New York City is the capital of the advertising business in North America so it is to be expected that commercial imagery is plastered everywhere you look. The whole city has attention deficit disorder and all kinds of bids for attention have to be extravagant to be noticed at all. Some of the faces and bodies on the sides of buildings would make King Kong look petite. This post is a collection of such giants, all taken during the last decade during my daily travels about the city. On this first one, the face alone is ten stories tall!
Towering Redhead, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt
Leggy, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt
Computer-printed vinyl banner or wrap technology is the main way it’s done in our era, but enormous figures on walls have been a part of the New York streetscape for a long time, as evidenced by this 1960’s smoking playboy, brought to light when a building that had been covering him for decades was demolished:
Smoker, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt
That one’s painted directly on the brick wall, by painters dangling from the side of the building like window washers. The classic craft of the billboard painter is rare now but not gone. Hand-painted giants are still to be seen in New York:
Heat, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt
Here a hand-painted billboard is seen through a fence upon which tiles have been hung in a memorial for the World Trade Center tragedy:
Stars and Lashes, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt
It always seems to me that a huge proportion of these oversized wall images are sexually provocative beautiful people, but maybe those are just the ones I notice. Here’s Hilary Swank swooning like Bernini’s St. Teresa:
Ecstasy, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt
Male sex gods are always seen towering over this new nightlife area in a part of town that used to be devoted to wholesaling meat. Well, I guess it still is:
Meatpacking District, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt
And what sells shoes better than foot fetishism on a Brobdingnagian scale:
Foot Worship, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt
I think some of it is just to shock the country people that come to the city as tourists:
Reba, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt
But surely if you want to cover up an ugly remodeling job on a fancy shopping street, a near-nude hottie will do the trick:
Lingerie, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt
This example of the same is surely sexual, but what the heck is going on here?
Expansion, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt
There’s something eerie about colossal figures seen looming behind trees. Here are three lovely examples:
Oiled, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt
Adonis, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt
Romance, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt
The legendary Plaza Hotel is all class, so they shielded their condo conversion work with an elegant and demure giant billboard. Sadly, this development suffered the same fate as most of the other bubble-borne building projects of the late zeroes:
Plaza Conversion, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt
Huge still images are so widespread in the city that more advertisers are investing in monster-sized video screens. This one reminds me, a bit creepily, that we are all under constant surveillance:
Big Brother, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt
But when I’m stuck in automotive gridlock, a giant cat face cheers me up a bit!
Escape Into Life, a blog that I recommend highly as a place to discover fresh and interesting artists and writers, has featured my drawings in their Artist Watch section. They made a nice selection, and I’m honored to be included there!
A typical traditional life drawing class starts with quick poses, one or two minutes each, and then proceeds to progressively longer poses. Some people call quick poses “warm-ups”, reflecting the idea that a drawing session is like a workout. For the artist, responding as quickly as possible limbers up the hand-eye coordination. For the model, stretching and twisting wakes up the body and gets the energy flowing, which helps in holding the longer poses to come. Some people call quick poses “action poses” or “gestures”, because both model and artist strive to project a feeling of movement or expression.
Crouch with Twist, 2009, by Fred Hatt
I love quick poses because they invite a sense of abandon in the models. Active poses reveal a personal essence in how a model projects energy, and how that energy is revealed through the particular forms of the body.
Begging, 2010, by Fred Hatt
When you only have a minute or two, you have to respond directly. There’s no time to waste dithering over corrections or using an analytical approach. Faces, hands and feet are “detail traps” so I usually indicate them with very simplified marks. The contours that reveal the expressiveness of a pose are all simple curves. Each curve that I discover can be rendered with a single stroke of pencil, pen or brush.
Preparing to Rise, 2009, by Fred Hatt
These simple curves can indicate considerable detail about the model’s anatomy as well as their pose. Drawable curves are not only the outlines of parts of the body, but may also be found in creases in the skin, the bulges of muscles or bones, or even the edges between areas of light and shadow.
Front and Back, 2009, by Fred Hatt
I try to keep one curve flowing directly into the next. And though I usually sketch using only lines, not shading, I am always aware of the shading, and I see every curve as indicating a three dimensional form that has depth and heft.
Stepping Up and Turning Head, 2010, by Fred Hatt
Skin folds and the features of underlying anatomical structures often give a sense of the swooping or thrusting direction of movement of a pose.
Twist on Knees, 2009, by Fred Hatt
I’ll continue by interspersing some quotes from Kimon Nicolaides’ brilliant book, The Natural Way to Draw (1941, Houghton Mifflin). This is the best approach to learning drawing that I’ve ever come across. Though I describe myself as self-taught since I never went to art school, in a real sense Nicolaides was my teacher, through this book. My sketches aren’t specific illustrations of the words that appear adjacent to them, they’re just interleaved to keep both eye and mind engaged.
Step and Reach, 2009, by Fred Hatt
“You should draw, not what the thing looks like, not even what it is, but what it is doing. Feel how the figure lifts or droops – pushes forward here – pulls back there – pushes out here – drops down easily there. Suppose that the model takes the pose of a fighter with fists clenched and jaw thrust forward angrily. Try to draw the actual thrust of the jaw, the clenching of the hand. A drawing of prize fighters should show the push, from foot to fist, behind their blows that makes them hurt.”
Crawling and Seeking, 2009, by Fred Hatt
“This thing we call gesture is as separate from the substance through which it acts as the wind is from the trees that it bends. Do not study first the shape of an arm or even the direction of it. That will come in other exercises. Become aware of the gesture, which is a thing in itself without substance.”
Upward and Downward, 2009, by Fred Hatt
“Gesture is intangible. It cannot be understood without feeling, and it need not be exactly the same thing for you as for someone else. To discover it there is required only practice and awareness on your part. You learn about it more from drawing than from anything I can say.”
Hands to Floor, 2009, by Fred Hatt
“By gesture we mean, not any one movement, but the completeness of the various movements of the whole figure. That is why in the beginning I told you to keep the whole thing going at once. The awareness of unity must be first and must be continuous.”
Head in Hands, 2009, by Fred Hatt
“The eye alone is not capable of seeing the whole gesture. It can only see parts at a time. That which puts these parts together in your consciousness is your appreciation of the impulse that created the gesture. If you make a conscious attempt merely to see the gesture, the impulse which caused it is lost to you. But if you use your whole consciousness to grasp the feeling – the impulse behind the immediate picture – you have a far better chance of seeing more truly the various parts. For the truth is that by themselves the parts have no significant identity. You should attempt to read first the meaning of the pose, and to do this properly you should constantly seek the impulse.”
Triangular Reach, 2009, by Fred Hatt
Nicolaides’ approach to learning drawing starts from two basic concepts, gesture and contour. Initially they seem like opposite ways of approaching the figure. Gesture drawing focuses on action and expression, while contour drawing focuses on form. In practice, at least in my own experience, the two approaches gradually merge through practice. Ultimately the energy of gesture imbues the tracing of contours, and the distinction between gesture and contour disappears.
Leaning Slope, 2009, by Fred Hatt
Forward, 2009, by Fred Hatt
Foot Thrust Back, 2009, by Fred Hatt
Most figurative artists have a natural inclination to prefer either quick poses or long poses. Many artists in a self-directed practice choose to work on only one or the other. I believe the best thing any artist can do to deepen their life drawing skills is to seriously tackle the type of pose they do not naturally relate to. The energy and efficiency developed through quick drawing practice can significantly enliven a long pose drawing. The sustained attention and notice of subtleties exercised in longer drawings hone the perception that is key to drawing quick poses.
Shoulder Stand, 2009, by Fred Hatt
Stepping Up, 2010, by Fred Hatt
Here are three more pages from my sketchbook, each one containing two sketches of action poses, subsequent poses by the same model from a quick pose set. Notice what different qualities of energy and feeling are expressed in the poses that share the page. This is the real heart of the study of life drawing: the amazing variety of expression of the human body.
Head Turning, 2009, by Fred Hatt
Stride and Crouch, 2010, by Fred Hatt
Sad and Proud, 2009, by Fred Hatt
Most of the sketches in this post are two-minute poses. They’re drawn with pencil or cartridge brush-pen in sketchbooks, sizes 11″ x 14″ (28 x 36 cm) or 14″ x 17″ (36 x 43 cm).
Vivid Dust, 2000, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Looking through my personal library this week, I came across an old book called “Design by Accident” by James F. O’Brien. It’s full of ways to incorporate chance and natural phenomena into visual arts and crafts. Just the Table of Contents makes me feel inspired, so I’ll share it here:
Tree Forms: trunks and branches formed by the movement of pigments and liquids
Cracks and crackle: layers in tension
Crawl: rejection of paint by an incompatible surface
Drip, Dribble, Drop: Pollock’s discovery and random patterns
Splash and Run: designs formed by vigorous impact and gravity
Flow and Swirl: “marble effect”
Wrinkles and Folds: folding and bending of surfaces
Flowers: patterns formed by drops of pigment on a coated surface
For much of my own work the human body has been my playground, and I’ve used some of these techniques to create textural effects in body painting. In this post I’ll share several examples.
Splatter, 1997, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Squeezing paint from squeeze botttles and letting colors run into other colors produces beautiful effects. In the 1990’s I used to do this kind of body painting as a cabaret act in collaboration with performance artist Sue Doe, using fluorescent paints that glowed under blacklight. One of our performances at the Blue Angel Cabaret was featured in the HBO series Real Sexepisode 25. I’ll do a whole post about the blacklight performances some day, but for now here’s one image of the squirting technique under blacklight:
Green Snake, 1998, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
And here are the beautiful fluorescent colors running thin as they are cleaned off in the shower:
Rinse, 2002, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Handprints have been used since the stone age to make dynamic patterns in paint:
Handprints, 1992, bodypaint by Fred Hatt and Jen S., photo by Fred Hatt
When tempera paint dries, it cracks and flakes off. The crackled texture adds an air of antiquity to this freeform painting:
Fresco, 1996, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
And here, a coat of paint on the body has been rewetted and worn thin, drying with a marbled effect:
Marbled Belly, 1991, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Sculptors’ clay smeared onto the body dries in a patchy way, depending on local thickness, making fleeting textural patterns:
Wet and Dry, 2002, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
In this one, clay was applied first for texture, and then paint was applied over the rough, earthy surface:
World Egg, 2002, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
In this body painting session, done for a cover illustration for Lauren Stauber‘s haunting CD, Solarheart, the first layer was yellow and red paint, with clay applied over it. The colors subtly bleed through the dusty clay surface. Dried flower petals are scattered on top of the body:
Petal Strewn, 1998, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Here, the model is covered with the dry powdered pigments used in the Hindu spring festival called Holi. In the festival, which is celebrated in many places in India, and here in New York in Richmond Hill, Queens, celebrants plaster each other with hurled vividly colored powders and liquid colors.
Holi, 1999, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Here, powdered pigments and bronze powder are used on the body, blended with massage oil:
Jeweled, 1999, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Here, the front of the body is painted with oil and powdered pigments, and the back with clay and red paint:
Agate, 2002, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
In this one, the first layer is blue paint, with clay applied over that and bronze powder blown across to adhere to the wet areas when the clay is in the patchily dried state as seen in the black and white photo above:
Lapis and Gold, 2001, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Here’s a combination of the bronze powder with the powdered Holi pigments:
Painted Desert, 2000, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
An important focus of my exploration of body painting is the experience of the person who is painted. Being painted is often experienced as a bodily transformation, an external experience of the skin that reflects or enables an internal shift of consciousness. This ritual aspect underlies the importance of body art in shamanic and theatrical performance. The stark white body paint associated with butoh dance originated with butoh progenitor Tatsumi Hijikata‘s experimentation with using plaster on his dancers’ bodies. He wished to intensify their movement by making them conscious of the entire expanse of their skin through tightness and discomfort. Oil, clay, powders and cracked tempera on the skin are tactile sensations that may be experienced as being one with earth or finding one’s wild animal nature.
Animal, 1997, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
I’ll close with a dyptich of textural legs. In the upper image the paint is done not by the scattering or dripping methods used in many of the pictures above, but by tracing the blood vessels visible through the skin. The legs in the lower image are painted with blue powder over oil:
Vessels, 2007, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Gateway, 2006, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt
Other body painting, most of it more painterly in approach, can be seen on my portfolio site, or on other posts on this blog under the category “Body Art“.
The front of the body has most of the major focal points, so we tend to think of the back as secondary and less interesting. We tend to want to face others, so the back of the body is unseen, like the far side of the moon. Here’s a selection of my drawings of nude backs from over the years, making the case for the beauty and power of the human back.
Compact, 2004, by Fred Hatt
Triangular, 2008, by Fred Hatt
Violon d'Ingres, 1997, by Fred Hatt
Look at the variety in these backs. They convey personality even without a face or an action pose. The anatomy of the back is a complex structure of curved and triangular bones and muscles, but it’s hidden underneath the skin, so the landmarks can be elusive.
Most of these more finished drawings have been done at the three-hour long pose session at Spring Studio. I’ve been the monitor (supervisor) at one of these weekly sessions for at least thirteen years. There are always artists that want to draw portraits at these sessions, so nearly all the poses are more or less frontal. The studio is set up with drawing stations on three sides of the stand, so sometimes it’s possible to get a back view by going all the way to the side. The light is usually coming from in front of the model, so the back is often in shadow, illuminated by light reflecting back from the colored fabric backdrops, as in these examples:
Prism, 1998, by Fred Hatt
La Reina, 2009, by Fred Hatt
The back of the body can convey the mood, attitude, and style of a person:
Afar, 2000, by Fred Hatt
Fan, 2004, by Fred Hatt
Burlyman, 2004, by Fred Hatt
As the great majority of the body’s nerves branch out from the spinal cord, the energy impulses that travel through the body are close to the surface of the back. I sometimes draw to help me visualize the energy I can sense in someone’s body:
Energy Fields, 2002, by Fred Hatt
Backlines, 2001, by Fred Hatt
Back with Projections, 2006, by Fred Hatt
The back is also the center of movement in the body. Mana Hashimoto, the blind dancer I’ve worked with on several performance projects, leads classes in “Dance Without Sight”. When I took the class, Mana showed us how to follow another person’s movement by lightly touching them. A hand on the middle of the back can detect every major movement of the body, including those of the extremities. There is no other place to put the hand that works as well.
Crawling, 2002, by Fred Hatt
Leaning Back, 2009, by Fred Hatt
Blades and Curves, 2007, by Fred Hatt
Ankle Grasp, 2003, by Fred Hatt
Five more pictures fill out the post – explorations of the beautiful possibilities of the second side of the body: