DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


Golden Hour and Blue Hour

Filed under: Photography: Light — Tags: , , , , , , — fred @ 01:14

Sunset and Twilight, 2006, photos by Fred Hatt

Photographers and Cinematographers sometimes use the term “magic hour” to refer to times of day when natural daylight takes on special qualities that beautify nearly any setting and imbue it with drama and grandeur.  Unfortunately the phrase is used inconsistently to refer to times just before or just after sunup or sundown.  I prefer the terms “golden hour” for those times when the sun is just above the horizon, and “blue hour” for the time of twilight, when the sun is below the horizon but the sky carries a hint of its glow.  Of course, “hour” is also imprecise, as the duration of the times of magical light depends on season and latitude.  The tropics may have warm weather all year round, but there the setting of the sun is abrupt.  In St. Petersburg or in Patagonia, on the other hand, the  sky can be numinously luminous all day long.

At the golden hour, the sun comes nearly sideways through the atmosphere, passing through significantly more air than when it comes from overhead.  This softens and diffuses the light, and absorbs many of the short (blue) wavelengths, giving it a warm golden or reddish tone.  The landscape is illuminated laterally, with raking shadows revealing the texture of surfaces and things.

Autumn Sundown, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Side lighting is particularly flattering to human subjects.  In stage lighting, illumination from the sides is usual for dance, as it emphasizes the shapes of the body.  The warm tone of late afternoon or early morning light has its own glamorizing effect, reducing harshness and making blemishes and wrinkles less visible.  The softer light doesn’t make people squint as harsh midday light does, nor does it cast dark shadows under their eyebrows and noses.

Photographer, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

When the light comes from behind through translucent things like leaves, grass, or hair, those objects glow with transmitted light, overpowering the ordinary reflected light by which we see opaque things.

Roebling Tea Room, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

When low in the sky, the sun casts shadows laterally, sometimes outlining the shapes of trees and people and things upright on walls, rather than beneath them on the ground or floor.

Studio Window, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

Direct lateral sunlight exposes textural contours in a reddish light, while the overhead blue light diffused through the sky provides a second, softer source of light.  At a particular time these two light sources, red from the side and blue from overhead, may be almost perfectly balanced.

White Brick, 2007, photo by Fred Hatt

A golden glint and long shadows turn the plainest structures into glittering metallic facets.

Gilt Edge, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Buildings are shadowed by other buildings, and the red glow of the setting or rising sun selectively ignites the gridlike structures.

Tinged Red, 2001, photo by Fred Hatt

Just as the sun drops below the horizon, the level of daylight comes into balance with the level of artificial lights.  Buildings are illuminated both from without and from within.

Foggy Evening, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

At certain times, from certain angles of view, reflected light is more powerful than any direct light, outlining softly illuminated subjects against a sharp antipodal sheen.

Shiny Paint, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Once the sun drops below the horizon, the sky retains a diffuse ultramarine glow for some time before darkness completely overtakes the celestial vault.  Artificial lights are now dominant, but the twilight glow pervades the shadows.  Now it is is the blue hour.

Blue & White, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt

The remaining light in the sky gives every unlit thing a blue glow, while interiors and places with artificial lighting shine in warmer tones.

Pay Phones, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

The sky is blue, sodium vapor streetlamps are reddish, incandescent bulbs yellowish, fluorescent lights greenish.

Manhattan Bridge Anchorage, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

The photo below is taken while there was a twilight blue glow in the sky.  Fifteen minutes later, and the women would have been silhouettes against the artificially lit background.

Smoothies - Salads, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

Wet streets reflect the sky, so the blue glow comes from below as well as above.

Rain & Steam, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

As night descends, the overarching dome of light that is the sky gives way to the many separate sources of light that rule the urban night – headlights, streetlights, working lights, signal lights, display lights.

Roadway Composition, 2003, photo by Fred Hatt

When the level of the long wavelength street lighting matches the level of the short wavelength twilight sky, red runs through blue like rivulets of blood in icy water.

Red Feather, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

Pomona Fountain, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt

Through reflection, the golden light of incandescence penetrates the deep blue of the gloaming.

Chelsea Blue, 2011, photo by Fred Hatt

Golden Estuary, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt

The last phase of twilight is an indigo glow that barely rises above black, a memory of light, a faint resonance, a lingering echo.

Park Road, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Central Park at Dark, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt


Painting in Negative

Filed under: Drawing: Experimenting — Tags: , , , , — fred @ 01:07

Firesprite, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt

When I was a teen in the 1970’s, I had a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a wonderful experimental toy in the pre-digital era.  One time I wrote a “message from the aliens”, analyzing the words into phonemes and then trying to speak the whole thing into the recorder in reverse order, to be played backwards by reversing the tape.  The result was barely intelligible – it sounded like someone with a heavy Scandinavian accent trying to speak on the inbreaths.  If I had this tape at hand I would post a sound clip, but I don’t, so you’ll have to imagine it.  At the time, there was a lot of talk in the media about “backward masking“, supposedly concealed or subliminal messages on commercial music recordings.  That was probably my inspiration for that little experiment.  In this post I’m sharing a similar experiment I’ve done recently with painting.

As you know, if you follow this blog, for many years I have used artists’ crayons on black or gray paper in my regular practice of life drawing.  A few months ago, I decided to switch to watercolor painting in order to bring new challenges to the routine.  The most difficult thing for me to get used to with the new medium is working with white paper.  Using crayons and dark paper, I was able to begin by building up the highlights, more natural to my way of seeing than starting with the darks.  In the watercolor technique I’m developing, I occasionally use white gouache (opaque water-based paint) in combination with the transparent watercolors, but the painting technique mainly starts with a white ground and works subtractively.

My approach to drawing has always been influenced by my study of photography.  Film records only light.  It does not see darkness, except as the absence of light.   Most traditional analog photography works through a negative process.  Where light strikes the film, the developed film is darkened, creating a negative, an image in which light is dark and dark is light.  In a color negative, hues are represented by their complementary hues – red becomes turquoise, yellow becomes blue violet, green becomes magenta or purple, blue becomes orange.  A print is made by exposing light-sensitive paper through the original negative.  A double negative becomes a positive, so the lights, darks, and colors of the original scene are reversed, restored to the original,  in the print.

Today I decided to try an experiment of painting in negative.  I would take a photograph such as the fire shot above, and digitally “invert” the colors and values, creating a negative image, as below.

Firesprite, 2006, photo by Fred Hatt, digitally inverted

I printed the negative image and made a painting based on the inverted image.  The painting below uses three watercolor pigments:  phthalocyanine (a greenish blue, complementary to red), ultramarine (a deep violet blue, complementary to yellow), and cerulean (a light sky blue, complementary to orange).  I’m using the paint to selectively subtract from a white ground, but if I make a negative from my painted negative, I’ll be painting light on a dark ground!

Firesprite, 2012, watercolor by Fred Hatt

Now, how will it look when I digitally invert this painting, converting dark to light, and colors to their complementary hues?  Not bad!  The result is a pretty good painterly representation of fire.  In watercolor painting, the darker the color, the more saturated it can be.  In the inverted form, the brightest colors are the most saturated.  Would I have been able to capture the look of fire so well by painting with positive colors on a white ground?

Firesprite, 2012, watercolor by Fred Hatt, digitally inverted

Fire is a luminous phenomenon, and clearly lends itself to such a technique.  What will happen with a figurative subject?  For a model, I chose a photograph of Kayoko Nakajima, the dancer who organized the dancing/drawing performance featured in last week’s post.  Here, Kayoko poses standing in the water of a lake in Harriman Park, in the Catskills region of New York.

Kayoko at Harriman, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt

In the negative, Kayoko’s skin takes on a blue hue, while the greenish reflections on the surface of the water have a purplish tone.

Kayoko at Harriman, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt, digitally inverted

I made a very rough watercolor painting based on the negative version of the photo.

Kayoko at Harriman, 2012, watercolor by Fred Hatt

And here it is, digitally inverted to negative values.  There’s not enough brightness variation between the lower area and the upper area of the water in the picture, but the skin colors are more accurate than I would have predicted.

Kayoko at Harriman, 2012, watercolor by Fred Hatt, inverted

For this post, it would probably have worked better to have the images side-by-side, so you wouldn’t have to scroll up and down to compare paintings with photographs, negatives with positives.  You’ll have to bear with the limitations of the format to make the comparisions.  I really like the effects I can get in negative painting.  Now I’m thinking about trying this technique directly from life.  That will entail looking at light and seeing dark, looking at red and seeing blue-green.  Will it work as well without using photographs as a transitional medium?  Unlikely!  But perhaps a worthy experiment.

The original watercolor paintings in this post are 11″ x 14″.


Dancing/Drawing Performance

Kayoko Nakajima and Carly Czach, dancing Contact Improvisation, 2012, photo by Fred Hatt

On Saturday, February 18, I was drawing as part of this performance by one of my longtime collaborators, Kayoko Nakajima.  Kayoko is a dancer and a deep student of the anatomy of movement.  Here are all the details:

 “ARt Seeds to ARt Sprouts Project 2012”

Concept: Kayoko Nakajima

Improvisational/Contact Improvisational Dance: Kayoko Nakajima, Carly Czach
Improvising Drawing: Fred Hatt, Michael Imlay,Ivana Basic, Jennifer Giuglianotti
Costume: Aya Shibaraha
Video: Charles Dennis
February 18, Sat. 2012
Cumbe: Center for African and Diaspora Dance
558 Fulton Street, 2nd Floor (near Flatbush Ave.)
Brooklyn, NY 11217
This performance was a part of NYFA Bootstrap Festival 2012 A Celebration of Movement and Interdisciplinary Art
featuring Nicola Iervasi, Artistic Director, Mare Nostrum Elements, Kayoko Nakajima with Carly Czach, and Clark Jackson.


The Body Contemplated

Ray, 2012, by Fred Hatt

a person is a bit of this and a bit of that

fuzzy tendencies overlapping, interacting

forged and scourged in the kiln of embodied life


Earrings, 2012, by Fred Hatt

eyes ions, black magnetic pools


A la plage, 2012, by Fred Hatt

zone in on tones

undertone, overtone, midtone

let the parts fall where they may


Elbows & Knees, 2012, by Fred Hatt

body takes a beating just doing the day by day


Brooder, 2012, by Fred Hatt

why are things so

what do things mean

how do things work


Curvature, 2012, by Fred Hatt

a serpent grows limbs

a head aloft partakes of the clouds of heaven

as well as the dirt of the ground


Sleep Tight, 2012, by Fred Hatt

a stack of bones

opal tones


Halt, 2011, by Fred Hatt

expand, contract

concentrate, dissipate


Defeat, 2012, by Fred Hatt

hands ground down while forces face forward


Muscles of the Back, 2012, by Fred Hatt

the bones are the slowest river

the flesh, the nerves, the blood grow to flow, each in its way

life is a convulsion of matter


Gray, 2012, by Fred Hatt

eyes tomorrow

seated present


Outward & Inward, 2012, by Fred Hatt

sentry and slave

guard the grave


Defiant, 2012, by Fred Hatt

the body of light harbors a shade

the body of shadow contains a glow


Graces, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Luna Triune: wax and full and wane and new

the new of course unseen

every cycle has its way, its period, its mystery

each single season’s unique, any noise has its timbre

all is oscillation, orbs in orbit

go down long, draw in and in, only finally open out


Degasian, 2012, by Fred Hatt

bow, bend, lay low

tack and parry, stealthy slow

like grass grows


Retrospect, 2011, by Fred Hatt

space is light

matter is force

time is mind


Rorrim, 2012, by Fred Hatt

feeling with eyes, rove over ridges and marshes and creeks

body is topography and self is weather

sometimes stormy, often calm


Fine Lines, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I am made of moss and ferns

mushrooms and minnows and dim glow worms


Faun, 2012, by Fred Hatt

man is land

containing imagination

soil to till

seed to spill


Heartache, 2012, by Fred Hatt

bereft chest

abject head

trunk bent

tower leant


Brothers, 2012, by Fred Hatt

a man knows a man, nothing said


All the images in this post are watercolor on paper, sometimes with a little white gouache.  I painted all these within the last two months.  Sizes:

Graces and Rorrim:  38″ x 50″ (96.5 x 127 cm).

Ray, Earrings, Elbows & Knees, Sleep Tight, Gray, Defiant, Retrospect, Fine Lines, Faun, Heartache, Brothers:  19″ x 24″ (48.3 x 61 cm).

A la plage, Brooder, Curvature, Halt, Defiant, Muscles of the Back, Outward & Inward, Degasian: 14″ x 17″ (35.6 x 43.2 cm).

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