DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2009/03/30

Scrolls

Filed under: Drawing,Older work — Tags: , , , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 16:35
KN scroll, 2000, by Fred Hatt

KN Scroll, 2000, 91 cm x 982 cm, by Fred Hatt

For several years I ran a “Movement Drawing” class at Minerva Durham’s Spring Studio.  It was like a life drawing class except we didn’t want the models to keep still.  Most of the models were dancers or performers.   Of course it’s very difficult to draw someone who’s dancing around at full speed, so we had several adaptations that helped us try to see and capture the movement we saw.  We had sets of extremely slow movement – different models had quite different interpretations of what constituted “extremely slow”!  We had sets of repeated movement:  the same gesture or movement phrase repeated over and over for five minutes at a time.  And we did “stop and go” sessions, in which the models moved freely and the artists could call for the action to freeze for a short time.

This was great practice because the only way to get anything was to draw as quickly as possible.  I experimented with crayons, graphite, and ink.  Using a brush with ink really seemed to have the right fluidity and responsiveness for the task, but ink brush drawing in a sketchbook doesn’t work so well as it takes too long to dry and the pages get stuck together.  So I had the idea of using scrolls.  I did many small scrolls about 6 feet (2 meters) long, usually vertical.  But I also made a few big scrolls, and that’s what I’m showing in this post.  All the scrolls shown here are 36″ or 91 cm across their short dimension, and 20 to 30 feet (6 to 10 meters) long.

Looking at the scroll above, it’s interesting how the style changes at different levels.  At the beginning (the top) the drawing is realistic, separate figures.  I’m drawing with a fan brush, which holds ink well and makes a single line when applied on its edge or a multiple line if used flat.  At the next level down the figures become denser and begin to overlap more.  Then they disintegrate a bit, becoming more abstract.  Perhaps the model’s movement was getting a bit faster here.  At this level there’s a fiery quality to the drawing.  Realism returns, with two large figures that have hair and even faces, but the more abstract and fragmented figures return and the scroll ends with a jumble of overlapping body parts and hands.  The last part of the scroll was done with a round brush, not the fan brush.

The remaining scrolls are horizontal, so you’ll have to scroll to the right to see them in full.

Patrick scroll, 2000, 91 cm x 1006 cm, by Fred Hatt

Patrick scroll, 2000, 91 cm x 1006 cm, by Fred Hatt

This one, and the others in this post, were drawn vertically from left to right.  This one’s also done with the fan brush, but the style and density is more uniform than in the vertical scroll.  If you look at it as a sequence it has the feeling of a dance.

The movement drawing classes attracted two very distinct types of artists.  There were the loose and flowy artists who didn’t really care about capturing the figure so much as picking up on the energy of the situation, and there were the animators, who tended to make series of small, crisply drawn figures like animation keyframes.  My own approach probably fell between those extremes.

Lauren scroll, 2000, 91 cm x 884 cm, by Fred Hatt

Lauren scroll, 2000, 91 cm x 884 cm, by Fred Hatt

This one was done with the round brush and a more precise, sculptural line.  It’s possible this one (immediately above) was done with still poses (stop and go session) and the previous one (the male figure scroll) with slow movement, but I don’t really remember.  The model for the one immediately above was Lauren, and the strength and variety of the poses you can see in this scroll is a great example of what a really superior model brings to their craft.

These last two examples were, I believe,  both drawn on the same day.  These are reproduced at a smaller scale so you can see more of the figures at once:

Flora scrolls, 2001, 91 cm x 762 cm and 91 cm x 610 cm, by Fred Hatt

Flora scrolls, 2001, 91 cm x 762 cm and 91 cm x 610 cm, by Fred Hatt

For a while I had a studio in the mezzanine of Gary Lai’s Physical Arts Center in Brooklyn.  This was a large studio, workshop space and performance venue for gymnastics, martial arts,  dance and aerial (trapeze) work.  It was the only place I ever had enough room to exhibit these large scrolls, along with many of the smaller ones.  You can see an image of the mezzanine space filled with such scrolls here.

In that huge space it was possible to get back and see these scrolls from a distance, something that couldn’t even be done when they were being made at Spring Studio or in my own small studio.  The dense clusters of figures can be seen as writhing torrents of multiple bodies, like Dante’s whirlwind of lovers from the Inferno, or sequentially, as phases of movement through time, which is how I tend to see them since that’s how they were made.  To me they are also reminiscent of the storms of bison and stags seen in Paleolithic cave murals.

The form of the scroll also suggests a momentum that will not be bounded by the tight frame of the regular page.  Perhaps the most famous modern-day work done in the form of a scroll is Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, typed on a long roll of paper as though stopping to change paper was out of the question for such a barrelling headlong memoir.

2009/03/26

Emergence


Emergence from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.  2003, duration 13:45

Butoh dancers use breath and visualizations projected within and around the body to embody elemental forces and to explore pre-verbal sensations and experiences.  It’s a form of dance that arose in Japan in the ferment of experimental art and postwar radicalism starting in the late 1950′s.  You may find that this video tries your patience, but if you surrender to it, this kind of performance can alter your perception of time.

Emergence is an improvised performance by butoh dancers Corinna Brown and Craig Colorusso.  Corinna is a long time friend with whom I have collaborated many times, and you’re sure to see more of her here.  I videotaped this performance on May 31, 2003, at a performance at a Brooklyn loft party/art exhibit that was a fundraiser for oceanic ecology.  The recorded music is by Diving Bell, a duo consisting of Craig Colorusso, also seen dancing here, and Joel Westerdale.

There was supposed to be a special spot light for this performance.  I was to videotape, using Corinna’s old Sony Hi8 format camcorder.  But as the performance began, the spot light failed to work.  The space was almost completely dark.  I wasn’t getting anything on tape.  Thinking quickly, I switched the camera over to the NightShot mode, which records in monochrome in dark conditions, and pulled the Mini MagLite out of my back pocket.  This is one of the tiny AAA battery ones, not very bright, but bright enough for NightShot and bright enough to let the audience see the performance in the dark loft.  Holding the camera with the right hand and the light with the left, I used thumb and forefinger to change the focus of the light, causing a ring of brightness to expand and contract around the performers.

The look of this video is all thanks to an accident and a seat-of-the-pants solution.  The eerie greenish whiteness, the looming shadows and pulsing aura, would not have been part of this video had the intended lighting not malfunctioned.  And yet it’s perfect.  Not only does it stylistically fit the performance in the video, I think the dim and eerie hand-held light also enhanced the live performance.  The stage light would have separated the performers from the crowd and made people stand back, but the darkness drew people into it and made it more intimate.

Chaos is an artist.  When she emerges to collaborate with you, do not refuse her, but welcome her and answer her openly and freely, and she will impart something better than you could have conceived.

2009/03/25

Meredith Monk: Inner Voice

Filed under: Others' work,Reviews,Video — Tags: , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 22:59

I’ll be trying my first video post tomorrow.  Today, just a quick note about a film I saw today at a special screening at the Guggenheim Museum.  Inner Voice is Babeth VanLoo’s documentary about composer/vocalist/choreographer/director Meredith Monk.  Monk has long been an inspiration to me.  As an artist she has done her own thing in defiance of traditional discipline categories and cultural fashions over four decades, and it just keeps getting deeper and stronger.  She has managed to do all this while seemingly remaining a kind and humble person.  The film beautifully reveals the integration of Monk’s art, her life, and her spiritual practice.  Information about the film is here, and a link to view the entire film, though in very small format, is here.

2009/03/23

Colorized

Filed under: Drawing,New work — Tags: , , , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 23:36
Paul, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Paul, 2008, by Fred Hatt

“Grisaille” is one of the classic “old master” painting techniques.  Essentially, this means painting in black and white.  Color can then be added by using layers of transparent color washes over the monochrome underpainting.  The idea is that the white paint, reflecting through veils of color, gives a luminous effect that cannot be achieved by mixing opaque colored pigments.  It also frees the artist to focus on form and light and shadow and to perfect these aspects of the image before turning to color.

I’ve often worked as a projectionist.  Once I was showing a VHS videotape on a large screen through a video projector, and noticed that the image appeared to be a fairly sharp black and white picture overlaid with very loose veils of color.  A person’s face would have all the important details but the color was a sort of pink smudge that blurred beyond the boundaries of the head.  Technically, because color television technology evolved from and needed to remain compatible with black and white television, the video signal is a black and white (luminance) signal with a separate channel of color information (chroma).  Particularly in a consumer format like VHS, the resolution level of the color information is very low, so the color distinctions are literally soft and blurry, but the sharp luminance signal makes it look fine, at least on a small screen.  Enlargement via projection revealed the trick.

Color drawing is obviously different from oil painting or video technology, but understanding these things informed my color drawing technique.  I saw the power of white to project light and black to define form, and I saw that if the brightness values of the image are well defined, the application of color can be extremely loose without damaging that definition.  In fact, a loose hand with color seemed to have an invigorating effect on the drawings.

I see both values and color as perceptually relative phenomena.  By that I mean that what matters is not the correspondence of the colors or values to some objective scale, but how much brighter or darker, warmer or cooler an area is in relation to its surroundings.  Josef Albers’ classic Interaction of Color is the most thorough exploration of this relativity from an artist’s point of view.

The drawing above is essentially a grisaille sketch, using black and white crayons on gray paper, to which I have begun to add loose color, using only an orange and a blue to push different areas towards relative warmth or coolness.   This could be further refined by adding layers of loose color, which would work like transparent washes, to tint the grays.  Here the warm tones around the cheeks and nose and the cooler tones under the eyes may indicate variances in blood flow, but the warm tones above the eyes were probably seen because the major light source in those shadowy areas is reflection from the cheeks.

Here’s this process carried further, with multiple goings-over with scribblings of quite a few different colored crayons, and “washes” of overall color:

Keryn, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Keryn, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Shadows are always filled with complex reflected light.  Some of it is bouncing off another part of the body, some of it is coming from secondary light sources or reflecting off floors, walls, or other surfaces in the area.  It’s incredibly subtle, but again here the relativistic conception of value and color is helpful.

Leticia, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Leticia, 2008, by Fred Hatt

A more abstract approach to the technique, exaggerating the differences by leaving the colors more separated and “pure”, and virtually eliminating the overall wash effect, is perhaps even more effective.  Viewed from a distance, the coloration looks strikingly realistic, considering that no conventional “flesh tones” have been used in the drawing above.

These portrait examples are from three hour sessions, so there’s ample time to play with color, but sometimes I apply the same principles to quicker figure sketches.

Colin standing back, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Colin standing back, 2009, by Fred Hatt

On the one above the background colors are also a very loose indication of the model’s environment, as he was standing on a warm-toned wooden floor in a room with cool-toned windowlight illuminating the walls.

The next example essentially ignores the surface colors of the body and uses intensified hues to depict the variations in the light illuminating the form.  There is white windowlight from above and behind the body, cool fill in the upper shadows, and warm reflections from the floor beneath her.

Reclining Izaskun, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Reclining Izaskun, 2009, by Fred Hatt

All the drawings shown in this post are made with Caran d’Ache aquarelle crayons on gray Fabriano paper, 70cm x 50 cm.

2009/03/21

13 Ways: Wallace Stevens

Filed under: Older work,Painting — Tags: , , , — Fred Hatt @ 22:07

In 1982 I had graduated from college with a filmmaking degree and had just gotten married, but I was really still looking for myself.  That year I had one of my early bursts of artistic effort, directed at painting.  I made this series illustrating Wallace Stevens’ popular bit of American Zen, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”, published in 1917.  These are all acrylic on paper, 24″ x 18″ (61 cm x 46 cm).  I think the verses are legible in these pictures, but if not, see the full text in its Wikipedia entry, a good introduction to this poem, including links to interpretations by other artists and composers.

Blackbird I, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird I, 1982, by Fred Hatt

 
Blackbird II, 1982, by Fred HattBlackbird II, 1982, by Fred Hatt
Blackbird III, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird III, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird IV, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird IV, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird V, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird V, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VI, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VI, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VIII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird VIII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird IX, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird IX, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird X, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird X, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XI, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XI, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XIII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

Blackbird XIII, 1982, by Fred Hatt

This series is not much like my current work, but I see in it an attempt to find an approach to visual art that’s analagous to music.  The touch is a bit heavy, but also vigorous and bold.  If you take time to look at them, you’ll see, not just hidden blackbirds, but lots of evocative and suggestive forms nested in these compositions.

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