DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt


The Doodle Abides

Nature Boy, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I drew this this morning after a session of Authentic Movement.  It’s a kind of moving meditation, a group practice of discovering the impulses to movement within your body, following them wherever they lead you, and responding in the moment.  The practice called Authentic Movement was developed in the 1950’s by Mary Starks Whitehouse, a student of choreographers Mary Wigman and Martha Graham, and developed in later decades by Janet Adler, Joan Chodorow, and others.  My friend Peter Honchaurk, who studied the form with Adler,  introduced me to it twenty years ago, and ever since then it’s been one of my essential practices.  Nowadays I’m part of a peer group of Authentic Movers, and we meet once a month in Prospect Park in Brooklyn to move and witness together.  Many people treat the practice as a form of somatic therapy, but for me it’s always been most essentially a way to stay in touch with the creative spirit that resides in the body and in the relationship between the inner world and the world outside.

The drawing above is an expression of the connection with elemental energies that I felt moving in the park.  The remainder of the pictures in this post will consist of a collection of my doodles, most of which are done while at work, riding transportation, or talking on the phone, not in connection with Authentic Movement practice.  Illustrations are in random order, so the relation of text to images is mostly coincidental.  (Earlier posts on the art of doodling are here and here.)

Score for Solo Dance, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In Authentic Movement we usually move with eyes closed.  For a person like me, extremely visually oriented and, if not quite intellectual, at least mental, consciousness tends to reside mainly in the head, with the body serving as the vehicle to move the head around in the world.  When the eyes are closed, awareness naturally shifts downward into the body.  Eyes-closed orientation relies not on visual cues, but on contact with the ground or floor.   Proprioception and tactility supplant visual/intentional navigation.

Analysis, 2011. by Fred Hatt

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you may have gleaned a central theme, that I treat visual art as an art of movement, like music or dance.

Curandero, 2011, by Fred Hatt

All organic forms, the bodies of plants, animals, and people, the shapes of clouds and of the land, emerge from dynamic processes of movement and growth.

Generative S;iral, 2012, by Fred Hatt

To draw is to feel form back into the movement from which it arises.

Forest Runner, 2011, by Fred Hatt

You can get to know a landscape by roaming about it, feeling its texture with the soles of your feet and its contours as gravity reveals them to you.

Floor Plan for a Happy Drunk, 2012, by Fred Hatt

A blank piece of paper is a fairly homogenous landscape, so roaming about it with a brush or pen or pencil is an exploration of the hills and valleys of your mind more than of the paper.

Cogitation/Constipation, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Authentic Movement takes place within a space defined by the “witnesses” who observe the “movers”, and with their attention create a protected circle where the magic can happen.  A doodle happens in a space defined by the edges of the paper provided for it.

Mountain Mouth, 2012, by Fred Hatt

The doodle grows into the two-dimensional space of the paper as a growing houseplant expands within the space contained by its pot.

Bacterium, 2011, by Fred Hatt

If you’re dancing in a space, of course you can keep going back and forth over the same little patch.  When you’re making marks, you have to keep moving into territory that hasn’t been marked yet, as a plant’s roots must penetrate the as-yet unoccupied dirt.

Wreckage, 2011, by Fred Hatt

In movement or in drawing or doodling, you are always responsive to sensory input.  Marks or gestures may arise from internal impulses of nerves or emotions or imagination, or they may come from hearing a bird or feeling the wind.

French Curves, 2012, by Fred Hatt

This approach eschews concepts and plans.  There is no preconceived idea one is trying to portray.  There is simply a flow of moments, shapes that flow into other shapes, images and impulses arising in the mind, in the body, or in the world.

Treasure Map, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Of course, shapes are seen as things, and the imagination picks up images and runs with them, so free improvisatory doodling or moving is not necessarily strictly nonobjective, but I try to keep representational elements ambiguous, so that I retain the freedom to reinterpret them.

Old King Lear, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Most of these doodles are made without any particular idea in mind, but once they’re done it is much easier to come up with descriptive titles than it is for my figurative drawings.  There is nothing like mindless abstract movement to inspire the imagination!

Stiff Salute, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Organic movement is all about curves and spirals, meanders and branches, echoes and fractals.

Fleurs du Mal, 2012, by Fred Hatt

How does electricity move?  How does blood flow?

Tesla, 2012, by Fred Hatt

How do a flower’s petals unfold?  How do a tree’s limbs reach out and out, penetrating a space of air?

Pagoda of the Hairy Eyeball, 2011, by Fred Hatt

How do you slip on the ice?  How does water carve a canyon?

Man on Wire, 2011, by Fred Hatt

How does the wind wriggle through a gap?  How does a weed expand a crack in concrete?

Bird Lizard Blizzard, 2011, by Fred Hatt

How do dividing cells accrete into a spine?  How does heat make light ripple in air?

Water Cycle, 2011, by Fred Hatt

Why do arteries look like trees?  Why do trees look like lightning?  Why does a river delta look like a tree?

Jazz Hands, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Why does the large scale structure of the universe look like neurons?

The Devil Toupée, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want the movement of the hand to reflect the natural movement of  growing things.

Writhing T-square, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want the movement of the hand to reflect the movement of the mind.

Cul-de-Sac Subdivision, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want a drawing to grow like a plant grows.

Indomitable Weed, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want random things to come into the drawing just as random things enter into any experience, any environment in the world.

Museum of Maladaptive Mutations, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I want to create not by fiat, but by adaptation.

Shaft, 2012, by Fred Hatt

The movement of the mind does not stand apart from the world.  Like the movement of the body, it happens only within a world that has forces and pressures and countercurrents and resistance.  To make is to engage.

Thorny Vessels and Tricky Steps, 2012, by Fred Hatt


Ritual of Enchantment: Human Clay

Claire Elizabeth Barratt in Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

One of the most venerable functions of art is to transform the environment, to create a sacred space or a magical moment, to inspire the imagination or to open the mind to contemplate mysteries.  This may be the impulse behind the painted caves of the Ice Age, and it is why places to pray and places to play are often designed as majestic spaces, or filled with images or music, beautiful light, fine materials, costumed performers, ritualized actions, and sensual delights such as incense and candles.

It is a common conceit of modern society to think we’re past all that, or to segregate such things to churches and carnivals and festivals, to dismiss them as kid stuff or god stuff, therefore not real.  The paradigm for the contemporary art gallery is the industrial space with plain white walls and bright track lighting, the better to display work that is formally reductionist, coldly conceptual, or ironic, and of course, always very, very expensive.

Naturally  there’s a counter-movement.  I’ve always been drawn to alternatives to the white box gallery, and have mostly shown work in unusual venues or as part of collaborative multimedia happenings.  One of the organizers of such events is Claire Elizabeth Barratt.  She’s a dancer, performance artist, and installation artist, but I’d say her real art form is to bring diverse artists together in loose collaborative events that aim to create enchanted spaces.  Under the banner of Cilla Vee – Life Arts, she’s produced countless events in a wide variety of environments.

In June, 2004 and again in August, 2005, I created live ink drawings as part of Human Clay, a production Claire calls a “Motion Sculpture Movement Installation”, melding elements of visual art, dance, and live music, all improvised in the moment.  It was what some people call an “ambient performance.”  A variant on “ambient music“, this term generally describes an event with a designated run time but no beginning, middle or end, so the audience can come and go at will, taking a momentary taste or settling into the experience for as long as they wish.

Human Clay was done in one of the 42nd Street storefront window spaces hosted by the NYC arts organization Chashama.  (I’ve written previously about solo drawing performances I did in Chashama’s windows.)  In this space, people could see the performance through the window from the public sidewalk, or they could come in and sit down on the opposite side of the stage, with the city street as backdrop.  I believe the performance went on for four or five hours each time it was done.

In this post I’m presenting pictures of all the drawings I made during the 2004 and 2005 performances of Human Clay, interspersed with photos of the 2004 performance that I took during breaks from drawing.

Hisayasu Takashio, sculptor, in Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Claire’s description of Human Clay calls it “a constant shifting of landscapes composed of human, rope and twisted tree branch sculptures. The sculptor fervently constructs, molds and forms these elements in a race against time before they give in to gravity and gradually melt towards the ground.”  The sculptor, shown above, is Brooklyn-based Hisayasu Takashio.

Fred Hatt drawing in Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2005, photo by Marc Dale

While the sculptor was moving his dancers and objects into ever-shifting arrangements, I was using them as models for brush sketches.  I had hung long strips of white paper throughout the interior of the space, and over the few hours that the performance went on, I recorded my impressions of the fleeting tableaux with my dancing brush.  As each pose was set, it would only hold for a few seconds before heaviness or the impulse to move caused the fragile structure to collapse, so I had to use my quick-drawing skills.  There’s a shot of me drawing, above, and the finished panel below.  As you can see, the drawings are quite large, so I could move the brush freely, and didn’t have to worry about crowding the paper too quickly.

Drama, left panel, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Normally, a sculptor’s work is long-lasting, but this sculptor was working with living bodies and transient arrangements.  It was up to me to capture what I could, covering the walls with my linear impressions of the slow, shifting sands of the dance.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

The ritual of continuous, slow-paced resculpting was sustained by quiet, trancy music.  Marianne Giosa, a soulful trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist and dancer was performing for the 2004 version.

Drama, right panel, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

The elements the sculptor had to work with were ropes: tough but limp, branches: stiff and serpentine, and living human bodies that could combine all those qualities.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

The performances maintained the same pace and substance for the full duration – no development, no narrative.  But when I look at the drawings, I can’t help but see dramatic events.  There’s no clear plotline you can read.  It’s like looking at the illustrations to a story book in a language you don’t understand.  The imagination is stimulated to fill in the blanks.

Youth, 2 panels, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

The dancers were smeared with clay, which gave them a crusty patina like cracked plaster.  Some of Claire’s other Motion Sculpture events are wildly colorful.  This one is austere, but with a strong dose of nature’s chaotic textures.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

The sticks and ropes added simple but powerful recurring visual motifs to the ever-changing compositions.  Look at the crossed twisty branches above, and in the drawing below, and in the photo below that.

Altar, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

To me the branches evoke the writhing life force, and when the dancers are crossed and suspended and tangled up, my imagination sees sacrifice and struggle.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

I had never met the sculptor before these performances, but Claire must have known his wriggly lines and mine would work in harmony!

Fire, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Always slow, as if in a trance, there is constant change.  A journey through a forest.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Gestures and attitudes, all the expressions of the human body.

Gesticulate, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Contact, sensuality, struggle.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Spreading out, rising up, sinking down, curling inward.

Relation, 3 panels, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

Pose of a hero, a warrior.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Strife, stress, conflict.

Hitting, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Pulling apart and holding together.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Stride, strive, strike.

Arise, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Angle, angel, anger, danger.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Arise, arouse, arrows, errors.

Victory, 3 panels, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

Breathe, bathe, incline, align.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Allay, ally, alloy.

Dance, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

In balance, imbalance.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Every character finds its extreme expression, and its norm.

Individuation, left panel, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Keep the clay wet, to keep it supple.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Curl, curve, curse, cure.

Individuation, right panel, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Everything tends to come to rest.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Every body plays many roles as the endless dance goes on.

Fold, 2 panels, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

We are the stuff of stars and of earth.  We shine and we sink down, and new life is always emerging from death.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatto

This ritual has no story, no structure, no destination.  It goes on and on, and when the time comes, it ends.  In the meantime, it evokes every quality of life, but there is no definitive meaning.  This is my experience of this piece, from my viewpoint as a person who looks and loves and draws.  I’m sure Claire, the sculptor, the dancers, and the musicians all have their own rich and very personal experience of the piece.

Encounter, 2 horizontal panels joined, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

I wonder how the audience experienced it.  I imagine there was quite a range, from the passerby who thinks “Look at the weirdos” to the person who gets sucked into the trance and comes in to sit rapt for an hour or more.  As for me, I want to do more things like this.

Audience on the street watching Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Here are the credits for the performance:  Human Clay with sculptor Hisayasu Takashio, action gesture drawing by Fred Hatt, sound by Marianne Giosa, Judith Berkson and/or Sabine Arnaud, presented at Chashama 42nd Street Storefront, NYC, June 2004 & August 2005.  Dancers in 2004 (those pictured in these photos) were Claire Elizabeth Barratt, Pedro Jimenez, Jill Frere, and Kazu Kulken.  Dancers in 2005 were Claire Elizabeth Barratt, Maria Pirone, Jill Frere, and Judy Canestrelli.

The drawings from 2004 are sumi ink on paper 36″ wide, varying lengths.  The 2005 drawings are sumi ink on paper 48″ wide, also varying lengths.

See video excerpts from these performances here.


In the Flow

Art Seeds performance drawing #4,  30 seconds, 2012, by Fred Hatt

A drawing or painting is an object, an arrangement of marks on a surface, inert and mute.  So what do we mean when we speak of a picture having dynamism or tension, energy or lyricism?  There could be multiple factors.  Movement may be pictorially implied.  Shapes and colors may be arranged in ways that suggest rhythmic repetition or create tensions of weight or light that, like certain chords in music, predict a resolving change.

For me, the most direct path to capturing energy in pictorial visual art is simply to approach drawing or painting as an art of movement.  The brush strokes or pencil marks are tracings of the movement of the artist’s hand.  The hand dances what the eyes see or what the spirit feels.  Movement is the most direct way of expressing grace or violence, serenity or frolic.  A drawing doesn’t move, but it is a product of movement.  The kinetics of its making affect the quality of its marks in a way that viewers can feel.

Direct gestural expression is something drawing and painting have that still photography generally lacks.  For me, that’s a compelling reason to focus on that aspect of art, in this age glutted with mechanically reproduced images.

A longstanding exercise for me is sketching dancers as they move.  It’s one of those things that’s almost impossible to do, like getting a sweet sound out of a violin, and for that reason a great thing to practice, practice, practice.  In this post I’ll share a few recent examples of the rough and spontaneous results of this pursuit.

The thirty-second ink-brush drawing that heads this post was made during a recent performance organized by my friend the dancer Kayoko Nakajima.  She and Carly Czach performed improvised dance in timed intervals, interspersed with similarly timed intervals in which several artists made drawings in response to the movement they’d just witnessed.  Kayoko’s blog for the project shows the resulting drawings of four artists (including me), and the following video by Charles Dennis shows excerpts from the performance, so you can get an idea what the dance was like and how the audiences watched the drawing as well as the dance.

The form of dance that Carly and Kayoko are doing here is called Contact Improvisation.  Notice how the dancers pull or push each other.  Each dancer is feeling her weight in dynamic relation to the other.  The principles of Contact Improv are closely related to the martial art Aikido.  One dancer may push into the other, and the other may respond by redirecting a straight move into a curved one.  One may feel the other’s weight and roll under or push upward.  There’s a constant give-and-take, a shifting flow in which every movement is a transformation of the movement that feeds into it.  Although my drawing hand is dancing solo, not pushing against another hand, I try to capture this feeling of each movement of the brush arising out of the preceding movement.

Art Seeds performance drawing #6, 8 minutes, 2012, by Fred Hatt

In this performance, periods of drawing alternated with periods of dancing, so the drawings are not made during direct observation of the movement.  Thus they capture a memory of motion, not a response in the moment.  The figurative elements in the drawing above also reflect memories rather than direct perceptions.  The brush flows following the aftertaste of a spinal curve, and that curve shifts into the helical analogue of a remembered rotation.

Kayoko’s post features several drawings each by Felipe Galindo, Ivana Basic, Michael Imlay, and myself.  It’s interesting to compare the different ways each of us instinctively channeled the dance into our drawings.  Felipe, an illustrator, focuses on relationships and indicates the directions of movement with arrows and arcs.  In Ivana‘s drawings, the contours of bodies merge with the contours of looping movement, and the bodies don’t just contact, but merge and interpenetrate.  Michael takes the sinuous quality of the dance and projects it imaginatively in biomorphic shapes and suggestions of musical structure.

The night before Kayoko’s performance, I got myself warmed up for it at Cross Pollination, an occasional event at Green Space Studio in Queens where artists draw, dancers move, and musicians play in a freeform interactive space.  These drawings are made in direct observation of dancers, not by memory, though the movement is generally quick enough that once an impression travels from eye to hand to paper it’s a memory anyway.  The next two watercolor sketches are from Cross Pollination.

Tensegrity, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Expressing energy with brush or pencil is not so much about putting the maximum amount of energy into the effort.  In a recent life drawing class I noticed one of the artists scratching away madly, his face screwed up with tension.  But when I looked at his drawing it was scribbly and diffuse.  It expressed something of the physical effort of the artist, but nothing of the quality or presence of the model.  The key to capturing that more subtle energy is the clear focus of the artist’s movement in the work.  It’s like the difference between the flailing of a drunkard and the efficient punch of a martial artist.  The first may expend more raw frenzy, but it’s the second that will knock you out.

Stances of Rest, 2012, by Fred Hatt

I try to be immersed in the experience of perceiving the bodies, feeling the flow of movement and of form.  The way a muscle curls around from the shoulder blade to the top of the arm bone is not so different, when you follow it smoothly, from the way one person reaches out and draws another into an embrace.  Because my brush is moving in a state of grace, I experience everything as a unified current.  It’s obvious that movement is something that flows, but when my mind and hand are dancing, I understand that form is also something that flows.

I try to bring that kind of perception to my practice of life drawing.  The body is a dynamic structure, not a static one.  Every part exists in a relationship of tension or balance with other parts of the body and of its environment.  When the drawing brush freely explores how one part connects with another through movement, the drawings capture some of the sense of the life force that we perceive in a living being.

Chuck, eight quick poses, grid of four watercolor sketches, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Chuck, above, and Kuan, below, are models that give their all in the quick (1-2 minute) poses.  Chuck is an artist whose own paintings show a wonderful sense of movement, sometimes soaring, sometimes tangled.  Kuan is a dancer and choreographer.  She moves with great clarity and takes still poses that look like frozen instants of explosive action.  Their quick poses are wondrous things to see.  But they are so fleeting!  Only by following the flow of the form with the movement of my brush can I capture some impression of the energy they share with us.

Kuan, sixteen quick poses, grid of watercolor sketches, 2012, 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.


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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