DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Quick Pose as Dance

Chuck 20101018a (crayon), by Fred Hatt


I fill up a sketchbook every couple of months with the quick (one minute to five minute) poses from the life drawing sessions I attend regularly.  I almost never exhibit or sell these pieces.  The sketchbook is a practice space.  I try different media, experiment with things like varying the scale or drawing shadows as contours, and I really don’t worry that some of the drawings fall flat or even crash and burn.  Sometimes I use a big sketchbook and sometimes a smaller one.  In the fall of 2010, I filled up two 18″ x 24″ (45.7 x 61 cm) spiral-bound sketch pads.  More recently, I’ve been using a smaller sketchbook, but when I looked back at the bigger ones I felt the fact that I could get multiple figures on a single page conveyed a sense of movement, of one pose flowing into the next, much more effectively than the smaller sketchbooks, where most of the poses are isolated one to a page.

In this post I’ll share some of those fall 2010 sketchbook pages.  Rather than discussing them individually, I’ll give the images in random order, with my thoughts interspersed.  Most of the words relate to the whole set of sketches, not just those directly above or below.

Adam 20101106c, by Fred Hatt


For me, a drawing can reproduce the form and structure of the body, the light and shadow, space and weight, with precision, and that can be beautiful.  But if a drawing captures the feeling of living energy or movement, now that’s exciting.  So I like to view a series of quick poses as a kind of dance performance.

Kuan 20100906q, by Fred Hatt


Most, maybe all, of the sketches in this post are from two-minute poses.  In a typical quick pose set, a model will perform ten two-minute poses of their own choosing.  Usually the monitor or supervisor of the session will call “Change,” at two minute intervals.  It’s like a dance, but instead of being performed in flowing movement, it’s composed of a series of held positions.

MichaelR 20101002b, by Fred Hatt


Many of the models are dancers or actors.  Others are visual artists themselves, or writers, musicians, athletes, bodyworkers, yogis.  Some of them have a deeper working knowledge of anatomy than do most of the figurative artists drawing them.

Betty 20100927c, by Fred Hatt


Some models want to express emotion, others want to show energy, to reveal structure, or to explore grounding and focus.

MichaelH 20100911b, by Fred Hatt


I don’t just look at the pose.  I watch the transitions even more intently.  In the way the model moves from one pose to the next you can see where in the body the energy is concentrated, where there is a push or a pull into the next pose.  The contours that express that impulse or that tension are the lines that make the drawing dynamic.

Maho 20100122b, by Fred Hatt


At the two drawing venues I attend regularly, Spring Studio and Figureworks Gallery, we’re fortunate to have a great variety of models, ranging in age from 18 to 90 or so, and in body type from emaciated to corpulent.  Our models also vary greatly in their personality and their approach to the job of modeling.

Kyle 20101115d, by Fred Hatt


I look for the characteristics that make each model unique.  This means focusing on specific curves and angles.  Some teachers of drawing urge an approach that simplifies and abstracts the body structures, but too much abstraction makes all the figures generic.  It’s much more interesting to be as specific as possible.

Jiri 20101122c, by Fred Hatt


Each model has particular qualities.  The model above has long, angular limbs and a face that reaches forward with intensity.  The one below has an elegant torso that is all parabolic curves, with a beautiful bowlike collarbone.

Vassilea 20101206b, by Fred Hatt


In The Natural Way to Draw, Kimon Nicolaides teaches a method of learning figure drawing that starts from two seemingly opposite exercises – scribbly, spontaneous “gesture” drawing, and slow, painstaking “contour” drawing.  When you get more practiced, you begin to understand that every contour has a gestural expressive aspect, and every gestural marking has its own contour, so these extremes meet and merge.

Shizu 20100918b, by Fred Hatt


I often let the figures spill off the edges of the page.  The sketches can look more dynamic that way, and it is often more interesting to capture more detail in the most dynamic part of the pose than to spend that time dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, so to speak.  But the direction of the head, and of the hands and feet, can be an important part of what makes the pose expressive.

Chuck 20101018c (crayon), by Fred Hatt


Some models like to act out scenes or perform actions, either everyday ones or dramatic ones.

Adam 20101106d, by Fred Hatt


Some models come out of one pose completely and then go into a completely different next pose, while others treat the transition from one pose to the next as a flow, perhaps keeping part of the body anchored while another part changes direction.

Ellen 20101129b (pen), by Fred Hatt


Some models are students of the history of figurative art, and derive their poses from what they’ve seen in the work of Caravaggio, Rubens, or Rodin.

Yisroel 20101011b, by Fred Hatt


Some models take casual poses, varying attitudes or presentations of the balanced body.

Carmen 20101030d (ink brush), by Fred Hatt


Other models like to use quick poses to explore their limits of stretching or balancing, taking poses that are highly challenging to hold even for one or two minutes.

Elizabeth 20100920a, by Fred Hatt


Poses that twist or reach into open space tend to untwist or droop a bit, even in just a minute or two.  Many of the classic poses involve bracing one part of the body against another or against a wall or support, to ensure stability.

Shizu 20101113a, by Fred Hatt


Most models have a repertory of poses that they use frequently.  Most have a consistent style or feeling that is maintained through a whole set of long poses.  When the feeling or type of pose changes radically from one to the next, a multi-pose page looks less like a record of the flow of movement, and more like a scene with more than one character.

Sue 20101025c, by Fred Hatt


A set of quick poses usually reveals more of the particular character of a model than a long pose does.  It’s not possible for a model to really push limits or put intense energy into a long pose.  Quick poses are a performance, a gift of energy to the artist.  I always feel that I must give total focus and intensity to this exercise.  Like most of the good things in life, a quick pose must be savored in the moment, because it can’t last long!

Ellen 20101129c (pen), by Fred Hatt


All of these sketchbook pages are 18″ x 24″, and all were made between September and December of 2010.  All are done in pencil unless otherwise noted.


Mixing in the Eye

Alley, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Most contemporary technologies of color image reproduction use optical mixing to obtain a full range of colors.  Four-color process printing, CRT, LCD and plasma displays, all reproduce a wide gamut of hues and values using tiny dots of ink or luminous pixels in just three or four colors.  The colors remain discrete in the image, and are only blended in the eye.  The illustration below shows a detail of a printed color picture, with inks of cyan, magenta, yellow and black in dots of variable size.  A color monitor performs a similar trick with glowing red, green and blue dots of variable brightness.

Image printed in four-color process, with detail showing halftone dots

The old masters who developed the craft of pictorial oil painting did not, as far as I know, ever consciously use the phenomenon of optical color mixing.  Most of them used some variation of the technique of grisaille, or painting in black and white (or sometimes in greens or earth tones), then adding color by applying thin transparent glazes over this monochrome foundation.  Jan Van Eyck is often considered the first master of this technique, and it’s still commonly used by painters who follow the classical methods.  Here are two versions of a painting by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, the first version in grisaille, and the second with color glazes applied.

Odalisque in Grisaille, 1824-34, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Grande Odalisque, 1814, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The great virtue of this method is to achieve a feeling of solidity and luminosity.  The grisaille painting allows for a sculptural rendition of values, and the white of the grisaille reflects all wavelengths of light, which are then subtly filtered by the glazes.  Light penetrates the transparent surface layer of the painting and reflects back to us from a deeper level, tinged as the setting sun or the distant mountain are tinged by the intervening atmosphere.

Directly mixing pigments on the palette or on the canvas, on the other hand, tends to give dull and flat colors.  Every opaque blend of two pigments has less brightness and less intensity of color than either of its components.  The natural mineral pigments available to painters before the industrial revolution were extremely limited, so the glazing technique was often the only way to achieve color that was both vivid and subtle in its gradations.

In the nineteenth century, several technological innovations led to a completely new approach to color in painting.  Photography quickly surpassed the painters in its ability to render monochromatic values.  This made painters strive to reproduce the more vibrant effects of color that photography still could not capture.  Modern industrial chemistry discovered new synthetic pigments that were both permanent and far more vivid than the classical artists’ pigments.  All those paints with chemical sounding names like alizarin and phthalocyanine are products of the new chemistry.  Pre-mixed paints in squeezable metal tubes were yet another nineteenth century development that made it much easier for an artist to leave the studio and study the colors of nature and the effects of light outdoors, or en plein air.

French Impressionism was the product of all these changes.  The old methods started to seem stodgy and lacking in spontaneity, and in any case were unsuited to plein air painting.  You can observe optical color mixing effects starting from the beginnings of the impressionist movement, as in this Renoir painting.

Bal au Moulin de la Galette, 1876, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

In the detail below, you can see that the clothing and shadows on the ground are painted with various bright colors in close proximity, colors that do not correspond with the actual surface colors of the objects being depicted.  The overall impression of the colors in the painting is vibrant but not unnatural.

Bal au Moulin de la Galette, 1876, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, detail

Monet painted haystacks in a field and the facade of Rouen Cathedral over and over again, trying to capture the ever-changing subtleties of light and air.  [Both links in the preceding sentence are well worth a click!]  Here the haystack contains dabs of red, olive, lavender, violet and black.

Grainstack (Sunset), 1890-91, by Claude Monet

Artists such as Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt used optical mixes of odd colors like greens and purples to depict flesh tones.

Lydia Leaning on her Arms, Seated in a Loge, 1879, by Mary Cassatt

George Seurat studied the science of color perception, and developed an analytical approach to painting with optically mixing colors.  He called his method chromoluminarism, though it’s better known today as pointillism, a word originally coined by critics.  Here’s one of his mural-scale canvases, followed by a detail of a face in profile, showing the discrete dots of color.

La Parade du Cirque (Invitation to the Sideshow), 1889, by George Seurat

La Parade du Cirque (Invitation to the Sideshow), 1889, by George Seurat, detail

What Seurat does with analytical coolness, Vincent van Gogh does with fiery intensity.

Sower with Setting Sun, 1888, by Vincent van Gogh

Optical mixing of colors also interested abstract expressionists such as Joan Mitchell.

Weeds, 1976, by Joan Mitchell

Chuck Close is the heir to Seurat’s analytical approach, as in this monumental self-portrait.

Self Portrait, 1997, by Chuck Close

Self Portrait, 1997, by Chuck Close, detail

For my own work in color, I usually use aquarelle crayons on toothy charcoal paper.  The crayons deposit bits of pigmented wax on the ridges of the paper.  Going over an area with more than one color leaves the markings separate, and the colors mix optically.  Here’s a detail of the portrait of Alley featured at the top of this post.  You can see that the flesh tones are made up of strokes of blue gray, pink, yellow, light blue, reddish brown and white, on a neutral gray paper.  The technique is particularly effective at depicting reflected light in shadow areas.

Alley, 2009, by Fred Hatt, detail

Here’s a quicker figure sketch, followed by an enlarged detail.  Here the colors making up the flesh tones include turquoise, orange, fuschia, and yellow.

Maira Horizontal, 2010, by Fred Hatt

Maira Horizontal, 2010, by Fred Hatt, detail

Mixing colors in the eye, rather than on the palette, produces color impressions that are bright and shimmery, that suggest not only the effects of light but the slippery nature of flesh tones.  The actual colors of living human skin are subtle to the point of elusiveness.  Skin is translucent, imbued with underlying colors of blood and fat.  Its surface is nearly iridescent, and reflects and refracts the colors of surrounding objects and lights.  Flat colors cannot capture this subtlety.  Grisaille and glazing can, and so can optical mixing, in a very different way.

All the images in this post, besides those of my own work, were found on the web.  Clicking on the pictures will take you to their source pages, and in many cases, to larger versions of the images.


12 Months

Filed under: Photography: The Seasons — Tags: , , , , , — fred @ 00:50

Slick Sidewalks, January, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Here we take a look back at 2010 in the landscape of New York City, with one photo from each month.  I often keep a camera with me as I walk around the city, and photograph scenes and patterns and effects of the light that catch my eye, like the rainy reflections above, or the illusion of a face in a mound of plowed snow, below.

God of Dirty Snow, February, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Road Plate, March, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Metallic gray is warmed by the brown of rust or the pink of spring blossoms.

Petaled Accord, April, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Deepwater Demon, May, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Sunset Shorts, June, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

The Summer is about relaxing outdoors.  Streetlights through leaves make an urban park at night an impressionist fantasy.

Bryant Park at Night, July, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Signals, August, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

The chaos of signs, patterns and colors embodies the energy of the city.

Sign Painter, September, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Shadowscreen, October, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Autumn in New York is a long, lingering season of mild weather and gentle brightness.

S Curve, November, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Wall Sheen, December, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

All of these pictures were made with a Canon G11, casual shots of scenes glimpsed as I made my quotidian peregrinations of jobs and errands in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.  I have selected one photo out of all those made in each month of 2010.  Happy 2011!

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