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Posts Tagged ‘painterly’

12LinneHeadOfNude

In the recent posts about The Contour and Leonardo’s sfumato I said that a drawing can be described as “painterly.”  The difference between linear and painterly is this:  a linear style outlines the figure and separates it from the ground; in a painterly work, the figure and the ground flow into one another.  In studying Western art, the Swiss art historian Heinrich Wölfflin (1864-1945) noticed that the earlier art is linear and then in the 16th century, the line opens up and the image becomes painterly.  You can find the whole theory in his “Principles of Art History,” a book that is surprisingly lively and readable, considering when it was written.

Contemporary art teachers wouldn’t go into that kind of scholarship—and I don’t, in class.  Basically, what we want to get at is, “Hey, everybody—loosen up!”  Easier said than done. The tendency for beginning students (as with our ancestors) is to firmly outline your subject.  Opening up the contour is far from being sloppy.  It involves a whole other way of seeing and thinking. You see the contour and visualize it as you draw, but you don’t state it directly.  This requires tremendous concentration and getting to that ability to concentrate takes practice over time.

12LinneNudeHere, then, is Linné’s recent drawing from a model.  I sometimes blow up my students’ drawings at the Xerox machine so that they can appreciate their own progress.  It’s also helpful to isolate one passage, such as the head, in order to take it out of context.  Cropping your drawing like this helps you focus on the qualities in your drawing, rather than your representational skills.

Learning to draw can often be discouraging, but actually you’re better than you think. You develop not gradually, but in spurts and part of my job is to help you notice that you just made a spurt.

Yeah!

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

www.khilden.com 

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12BowBottlelDrapeGaby1

When we work from a still life, I always remind the class that there’s a lot of stuff there and you can choose to draw the whole pile or you can zoom in and draw a select,  small passage.  In this case, a student just went for the tilted dark bottle and a bit of adjacent drapery.  How on earth do you make an interesting drawing out of such a clunky object?  Ah, but it’s not about the object it’s about how you draw it.  We had been talking about the problem of the contour, the topic in the last post on Leonardo and sfumato.  It’s not a problem, really, it’s just that you can set yourself the goal of drawing that old bottle without outlining it in a consistent line.  You can practice interrupting the line.  That simple.  At first, you may think this is awkward or arbitrary, but then you discover that since light 12BowBottlelDrapeSetupcomes from above, the upper part of the bottle will be lighter and if you lighten the contour there or leave the line out altogether, the bottle will look quite lively. Notice also, that part of the bottle is defined by the shadow in the drapery behind it, i.e something that is not-bottle and is not a contour of anything.

Once the bottle and its attendant drapery swatch were drawn, Gaby faced all that white “negative” space. What the still life set-up offered wasn’t all that dynamic, so she invented.  Are you allowed to do that?  Oh, yessss!   She invented bricks, curved ones.  The rectilinearity of the brickwork anchors the tilted bottle in a credible universe. The fact that the bricks are curved adds texture and an echo of the roundness of the bottle.

The result is a painterly drawing.  We’ve used the word “painterly” before in these posts (12.22.10 and 3.12.11), but it will get more coverage, soon, and this time in connection with drawing.

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

www.khilden.com 

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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