DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2009/08/05

Time and Line

Plantar, 2008, by Fred Hatt

Plantar, 2008, by Fred Hatt

In an essay I wrote in 1999 I said “Drawing records something photography does not – the movement of perception in time.”  Every mark made in drawing represents a moment of seeing or of imagination.  The energy of the artist’s strokes convey to a viewer something of the energy of the creative act.  I want to preserve this quality of line, and for this reason have chosen to work primarily with media in which the line does not become blended or smudged.

Since the time I came to understand the time-based aspect of drawing, it has been an important basis of my creative process.  I had first experienced drawing or painting as a record of the movement of consciousness in making abstract work, but I eventually discovered that my focus benefited greatly from working with models.  In In order to practice working from models in motion, I organized “Movement Drawing” sessions, life drawing sessions in which the models were dancers and other kinds of trained movers.

Movement Drawing Flyer, 1997, by Fred Hatt

Movement Drawing Flyer, 1997, by Fred Hatt

In order to make it possible to see and capture something of the movement, we asked the models to perform extremely slow movement, stop-and-go movement, and repeated movement (same gesture or movement phrase repeated for five minutes at a time).  These sessions were challenging and exhausting practice.  It was possible to fill an entire fat sketchbook in a single session.  I was spending a lot on paper, and the piles of drawings in my apartment were growing quickly.  One of my solutions was to draw many overlapping figures on the same page, using different colored crayons selected randomly so that the individual figures could be distinguished in the mesh.  Here’s a typical example from that time:

Patrick movement sketch, 2000, by Fred Hatt

Patrick movement sketch, 2000, by Fred Hatt

Another adaptation was drawing with ink on long scrolls, as seen in this previous post.

Around the time I was most intensely involved in movement drawing, I visited my family in Oklahoma, where I grew up.  Looking through the artwork I had done as a child, the earliest sketch I found was a crayon drawing made when I was three years old or so.  My mother had labeled this drawing as I had described it to her, “José Greco Dancing in Purple Boots”.   José Greco was a famous flamenco dancer and choreographer who made a great impression on me as a child.  Here’s a clip of Greco’s dance, followed by my childhood interpretation:

José Greco Dancing in Purple Boots, 1961, by Fred Hatt

José Greco Dancing in Purple Boots, 1961, by Fred Hatt

Finding this drawing showed me that I had known my mission from the start.  Already at age three I was inspired by dance, trying to capture the energy of movement through scribbly crayon drawings.  I just lost my way in life and it took me nearly forty years to find my way back to the path!

Starting around 2003 I began using the technique of overlapping figures in different colors to make much larger, almost mural scale drawings, and developed a way of working in which I allowed a sort of chaotic buildup of figurative lines, followed by a phase of finding dynamic form in the mess.  An earlier blog post describes the process and shows phases of development of one piece.  A number of large drawings made in this way can be seen in this gallery on my portfolio site.

The remainder of images in this post are of several of these large drawings made in the past year.  All are 48″ x 60″ (122 cm x 152 cm), aquarelle crayon (sometimes combined with oil pastel) on black paper.  These are selected not necessarily as the best of my drawings of this type, but to show variations on the style.  Each one is made working with a single model who takes multiple quick poses, mainly of their own choosing.  Work with the model is completed in a single session, followed by further work on my own to develop and clarify the compositions.

The model for this one is a dancer of great intensity:

Tropic, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Tropic, 2009, by Fred Hatt

On this one I kept changing the orientation of the paper as I added new figures.  It makes it a little difficult to read.  I imagine it being displayed on a ceiling, or with a slowly rotating motor so different figures might dominate the composition at different times:

Edges, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Edges, 2009, by Fred Hatt

In the next drawing, the overlapping figures become a kind of complex landscape, a mysterious cave:

Range, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Range, 2009, by Fred Hatt

On the drawing below, when I was finished working with the model I was afraid the mass of figures was a hopeless jumble, but bringing color into the in-between spaces caused the whole thing to crystalize beautifully:

Seer, 2009, by Fred Hatt

Seer, 2009, by Fred Hatt

In these drawings, not only do the lines express the movement of my perceptions in time, but the multiple overlapping figures show the movement of the model over a period of time.  Aspects of the bodily form, the quality of movement, the energy and feeling expression of the model become part of the resulting image.

The cubists were trying to move beyond the limitations of the pictorial or photographic view by showing their subject from multiple angles simultaneously, suggesting the third spatial dimension not by the traditional way of projection or perspective, but by fragmentation.  In these drawings, I’m fragmenting the fourth dimension, time, to bring it onto the plane and into the frame.

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