Well, I see a reddish trapezoid, a bit of green on the right, an L shaped yellow thing, a fuzzy dip (#3) into a lead gray rectangle and then, oh look, there this thing on the lower right that looks like a landscape(#1).  Thank you, artist!  You gave me something to identify and latch on to because it relates to the real world.  Once you see this picture within a picture, it will dominate your attention.  This hilly vista with a suggestion of something like telephone wires just came out like that. In the original collage it was a bit of torn paper.  No matter, here it’s incarnated as a landscape and it takes over and you keep going back to it.  The rest of the painting then will look irrelevant, if you can even get yourself to pay attention to the yellow and the red.

Now, look what happens when the edge at #2 is made absolutely clean and straight.  Your eye zooms to it.  The “landscape” at #1 still demands your attention, but now it has competition.  The clean line at #2 compels your eye up.  Then what?  There’s a synaptic jump and you land at #4.  What’s #4?  Nothing.  It’s pure shape and color.  It’s an angle, the intersection of two lines, not as compelling as a clean line would be, but, hey,   it’s red.  So there you are at this angle, which forms an arrow.  And where does the arrow lead? Down to #1.  So, the artist has us coming and going, moving through this painting and wanting to stay with it.  When this happens, your brain becomes mind and you love puzzlement. There you are, looking at this thing, feeling entranced.

What about the yellow-orange L shape?  That’s texture.  Texture engages you with its emotional power.  See next post.

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In the 19th century and until the middle of the 20th century, art students spent an enormous amount of time drawing from plaster casts. Art schools had store rooms full of life-size replicas of the classics, from Myron’s discus-thrower, to Michelangelo’s Medici Tomb figures.  There were also casts of individual body parts, like eyes and feet.  The art student copied these and tried to achieve a technique with shading so subtle that the drawing looked like a photograph.  We don’t teach that way anymore, for two reasons:  1) photography (invented in the 1830’s) can do it better; and 2) students would refuse, like, this is sooooo booooring and who wants to become, like, a technician anyway.  True, if you spend all your time drawing to create illusions of photos you will, indeed, become a technician.  So, let’s not go there.

In my class room we don’t have plaster casts, but occasionally I give my students the opportunity to draw from photos of sculptures, specifically those of Michelangelo.  Working from photos is easier than working from the three-dimensional sculpture (or plaster cast) because the photo is already two-dimensional.  But it’s also harder because you have to visualize the three-dimensionality of the shape you’re drawing. And that is precisely why the exercise is so good.  You’re not just duplicating dark and light areas as seen on the photo, you have to internalize the shape and then draw from that image in your mind.  The exercise teaches you to see “in the mind’s eye,”  the eye you need to cultivate in order to draw.

Michelangelo’s Medici Madonna

Michelangelo’s Dawn from the Medici tomb

Drawings by Danielle and Linné D.

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