DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Wax and Water

Weathermap, 2011, watercolor on paper, 38" x 34", by Fred Hatt

A few months ago, I made a change in my regular life drawing practice.  My primary drawing medium for over fifteen years had been Caran d’Ache Neocolor II aquarelle crayons.  Aquarelle means watercolor, and the pigments laid down by these crayons can be thinned or blended with water, but I always used them as a dry medium.  Caran d’Ache crayons are similar in size and feel to the familiar Crayola crayons, but they have a much higher pigment density, so they just glow on a background of black or gray paper. One day I decided to change over to a very different medium, to give myself new challenges.  I feel it’s important to keep any creative practice expansive by changing things up in small ways constantly, and in big ways occasionally.  So when I went to the life drawing sessions I began leaving my crayon box at home and bringing instead my watercolor paints and brushes.

There’s a repetition factor in the life drawing practice anyway, as you’ll often see the same models in similar poses to ones you’ve drawn before, and in such a case it’s always more interesting if you can come up with a slightly different approach than the one you used the last time.  Working with a very different medium, one you haven’t yet mastered, is certainly enough of a change to keep it fresh.  I’ve begun to amass a collection of similar pieces in the two media, and in this post I’ll be sharing pairs of images.  Each one of these pairs is of the same model, in similar poses, drawn at similar sizes and over roughly the same amount of working time, but one of each pair is a watercolor painting while the other is a crayon drawing.

The painting at the top of this post and the crayon drawing just below are both studies of model, actor and artist Alley, rendered in free, expressive strokes in their respective media.  I’ve always liked the linear aspect of drawing, as the movement of the line captures a feeling of energy.  Interestingly, in comparing these two, the painting has more linear energy than the drawing does, but the crayons on a black ground give more of an impression of light.

Rotation, 2006, aquarelle crayon on paper, 30" x 30", by Fred Hatt

Next, here are two larger-than-life-size heads of Michael, the first a crayon drawing and the second a watercolor painting.

Michael W., 2009, aquarelle crayon on paper, 28" x 20", by Fred Hatt

Michael W, 2011, watercolor on paper, 19" x 24", by Fred Hatt

Initially the crayon drawing may appear more linear, but a closer inspection shows that both versions are built up from linear strokes following the contours of the face.  My painting style is becoming quite similar to my drawing style.  The biggest difference is that the crayon drawings start with a dark surface and add light, while the paintings start from white paper and build shadows.  The crayon drawings are an additive process, like modeling a sculpture from clay, while the watercolor paintings are a subtractive process, like carving a sculpture from a block of stone or wood.

Details of two portraits of Michael W, 2009 crayon (left) and 2011 watercolor (right)

Here are two 20-minute sketches of Lilli’s back.  Notice how free is the movement of the hand in the lighter colors of the crayon drawing.  I can add higher-value colors little by little in this scribbly fashion until it’s light enough.

Sidesit, 2009, aquarelle crayon on paper, 20" x 28", by Fred Hatt

In watercolor painting, the white paper is dominant and blinding, but a single wrong touch can destroy it.  The sculptural analogy holds here – in watercolor painting, as in stone carving, a misplaced stroke can ruin it all.  The hand must be confident and sure.

Seated Contrapposto, 2011, watercolor on paper, 15" x 20", by Fred Hatt

These two 20-minute portrait sketches of Mike (not the same Mike as in the third and fourth pictures in this post) show me trying to go against the tendencies of the media mentioned in the notes on the Lilli back sketches.  In the crayon drawing I’m trying to give the lines great clarity and confidence.

Sketcher and Poser, 2011, aquarelle crayon on paper, 20" x 25", by Fred Hatt

In the watercolor painting below I’m trying to be as loose and sketchy as the cloudiest crayon drawing.  This is mostly painted with a fan brush or comb brush, the paint kept fairly dry.

Michael H, 2011, watercolor on paper, 19" x 24", by Fred Hatt

I’ll conclude with another pair of more developed drawings of Lilli, in both of which she closes her eyes.  (Lest this pairing give the wrong impression, I assure you that Lilli is always alert and focused as a model, eyes closed or not!)  Both of these pieces are worked in many layers, to approach a realistic impression of color and solidity.  A closer look at either one, though, will show the construction of cross contour lines, with colors mixed on the paper, not on the palette.

Reverie, 2008, aquarelle crayon on paper, 28" x 20", by Fred Hatt

Standing, Eyes Closed, 2011, watercolor on paper, 19" x 24", by Fred Hatt

Readers, I invite you to comment on these pairs – what strikes you about the difference between a crayon drawing and a watercolor painting of the same subject?

Powered by WordPress

Theme Tweaker by Unreal