DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2009/11/23

To Dance a Landscape

November from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

November is a film I made in collaboration with dancer Jung Woong Kim of U-Turn Dance Company.  This is about as spontaneous as filmmaking can get.  Jung Woong and I just met one day at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, walked around looking for suitable settings, and then filmed Jung Woong’s improvisations in the moment.

Most dance video makers nowadays seem to rely heavily on editing, choreographing by assembling moments of movement.  Our approach, by contrast, was to find settings that would provide a frame or field of play, keeping the camera fixed and allowing mostly uninterrupted movement to sketch the spatial potential of the topology.

There is no music, but the crunching and swishing of dry autumn leaves becomes a complex rhythmic composition.  The urban aspect of the setting is expressed through the auditory environment, which includes aircraft, traffic, and distant voices.

Before the advent of high definition video, this kind of mise en scène approach required 35mm film.  This video was made with a humble Canon HV20 (with wide angle adapter and external microphone), but the detail is sufficient to show texture and atmospheric depth in a long shot, which conveys a great deal about a dancer’s exploration of the possibilities of a natural space.

If your computer can handle high definition video, check out the HD version on Vimeo.

Here are three still frames from the video:

Still from "November", 2009, a video by Jung Woong Kim & Fred Hatt

Still from "November", 2009, a video by Jung Woong Kim & Fred Hatt

Still from "November", 2009, a video by Jung Woong Kim & Fred Hatt

Still from "November", 2009, a video by Jung Woong Kim & Fred Hatt

Still from "November", 2009, a video by Jung Woong Kim & Fred Hatt

Still from "November", 2009, a video by Jung Woong Kim & Fred Hatt

2009/11/17

The Spirit of Weeds

Filed under: Older work,Philosophy,Photography — Tags: , , , , , — fred @ 01:39
Sidewalk Reclaimed, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Sidewalk Reclaimed, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Weeds are feral plants, the bane of gardeners and pavers.  They thrive in the most inhospitable settings, taking root in the sooty dust that collects in cracks, taking over abandoned urban spaces with remarkable speed, breaking concrete and reclaiming mankind’s barrens for the kingdom of plants.

Straight and Scribbly Lines, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Straight and Scribbly Lines, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Weeds on Stairs, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Weeds on Stairs, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Urban Copse, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Urban Copse, 2006, by Fred Hatt

Weeds may be glorious wildflowers or medicinal herbs, thistles, grasses or ivies.  The kind that thrive in cities often seem to have forms that are ragged, jagged, scribbly, electric.  They’re tough and prickly, like many urban dwellers.

Street Grass, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

Street Grass, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

Grassburst, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

Grassburst, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

Demolition Site, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

Demolition Site, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

In our uncertain time, everything seems to be breaking down.  Industrial civilization defines prosperity only as growth, but the limits to growth are looming everywhere.  Population and consumption of resources have exploded.  The atmosphere is running a fever.  Our food and all our technology are built on reservoirs of oil that may be running dry.  Our financial system is metastatic, a cancer growing on the real economy.  Our political system is sclerotic, too beholden to moneyed interests to act for the common good.  Bold change will not come from our leaders, but only from our forced adaptation to catastrophes.

Greenpoint Dandelions, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Greenpoint Dandelions, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Such times will be hard for vast monocultures, and for hothouse flowers (and I do intend those as human metaphors).  Such times call for weedy spirits, for those that can find their earthly grounding even in the decaying manufactured world, and who burst with green power, determined to reassert the forces of life.

Storm Drain Greenery, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Storm Drain Greenery, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Cobblestone Grass, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Cobblestone Grass, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Blue/Yellow/Green, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Blue/Yellow/Green, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Backlit Weeds, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Backlit Weeds, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Vacant Lot, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Vacant Lot, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

I took all the photos in this post in New York City, over the last seven years.

2009/11/09

Redrawing

Filed under: Drawing,New work — Tags: , , , , , , — fred @ 00:23
Soft Angles 1 (detail), 2009, by Fred Hatt

Soft Angles 1 (detail), 2009, by Fred Hatt

Readers have told me they like posts that show my process, even though this means posting drawings I’d never exhibit.  I remember as a child seeing an art book that had a series of black-and-white photographs showing multiple stages of Henri Matisse’s reworking of a painting of a seated woman in a long dress.  This revealing of painting as a process had a lasting impact on my way of understanding art.  I wasn’t able to find this image sequence on the web, but if anyone knows where it is, leave a comment and I’ll insert the link here.

I’m the monitor (non-instructing artist in charge) of a long-pose figure drawing session every Monday morning at Minerva Durham’s legendary Spring Studio in New York.  We start with a set of ten two-minute quick poses to warm up, then the model takes a long pose for the rest of the session, twenty minutes at a time with breaks.  We have time for five and a half of these sets of the same pose.

I work quickly, so if I get off to a good start I can do a pretty developed piece during one of these sessions, like this example.  But sometimes my less-finished drawings are more lively and interesting, and I’m sure I’ve lost some good preliminary drawings by overworking them.  So sometimes I’ll do more than one drawing during the session.  I could try more than one viewing angle, or a portrait and a full figure, or I could vary the technique or the scale.  And sometimes I keep starting over because I’m having trouble getting it.  I have found that once you’ve gone too far down the wrong road it’s better to start fresh than to try to fix it.

The subject of the highly finished example linked in the paragraph above is Claudia, professional artist’s model and the blogger behind Museworthy.  She was our model Monday morning at Spring Studio last week, and so, between her blog and mine you’ll be able to see multiple aspects of that single drawing session.  My sketches from that session’s two-minute warm-up poses are on Museworthy here, and in another Museworthy post you can see  Jean Marcellino‘s lovely refined pencil drawing from the session.

I decided to do multiple drawings at this session, always from the same angle.  Claudia gave us a pose with a lot of interesting angles.  Here’s my sketch from the first twenty-minute set:

Soft Angles 1, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Soft Angles 1, 2009, by Fred Hatt

This sketch shows how I start out analyzing the pose and composing it on the paper.  I first sketched very loosely and lightly in white crayon.  You can see it was too far to the left to look balanced on the page, so I redrew the pose a bit further right.  I was figuring out the three triangular negative spaces (in orange), the bounding shape (in jade green), the convex forms and highlights (ovals and curves in white and yellow), the creases and deep shadows (blue), and the flow of muscle and bone forms.

After having studied all the visual aspects of the pose in the first set, I started again in the second set.  I scaled up a bit for a tighter composition and was able to depict the pose in cleaner, more economical lines:

Soft Angles 2, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Soft Angles 2, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Here there’s just a rough sketch in orange, with dark edges and the outlines of shadows done in dark blue, and bright edges and highlight centers in white.  This is the type of composition I generally prefer, with the body extending past the edges of the paper on all four sides.  This sketch would be a perfect basis for a highly finished full-color drawing, but perhaps this simpler stage of the work is more interesting as it is.

For the third twenty minute set, starting again, I scaled up even more, to larger-than-life, focusing on Claudia’s face:

Soft Angles 3, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Soft Angles 3, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Here I’m working out the three-dimensional structure of the face, looking at light and shadow to separate it into curved surfaces.  In this rough twenty minute form, it’s a bit exaggerated, like a caricature.  It looks slightly too angular, and makes her look older than she does in reality.  If I had worked further on this as a portrait it would have become softer and warmer, the expression less angry and more pensive.

After the third twenty minute set, we had a longer break, and then returned for two and a half more sets.  I started again, scaling back down to the full figure, and worked on the next one for two sets, or forty minutes:

Soft Angles 4, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Soft Angles 4, 2009, by Fred Hatt

I’ve returned to the analytical mode as at the beginning, extending the lines of the form to see how they intersect.  But here I’m developing the roundedness of the form and its relation to its background.  But is the head too big?  The legs too short?  The face is definitely not quite right.  It looks sad and angry, which is not really the feeling I’m getting.  At the last break I decide to start over once again, even though the final set will only be twelve minutes.  I’ve spent all this time looking at planes and angles, light and shadow, but so far I’ve failed to capture the feeling.  Maybe I’m finally warmed up.

Soft Angles 5, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Soft Angles 5, 2009, by Fred Hatt

By this time I know the pose intimately.  Perhaps I can simplify my drawing, getting the essence, letting all the complexity fall away.  I stay away from the overpowering white crayons, using a cool blue and yellow-green for the highlights, and two reds for the dark edges.  Time’s up!  This experiment is concluded.

2009/11/04

Subway Sax

Subway Sax from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

In honor of my brother, Frank, and in celebration of his moving back to the Northeast after a sojourn in Oklahoma, I’m posting a video we made eighteen years ago. This is Frank improvising on his alto saxophone in the West 4th Street Subway Station in Manhattan on a late evening in 1991, filmed with the new technology of the day, an 8mm video camcorder. I observed Frank as I would observe an unknown Subway musician, sometimes watching him, sometimes watching other things going on in the station as a dance to the saxophone’s wail.

This became a piece about the rhythms of crowds and loneliness, trains and people coming in and going out like waves on the shore, an urban surf that goes on ceaselessly through all the stations of the Subway.

I made new titles for it and changed it to monochrome as the original color wasn’t very pretty.  Otherwise this is the same as the original edit I made in 1991, edited on U-matic at Film/Video Arts, where I worked at that time.

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