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Posts Tagged ‘shadow’

How can something so wrong be so right?

Because you enjoy looking at this drawing you may not immediately see that the shadows are all wrong. How are the shadows wrong?  Can those horizontal scratches even be called shadows?  No, they’re not shadows in the sense that they help define the roundness of the figures.  Yes, they evoke the idea of a shadow.

When you’re looking at this, the “shadows” trigger in your mind the association to three-dimensionality and that’s so satisfying to you that you don’t look more critically.  You don’t even want to look critically because your mind is seduced by the rhythm of the composition.  Those “shadows” emphasize the rhythm. Rhythm in any work of art is hypnotic.  Your mind likes the hypnotic state.

Compare the above, second, drawing of this motif to the artist’s first version.  Your mind is now functioning differently.  It’s now

examining the figures for literal accuracy.  A drawing tells you how it wants to be looked at.  This drawing wants to be looked at as an illustration.

Now go back to the “shadows” version and you’ll notice that your mind has just switched to a different mode.  Your expectations are different. You’re not looking for an illustration of anatomy here. Instead you’re struck by the total effect.  You’re not analyzing, you’re experiencing the whole.  You’re having an aesthetic experience.

Drawings by Jeanne Mueller

The photo we worked with was taken from a book of old photos called “The Way We Were.”

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

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https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/a-good-pout-and-strong-shadows/https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2017/01/28/scribble-for-life/https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/how-it-sits-on-the-page/https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/02/drawing-sculpture/https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/ptolemy-in-ulm/https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/take-the-a-frame/https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/07/29/vanitas-flip/

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16octheadhands

“It’s disturbing,” someone in the class said when I put up this drawing by Maggy Shell.

Yes, it is.

The artist may not have deliberately pushed the drawing towards  16octheadhandsphotothe “disturbing” sign, but the assignment was to draw half of the face in deep shadow and that may have prompted her to go for it.  With that instruction, it’s easy to see something creepy in the photo to start with.

She chose to:

-push the figure against an edge of the paper. Drawing against the edge really does make a drawing edgy.  If she had positioned the figure in the middle, as it is seen in the photo, the image would have become balanced and not disturbing.

-tilt the head. When people are calm, their heads sit straight on their shoulders.  Tilting the head is a sign of skepticism or flirtatious submission. We can rule out the latter here.  What’s left is skepticism, which is definitely on the edgy edge of the continuum.

-follow the instruction to put one side into deep shadow.  Yes, she did.  Oh, how disturbing.

-draw the hands in a skeletal manner and against a deep black background.

“Disturbing” art came into vogue with the Romantics around 1800.  The notion of the sublime gave you goose bumps—certainly uncomfortable:  Caspar David Friedrich, The Wanderer Above the Mists, 1818.

cdfriedrichwandererabovethemists1818

And what about dreams—oh, so disturbing: Henry Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781

johnhenryfuselithe_nightmare1781

If you think Maggy Shell’s drawing is edgy and disturbing, consider the horizontal flip.  Now, that’s  spooky.  Why is that? We’ve seen many horizontal flips on this blog that demonstrate how position on the page conveys feeling.

16octheadhandsflip

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

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16octhead

We say “the whites of their eyes.”  But the highlight on the upper eyelid 16octheadeye(1) is whiter than the white of the eye (2). It’s not easy to give in to this fact.  After all, no one ever said, “don’t shoot until you see the highlight on their upper eyelids.”

This drawing from a photo does not resemble the 16octheadphotomodel, but that doesn’t matter.  Resemblance comes much later.  And in any case, resemblance may not be the goal.  The model/photo serves as inspiration and what happens in the drawing process is more important than likeness.

As you look at this drawing notice how important the shadow cast over the eye ball is for the expression and your conviction that this is a real person.

Drawing by Maggy Shell, charcoal, ~ 16” x 14”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/eyes-no-eyes/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/2778/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/andre-carrilho-and-the-mythic-window-to-the-soul/

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

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976clipC-72

Even though there are several Katherine Hildens out there, I was lucky to get the domain name. Keep it simple.  For a long time, I actually didn’t want a web site for my fine art at all because I felt elitist about that.  I caved in a couple of months ago, launched the web site and only now realized that I need to let people know about it.  Ta-tah!

I documented the paintings outside in my yard on overcast days so as to avoid glare and shadows.  The glare would be caused by sunlight hitting oil paint and the shadows would be caused by the extreme texture of the painting surfaces in this series.  So, it’s the shots from over-cast days that are shown on the web site.

But I really relish the texture, loved working on these paintings and couldn’t resist shooting details in bright sun light, when the thick impasto cast deep shadows.  Above, a passage from one of my paintings, shot at high noon.

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

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13SAICsophiekahn2

When I saw the MFA exhibit at the School of the Art Institute in May, the piece that I found most moving was a sculpture, or rather the shadow cast by a sculpture.  The sculpture itself, the bust of a woman, was fragmented.  It wasn’t clear whether she was in the act of becoming or was being shredded to disintegration.  But in the shadow cast on the wall, she was whole.  It seemed to me that the work was not about a piece created by strips of white clay, but about the shadow. 

It seemed obvious to me that the artist, Sophie Kahn, was working with light. Her medium was not clay at all, but light and shadow. People who only saw the raggedy clay forms were missing the point.  Look!  The shadow!  That’s where we have the art—the life of this piece is in the shadow!

How did she create this effect?  I imagined her sculpting with a certain light source precisely placed on one side of her sculpting stand and a wall precisely distanced on the other side.  Then, for the installation in this gallery, she had to precisely duplicate these distances and angles.  A daunting task.  And for what? To create a shadow! 

This is profound, I thought.  When watching a movie, I’m inclined to think it’s about something other than the plot; when reading I’m inclined to be skeptical; in drawings and paintings, I’m inclined to look at the so-called negative space (an inclination well-documented in these posts) ; in general, it’s all about illusions.  Or as Goethe says in Faust:  “Alles Vergängliche  ist nur ein Gleichnis”…Am farbigen Abglanz haben wir das Leben.”  (All that must disappear is but a parable…We live our life amongst refracted color.)

Those lines are wafting through my brain whenever I contemplate art. Add to that the fact that in May when I was looking at this sculpture-shadow, I was reading “A Short History of the Shadow” by Victor Stoichita.

Well, I had to meet the artist.  I did and she talked about her work.————————–

13SAICsophiekahn1

Stay tuned.

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

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13OrangePeals

Scatter the peels of five oranges on a board. Draw.

Not so fast.

The exercise was set up with the instruction to draw each wedge convincingly with shadows and reflected light and at the same time to connect all the wedges so that they would read as a unit.  Notice, also, that there’s a gap in the line-up, suggesting a golden section.  None of this is easy to execute.

But it looks simple and inviting.  And oranges in January…what could be more pleasant!

13OrangePealsMaggy

13OrangePealsGaby

13OrangePealsAle13OrangePealsLinne

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

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LeonaradoSfumatoDrawing

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code reminded us of all the classes we slept through:  Latin, French, the Merovingians,  St. Paul’s Letters to the Ephesians, the Crusades, comparative religion, infinite series, et al.  Oh, and art history.  At one point Prof. Langdon explains that sfumato is the technique invented by Leonardo by which he softens the contour of a form to make the form look more three-dimensinional, rather than like a cut out delineated by a consistent LeoardoSfumatoMonaLisaline. (Fumo in Italian means smoke.) Sfumato eliminates the line as a way of distinguishing one thing from another. It means that everything is related to everything around it and the eye flows through the image and sees interrelatedness on the canvas as it does in real life. This is huge. It makes the image life-like and I would go so far as to call it a consciousness-raising technique.

Leonardo da Vinci (1453-1519) in his treatise on painting techniques repeatedly warns artists not to trace out the form with outlines.  This is an admonition that he himself only sometimes managed to heed.  Sfumato was more a goal than an achievement for him. He almost certainly directed the criticism at his younger contemporary, Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), who was fond of outlining his delicate figures with a BotticelliVenuscontinuous black line. High school students love Botticelli but when we mature a bit, we embrace Leonardo’s idea more and more.  Sfumato.  It’s not that smoke gets in your eyes, it’s that the adult perception of reality grapples with interrelatedness—conceptually much richer and technically much more difficult.

Sfumato is applicable to both painting and drawing.  It’s easier to see how it would work with paint since you can blend and push the paint around to create soft effects.  But in drawing, also, the form can be liberated from the enclosing (strangling!?) line through the use of shadows and negative space.  More on that next time, with examples from students’ work.

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

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