DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Pluvial Polyrhythms

Filed under: Video: Natural Phenomena — Tags: , , , — fred @ 13:15

Still from "Driving Rain", 2008, video by Fred Hatt

Before I get into this week’s material, I’d like to urge my readers to click over to Museworthy, where my friend, model, and blogging mentor Claudia is celebrating four years of her entertaining, inspiring, and enlightening blog about artists, models, and her life as an artists’ model.  Every Museworthy blogaversary post has featured a photo of Claudia by me.  Check out this year’s shot at the link!  And here are the shots for years one, two, and three.

Still from "Driving Rain", 2008, video by Fred Hatt

I’m continuing to develop my own approach to watercolor painting, but I’ll wait to post on that again until I have a wider selection of examples to share.  Today’s post, though, does feature colors running in water, as well as optical phenomena of distortion and reflection, so you could see it as a continuation of themes.

Still from "Driving Rain", 2008, video by Fred Hatt

The stills here are from “Driving Rain”, a video made in the spring of 2008.  This is one of my experiments in minimal cinema, using the video camera to capture fleeting phenomena of light and motion.  We are used to seeing moving image media used to present narrative, to entertain, educate, persuade, or manipulate.  I’m interested in stripping all of that away, to see the moving image as simply an image of movement.  We appreciate still pictures for their aesthetic and formal qualities, for their ability to show us the world through another’s awakened eye.  I believe video can do the same, separate from its rhetorical dimensions.  (For other “minimal cinema” efforts, see here and here.)

Still from "Driving Rain", 2008, video by Fred Hatt

The video is nothing but a shot through the windshield of a vehicle during a pelting downpour, driving across the Williamsburg Bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan, through the streets of the Lower East Side, and up the FDR Drive along the East River waterfront of Manhattan.  There is no music, there are no voices, and there are no edits until nine minutes into the total eleven-minute running time.  Sounds boring as hell, you say?  It is, unless you give in to the film’s narrative blankness and start appreciating the peculiar complexities of the images and sounds.

Still from "Driving Rain", 2008, video by Fred Hatt

There is the mechanical beating of the windshield wipers, the deluge’s waves of white noise, and the roar of the engine.  There’s the stop-and-go flow of traffic and the relentless flow of water from the sky.  The world is seen through a refractive surface of water droplets and rivulets.  Droplets are drawn downward by gravity, shoved aside by the wiper, and blown upward by the wind.

Still from "Driving Rain", 2008, video by Fred Hatt

Because you aren’t actually driving in this monsoon, you are free to enjoy the musical phases of its various rhythmic elements, to marvel at the complexity of the movements of water on glass, to appreciate the impressionist scattering of light and color that the wet windshield introduces to the world beyond it.

Still from "Driving Rain", 2008, video by Fred Hatt

The video is embedded below (unless you receive the blog by email), but I suggest following this link to see the video in full screen and HD resolution.  If your computer or connection isn’t up to that, or if you’re reading this blog on your phone, don’t bother – just enjoy the stills.  This video was conceived with the idea of projecting it in high definition on a large screen, and it works best that way.

If you appreciate the beauty of rain as I do, you might also enjoy this earlier post, featuring still pictures of rain in the city.


A Toe in the Water

Sketch with watercolors and brush, 2011, by Fred Hatt

I’ve been doing art sessions with a good friend’s seven year old daughter.  She wanted to learn about painting and I thought pan watercolors would be a good medium to start with – vivid colors, cheap, and not too messy.  Sharing her beginner’s joy with watercolors inspired me to try working with pan watercolors in the life drawing sessions I attend regularly, and in this post I’ll share some of the results from my first two weeks of struggling with this medium, which I have never before attempted to master.

Many of my readers are art students, so this blog is my platform to be a teacher.  I supervise an uninstructed weekly life drawing session at Spring Studio in New York.  A lot of older, experienced artists attend the session regularly.  Many of them have done life drawing or painting practice for decades.  I’ve noticed that while nearly all of them have a pretty good style and technique, most long ago settled into a comfortable rut.  They stopped when they got good, kept doing what worked for them, and haven’t learned anything new in a long time.  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but the magic of art as a practice is that it is possible to keep it growing and expanding for a lifetime, and they’re missing out on that.

In this blog I always urge pushing the envelope, going out of your comfort zone, being willing to fail.  I often try different drawing materials and techniques for quick drawings, work on varying scale, and experiment in various ways.  But in my developed drawings I too could be accused of working the comfortable rut.  I developed my technique of drawing with aquarelle crayons on gray or black paper a long time ago.  It’s a great way of working, perfectly suited to my strengths and tendencies, and difficult for other people to copy.  I can easily vary the technique to make it more impressionistic or expressionistic or stylized or classical.  I’ve made the medium my own.

But once you’ve mastered something it may be time to move on to something that remains a challenge, to get back to the Zen ideal of “beginner’s mind”.  Watercolor struck me as an ideal challenge, because it goes against almost everything I love about the crayon technique.

With the crayons, I start with a dark ground and build from the highlights first.  With watercolors, the paper is white and paint can only make it darker.  With crayons, my focus is bold, linear, gestural.  Watercolors are soft by nature, and intensity is only achieved by incremental washing.  With crayons, I use additive, optical mixing of colors.  With watercolors, colors blend subtractively.  My style of drawing is to dive in spontaneously and then to work towards correcting mistakes in subsequent layers.  Watercolors are transparent, making it nearly impossible to correct things by going over them.

Companheiros, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In quick drawings, one minute to five minutes, I’m still drawing with my flowy linear style.  The watercolor brush is far more responsive to touch than a pencil or pen.  Speed and pressure affect line thickness, but density also varies according to the ratio of water and pigment in the brush, and whether the brush dashes quickly or lingers as it moves.

Stepping Forward, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here are two beautifully expressive quick poses from my great friend Claudia, the Museworthy blogger.

Onde, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Compared to a pen, pencil, or crayon, the brush is hard to control.  There’s almost no friction – it’s like walking on wet ice.

Réveil, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Here are some ten and twenty minute watercolor sketches from the sessions at Brooklyn’s Figureworks Gallery, with the wonderfully idiosyncratic models Taylor and Jillian.

Lying on Side, 2011, by Fred Hatt

I’m still more or less drawing with the brush.  Some watercolor painters use watercolor-specific techniques like letting the paint infuse into pre-wetted paper.  So far, I’m using regular inexpensive sketch paper and painting “wet on dry”.

Supplicant, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Maybe with tube watercolors you can get deep colors right out of the tube.  With these pan watercolors every color goes on pretty thin, and then gets even lighter as it dries.  You have to paint multiple layers to get any density.  This may be a good thing, since there’s no erasing.

Rayon Vert, 2011, by Fred Hatt

The dryer I can keep the brush, the more controllable the line is.  By combining wet and dry application I can use some of my pencil drawing techniques but also blended shading.

Tea Drinker, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Little touches of color can suggest area color without filling it in.

Vanquished, 2011, by Fred Hatt

On the one below, I lightly sketched in the figure with crayons, then used watercolor for the shading and colors.  The foreshortening of the right leg at the bottom of the page is a bit awkward here, but the torso is wonderfully present.

Rêverie, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Just this week I tried for the first time using watercolors for a long pose at the three-hour session I supervise at Spring Studio on Monday mornings.  I allowed myself to use crayons for the initial rough sketch, and to sharpen highlights and shadows at the end of the session, but besides those small touches, this is all watercolor.

Športnik, 2011, by Fred Hatt

I was getting a little too adept at crayon drawing.  Working with watercolors, I’m struggling again, and it feels good.  I think I’ll keep working with this medium for a while, so expect to see more here, perhaps mixed in with crayon drawings.

All the pieces in this post are 18″ x 24″, pan watercolors (sometimes with aquarelle crayon) on paper.


Distorted Reflections

Filed under: Photography: Light — Tags: , , , , — fred @ 23:20

Glass Bricks, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

I’m feeling a bit oversaturated these days, both by the incessant rain we’ve been having in the Northeastern states, and by the relentless media focus on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001.  If you’re interested in a long-time New Yorker’s look back at that event and its cascading effects over the past decade, look at my post from last year, “Signs in the Aftermath.”  For now, I’d rather distract myself and my readers with shiny things.

Insistent Squares, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

I live in a city of glass and steel and plastic, colored electric lights and glittering curves and facets.  The quadrangular grid is the fundamental pattern of the city, rigid, regular, and inhuman.  But the grid is only the substructure for a culture of remarkable frenzy and chaos.  Chaos manifests in the pure optics of grids of reflective materials, as the inevitable imperfection of flat surfaces introduces dazzling distortions.  Sometimes the details of a reflected view are fragmented and repeated, something like what an insect supposedly sees with its compound eye.

Emergent Image, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

There are layers of reflections, as when an object of stainless steel, with cylindrical curves, is viewed through a window, whose transparent and reflective qualities superimpose the space in front of the viewer over the space behind the viewer.

Modern Lamp, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

At night, metallic walls turn the various sources of light into swirling patterns like the methane turbulences of the planet Jupiter.

Steel Clouds, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Or like the op-art paintings of Victor Vasarely.

Diner Rays, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Or like the tormented patterns of Arshile Gorky.

Plexi Deli, 2002, photo by Fred Hatt

Frenetic jabs of neon and fluorescent light put a figure in an environment of cold fire.

Silvery Gate, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Stainless steel facets turn architecture into abstract expressionism.

Deco Shatter, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Perhaps this view of reality, faceted, multiply reflected, distorted, layered, shows a reality that the classical image, with its hard-edged clear divisions, misses.  Objects are not separate, but exist only in a complex web of relationships.

Patchwork, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

A person exists only as a reflection of all that is around them.

Chrome Mannequin, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Our love of order and regularity makes us build an environment of reflective planes.  The imperfection of our planes reveals the contortions we like to think we’ve transcended.

Drunken Building, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Our grids are ragged and jagged.

Spasmodic Geometry, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

The more we try to order our world, the more it asserts its unwillingness to be ordered.

Amoebic Grid, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

The taillight of a car in the sunset becomes a scarlet thread in the steel quilt of a vendor’s cart.

Red Infusion, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

A new monument near Union Square depicts Andy Warhol as the artist who reflected his surroundings, mirrorlike.

Silver Andy ("The Andy Monument", by sculptor Rob Pruitt, 2011), photo by Fred Hatt

Regularity and symmetry are an illusion.  The world we move in is dynamically unbalanced.

Red Distortion, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Our reality is a membrane that seems to have an inside and an outside, but those two worlds are both implicit in the membrane, and their separateness is an illusion.

Winter Fruit, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

An image like this exists only because of the conjunction of the car and the building reflected in its surface.  Light makes them one thing.

Pathfinder, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

A red printed number is on fire with orange and blue-green light.

$9, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

New shiny, curvy, minimalist architecture exists visually only as a distorted reflection of  old, opaque, classical, decorated architecture.

Fragmentation, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

In many Asian businesses, the beckoning cat invites prosperity.  This silvery one also captures the colors and light of its surroundings.

Beckoning Cat, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

Water is also used as a decorative element in the city of glass and steel.  Its light distortions are dynamic, always in motion.

Plaza Pool, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Here mirror reflection, reflected light and shadow, and a sloped glass wall are framed by flat and rounded opaque geometric structures.

Recursion, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

This combination of gridlike patterns and irregularly reflective surfaces is the visual essence of the twentieth century city.

Glass Loom, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt



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