DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt



Filed under: Figure Drawing: Process — Tags: , , , , , , — fred @ 20:37

Welcome to my new blog.  As an artist who works in diverse forms, I think this is the medium I’ve always needed.  Here I can mix drawings, photographs, video clips and writings, in a venue that’s expansive and broadly available.  I have over twenty years of archives to draw on.  Much of my work has been seen by a few people at an underground exhibit or performance somewhere, but I think some of it deserves a chance to be seen again.  And there’s a constant stream of new work from my persistent habits of drawing and photography.  If you like something you see here, bookmark this space and I promise there will be fresh material regularly.  And please help me build an audience by sharing what you see here with anyone who may appreciate it.

For my first post, a few new figure drawings.  I practice drawing from direct observation of live models as an ongoing regular practice.  It’s a meditation, an exploration, and a workout for eyes and hands.  These two back studies were made in a private session by commission in my studio a few weeks ago, with a model who wishes to remain anonymous.

Back Study #1: Convex

Back Study #1: Convex, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Back Study #2: Concave

Back Study #2: Concave, 2009, by Fred Hatt

They’re both drawn using my usual Caran d’Ache aquarelle crayons on black paper, 76 cm x 51 cm.  Both are straight-on studies of the back in symmetrical poses, using the same color palette.  Yet they’re strikingly different.  Convex uses shading and exaggeration of actual observed differences in the colors of light and shadow to depict the wonderfully complex and subtle structure of the human back.  Concave simplifies the depiction by just outlining the areas that light reveals in the model’s back.  It’s a technique often used in drawing quick gestural poses, when there’s no time to do shading.  The dividing line between light and shadow is treated as another contour, a simple line.  It’s a kind of indefinite anatomy, yet the sureness and clarity of the lines makes it something definite.  The different colors separate the resulting shapes, and like clouds or Rorschach blots, these outlined shapes  may evoke different images in the mind.

The idea my model and I were working with in the studio was to look at the difference between a rounded, closed pose, and an angular, open one.  There’s  a difference in mood, too, with Convex having, for me, a feeling of sadness, while Concave feels strong and confident.  The change in technique was an intuitive choice in the moment, responding to the differences in what I saw with a change of drawing technique.

Here’s another look at varying the technique in figure drawing.  I’m the monitor responsible for overseeing a weekly three-hour long-pose session at Minerva Durham’s legendary Spring Studio in New York.  It’s an open session where a mix of students and seasoned artists come to practice drawing from nude models.  In this particular session, we do one set of quick warmup poses, and then the model takes a single pose (with breaks every 20 minutes) for the remainder of the class.  I draw very quickly, and sometimes a long class has its pitfalls.  A drawing that starts out simple and strong can get lost in overdevelopment.  So last monday I made four different drawings during the session, all from the same model, in the same pose, and drawn from the same observational position.  Our model was the wonderful Betty.  All of these are 70 cm x 50 cm, aquarelle crayons on paper.  My first attempt was drawn mostly with the side of the crayons:

Betty 1a

Betty 1a, 2009, by Fred Hatt

This one captures an interesting combination of softness and strength, with perhaps a hint of sadness but also pride and confidence.  One of the other artists in the class said I shouldn’t do much more on this one, and I agreed, so I flipped it over and did another one on the back:

Betty 1b

Betty 1b, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Here I focused in close on the face, using only a combination of contour lines and cross-contour hatching.  This kind of drawing is like carving – it feels like cutting planes and angles into space.  This one was my favorite of the day, and I knew it would suffer from being worked any further, so I got another sheet of paper and started again:

Betty 2a

Betty 2a, 2009, by Fred Hatt

When I started this third one I fully intended to work it into a nice, finished full-color rendering.  The body was off to a good start, but the head was disproportionally large.  It’s very easy for that to happen, since the face has a lot more intricate details close together than other parts of the body and it’s hard to get them down in a small space.  I tried to fix it – you can see I used a gray crayon close to the paper color to cover over the top of the head and overdrew the upper part of the face smaller and lower than its original position.  But I can’t get away with that much correcting without ruining the clarity of the drawing, so I flipped this one over and started again.  By now the remaining class time was too short to do something really polished:

Betty 2b

Betty 2b, 2009, by Fred Hatt

So here I tried to expand the sculptural approach of the second try to a fuller head and torso view.

When I looked at these later, it struck me that they’re more interesting as a series than they are as individual pieces.  Because they’re not too finished they reveal a lot about how I analyze what I see, and the differences among them bring out the rough strengths of each.  It’s analagous to what a composer might do in a theme and variations, taking what may seem a simple melodic motif and turning it every which way and inside and out to reveal its glorious complexity.

If this stirs any response in you, please leave a comment!  Thanks.

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