Posts Tagged ‘Van Gogh’

15SunflowerThey tend to droop and get weighed down by lunching squirrels. I cut down the tallest sunflower in my garden and brought it to drawing class. As a still life subject the tired sunflower offers lots of issues to work on: negative space, dynamic composition and the opportunity to practice energetic markmaking. But the greatest of these, hmm, is the problem of wanting to draw a flower as a flower, meaning pleasing and pretty. It’s a glorious, assertive flower. But, alas, it’s dying.
The glorious and assertive, but dying VanGoghSunflowers2sunflower must have touched a nerve in Van Gogh. He painted it, many times, in all its raggedness and made it famous. You can’t go to the farmers market in early fall and  not sigh ah-look-so-Van Gogh.
Twenty years later, Egon Schiele also fell for its decadent charm, celebrating decay even more than Vincent had done.  EgonSchieleSunflowers1
EgonSchieleSunflowers2The two decades bracketing the year 1900 brought great cultural change. The 19th century was giving way to the inventions of modernism in every field you can think of, in the sciences and the arts. It was an exciting time to be alive and alert.
In Van Gogh’s Sunflowers we see the decaying half of the change.

In Schiele’s Sunflowers we see vitality and strength, in the midst of decay.

One student in the drawing class worked in a technique that held maximum potential to convey the dynamism of the dying sunflower. It’s a difficult subject, technically and emotionally.

Drawing by Elizabeth Mendoza, China Marker on gloss paper, 14 x 11
Vincent VanGogh, 1853-1890
Egon Schiele, 1880-1918
StillLifeSunflower2All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was a prodigy.  He drew incessantly as a child, filling the margins of his school books with sketches.  His father, an art teacher, is said to have handed his son his own brushes and paints, saying, “here, you have surpassed me.”  When Picasso was fourteen, his drawings looked like this.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), the son of a strict Calvinist minister, was interested in drawing as a child and as a young adult while he worked as an assistant art dealer, teacher and missionary.  It wasn’t until his late twenties that he devoted himself to art full time.  At the age of twenty seven, his drawing looked awkward and tortured.

I cringe when I look at this.  But he persisted.  He worked at it, for ten years, never achieving the grace of Picasso’s draftsmanship.   Van Gogh is not admired for his drawings, but for the evocative power of his paintings.  The passion we sense in his paintings relies on primary colors and, oddly enough,  an unaffected calligraphy in the handling of the brush, course and immediate.

A graceful line can be so admirable as to challenge imitation.  But not everybody can make a line dance.  What to do?  Must the line dance?  What if, like Van Gogh’s ten years after the above drawing, it screams, groans, and pounds its fists in rage?  What if the line you produce speaks a language you have never heard before?

The next few posts here will be devoted to my students’ recent work. Amazing things happen in that drawing class all the time.  That’s because (I think) the students are beginning to respond to their own markmaking, their own line quality, their own dynamics.  None of them are Picassos.

An article on Picasso’s early work: http://www.salon.com/2012/01/09/picassos_fascinating_early_works/

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




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