DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2014/03/15

The Verb “To Draw”

 

Sky God, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Sky God, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Today, on Drawing Life’s fifth anniversary, I would like to invite you to an exhibition (details at the bottom of this post) and to ask the question, “Why is ‘drawing’ called that?

Serrate, 2008, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Serrate, 2008, by Fred Hatt (detail)

The word “draw” comes from Old English and Germanic terms describing various forms of pulling. Sometimes it’s draw, sometimes drag, draft, or the like.

Neon Creature, 2008, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Neon Creature, 2008, bodypaint and photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

(Note: The illustrations between paragraphs are details of my artworks that have appeared in the past five years of Drawing Life. Clicking on the images will link you to the original posts containing uncropped versions of the works. An earlier post with similar detail crops is here.)

Mitchell 2, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Mitchell 2, July, 2011, by Fred Hatt (detail)

We have phrases like draw back, draw forth, draw out, draw in, draw from, draw towards, draw up, draw down.

Street Grass, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Street Grass, 2008, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

An account can be overdrawn, a character in a play underdrawn, breath indrawn.

Torso Vessels, 2009, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Torso Vessels, 2009, by Fred Hatt (detail)

You can draw a card, draw a gun, draw a conclusion, draw a crowd, draw a salary, draw a carriage, draw water, draw fire, draw a blank.

Waxing Moon, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Waxing Moon, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Supposedly the reason we use the word for sketching, or for making pictures, is because we draw our charcoal (or other marker) across a page. But of course the hand engaged in such action is pushing as much as it is pulling.

“The Active Mirror”,2003, by Fred Hatt, detail of acetate drawing

The Active Mirror, 2003, drawing performance by Fred Hatt, detail of acetate drawing 

Maybe if we called it “pushing” instead of “drawing”, we would think of this artform differently. But the sense of pulling seems right to me in myriad ways.

Earth, 1998, photo tryptich by Fred Hatt (detail)

Earth, 1998, photo triptych by Fred Hatt (detail)

To draw observationally is to draw near to something, to study it as if you could pull its essence into you through your eyes. The artist draws inspiration from the subject. By having a subject or object of study the artist remains grounded in a living relational reality, drawing the spirit of life into the picture.

Vascular Tree, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Vascular Tree, 2005, photo by Fred Hatt (detail) 

To draw imaginatively is to draw images, entities, energies up from the unconscious. It is to find embryonic notions and incubate them, and to coax them out of the nest. It is to exaggerate, to extrapolate, to speculate, to reach into the well and draw up the water of potentiality, to make the unreal visible.

Connection, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Connection, Healing Hands series, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

To draw abstractly is to draw upon primeval attractive forces and the structures and processes that derive from them. It is to know hues and shades as pure qualia, to know marks and shapes as matter and energy, to know structures as harmonies.

Towering, 2012, 38? x 50?, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Towering, 2012, 38″ x 50″, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

To share one’s artwork with another person is to attract someone to you not with your looks but with your vision. Even the work of an artist long dead, if it be strong, brings some of those that experience the work close to the artist’s bosom or cranium. The audience is pulled into the artist’s way of experiencing the world.

Twixt, 2011, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Twixt, 2011, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

Of course most of what I’m saying applies not just to drawing per se, but to any really great work of art, be it music or dance, storytelling or performing. Art is what draws us. It draws us out of ourselves, draws us to a new way of feeling. Art draws magical power out of humble, earthy materials. Art calls up the bright spirits and the dark spirits so that they dance for us. Art draws us in. It draws out the creative power that is hidden everywhere and in all. Inspiration means the drawing of breath. Our consumer culture is all about taking in. Drawing is taking in with acute high awareness.

Licking Flames, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Licking Flames, 2009, photo by Fred Hatt (detail) 

Most of our contemporary arbiters of culture think of drawing as a subsidiary thing – a training practice like a musician’s scales, a quick and dirty throwaway tool like brainstorming with Post-It Notes, a messy way of working out a composition or concept, like a plot outline. They see drawing as sketchy, undeveloped, unsophisticated.

Soft Angles 5, 2009, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Soft Angles 5, 2009, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

I contend that drawing is one of the very most basic forms of art, along with music and dance and performing and storytelling. I think it makes more sense to say painting, sculpture, and design are developments from drawing than vice versa, and so drawing must be considered more fundamental.

Adapt Festival 3, 2013, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Adapt Festival 3, 2013, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Those who have followed this blog over the years know that I work with photography, video, performance, body art. I think of drawing as the root of my practice, and the other forms as extensions or variations on drawing. The images accompanying this text are details of figure drawings, doodles, abstract paintings, photographs, and body art. For me they all have some quality in common – a quality that is the essence of drawing.

Window Display in Sunlight, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt (detail)

Window Display in Sunlight, 2010, photo by Fred Hatt (detail) 

Where do you draw the line to define drawing as distinct from, say, painting? Wet media vs. dry? That doesn’t quite nail it. Some pastellists call their work paintings, while ink wash or watercolor sketchers may call their work drawings. Quick vs. developed? That doesn’t work either. There’s a fashion in the art world these days for painstakingly obsessive works using ink or pencil, works that may take longer to make than most paintings, and usually these get called drawings. My friend Lorrie Fredette, sculptor and installation artist, recently made a series of works using sutures, black and white threads sewn into sheets of paper, and she called these drawings. Not all drawings are linear, not all are monochromatic, not all are simple. If there is an essence that defines the art of drawing, it might be directness, or spontaneity, the distillation of energy in image.

Double Exposure, 2007, 30? x 60?, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Double Exposure, 2007, 30″ x 60″, by Fred Hatt (detail) 

What do you call an artist whose primary focus is drawing? Draftsman? That sounds to me like someone who makes schematics and blueprints. Calligrapher? Graphic artist? Designer? Cartoonist? Sketcher? Delineator? Depicter? Tracer? Doodler? Those are all subsets of drawing. “Drawers” usually refers to either sliding storage compartments or underpants, so that doesn’t quite fit the bill either. I have seen some use the term “drawist”, but that seems to me an awkward construction. It think I will have to settle for calling myself a drawing artist.

Coral, 2011, doodle by Fred Hatt (detail)

Coral, 2011, doodle by Fred Hatt (detail) 

If you are someone who draws, or who loves drawing, let me know in the comments section what drawing is all about for you.

Henry, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

Henry, 2010, by Fred Hatt (detail)

If you’re in the D. C. area you can see one of my original drawings in the exhibition “Melange“, curated by Iurro, at Artspace 109, 109 N. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia.Artists in the show include Rachel Blier, Peter Bottger, Joren Lindholm, Scott McGee, Paul McGehee, Jitka Nesnidalova, Tea Oropiridze, George Tkabladze, and Tati Valle-Riestra. The opening is Sunday March 16, 3 to 6 PM.  The show will be up March 18-May 10, 2014.

2014/01/26

Élan Vital

Filed under: Drawing,New work — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 16:39
Windmill, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Windmill, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I’ve named this collection of my recent figure drawing work “Élan Vital” after philosopher Henri Bergson‘s concept of a dynamic impulse manifesting in evolution and creativity.

Resting Torque, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Resting Torque, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Figure drawing is the ongoing practice or discipline through which I strive to perceive the world and my fellow beings not as objects, but as patterns of flowing energy. Science, philosophy, and contemplative intuition can lead one to understand the world in this way, but only an active practice can train the senses to experience it directly.

Shepherd's Crook, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Shepherd’s Crook, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Usually we look at things or people, identify them, and then simply relate to them as objects of utility, threat, pleasure, or whatever role they play in the drama or game of which our ego is the protagonist. To look at things as an artist looks is a kind of meditation, a work of detachment. There can be a lovely pleasure in the activity, and there is surely a goal – the desire to capture something wonderful in a sketch drives our efforts. The intention is focused on the drawing, while the attention is focused on the model.

Sinuous Form, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Sinuous Form, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The eyes naturally move in “saccades“, hopping like a flea from one point of attention to the next. As I study the model’s body, I try to feel these jumps as flowing movements, to imagine that the eye follows the curves I see with a degree of fluid friction, like the oiled hands of a masseur gliding over the rises and hollows of the body. Of course my eyes don’t really move in such a continuous way, but the brush or pencil in my drawing hand does.

Memorious, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Memories, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The light touches and flows over the body of our model and then arrives through our eyes to tell us what it has learned. Light is ever swifter and more responsive than my fingers, but my practice aims at the impossible – to emulate light with my hands.

Clasp, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Clasp, 2013, by Fred Hatt

A fancy word for drawing is “to limn”. It means to delineate, to describe. The dictionary tells me this word is derived from the medieval word “lymnour”, an illuminator (illustrator) of manuscripts, from the latin “illuminare”, to give light. I had always assumed it was related to the word “liminal”, meaning “on the threshold”, which can refer to sensory thresholds or transitional states, but apparently that word derives from a different Latin root, “limen”. In any case, a contour is a perceived edge or threshold, between foreground and background or between light and dark, so to draw the figure is to illuminate by limning with lines the liminal zones of luminosity of the limbs. “Limb”, by the way, comes from the Latin “limbus”, meaning border or edge, and “line” comes from “linea”, a string or thread (as in linen). Maybe all of these words are related at a deeper or more ancient level of language.

Inward, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Inward, 2013, by Fred Hatt

We use a line to describe a shape, but because a line or mark is produced by movement, it also suggests dynamic energy.

Two Hands, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Two Hands, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Line can suggest the directional flow of light, the impulses of the nerves, the pulsing of blood, and the thrust of muscles.

Sidebridge, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Sidebridge, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Line can show connections or divisions, structure or directionality.

Light and Dark Lines, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Light and Dark Lines, 2013, by Fred Hatt

In drawing with regularity, it is a challenge to keep it fresh. As in any kind of practice, we’re essentially doing the same kind of thing over and over again. Art is like a sword with many edges. If we use the same edge all the time it will end up going dull.

Behind the Door, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Behind the Door, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I try to keep looking in different ways, focusing on different aspects of my subject, always trying to find something special about each pose.

Body and Face, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Body and Face, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I change media, sometimes using a brush, sometimes a pencil, sometimes crayons. Each tool has its own particular characteristics for me to internalize.

Boatman, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Boatman, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Sometimes I use the edge of the crayon and sometimes the point.

Painter, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Painter, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Sometimes I look at light and shadow, sometimes at contour, sometimes at mass and solidity, sometimes at motion or implied motion.

Dancer, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Dancer, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Sometimes I look at the way the parts of the body emanate from the center. Sometimes I look at how the body relates to the environment it occupies.

Irishman, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Irishman, 2014, by Fred Hatt

The subtle qualities, emotion, soul and the like, emerge from the energetic pursuit of more physical aspects of things.

Turn and Push, 2014, by Fred Hatt

Turn and Push, 2014, by Fred Hatt

The materialist view of science holds that life and consciousness are emergent properties of matter and energy, arising from the complexity of relationships among simpler things. But does matter give rise to mind, or could it be vice versa? It seems to me that even the most elementary interactions of particles entail an element of communication. Perhaps mind and matter are just two sides of a single coin.

Reflection, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Reflection, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Without matter to perceive, could mind exist? Without mind to experience it, could matter exist? Disembodied mind is a fog at best, it seems to me, mindless matter a “tree falling in the forest” paradox.

Statue Poses, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Statue Poses, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I would drive myself crazy speculating about the ultimate nature of reality, but a model is posing for me and the timer is running. Knowing that the end is coming makes me throw myself into the pursuit.

Thinking Man, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Thinking Man, 2013, by Fred Hatt

The discourse around contemporary art expects the artist to say something, to make a political statement or to question or unravel or reframe some cultural thing or other. I find I don’t much care about any of that. Here I am in a world of wonders and the clock is running.

Pose Sequence, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Pose Sequence, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Beauty is a subjective thing, in the eye of the beholder, they say. To capture your experience of beauty and share it in such a way that another might experience some echo of what you have felt is a way to propagate beauty in the world.

Stride, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Stride, 2013, by Fred Hatt

For any kind of artist, there is so much beauty to see, not just in faces and bodies, but in landscapes and animals, in imagination and feelings, in rhythms and tones, in epics and parables, in bliss and terror – in all the things an artist can illuminate. The timer is running.

Two Back Views, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Two Back Views, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Thanks to the models who posed for the pictures in this post: Amy, Andrea, Angela, Bethany, Chuck, Claudia, Emma, Eryn, Joe, Kristin, Kuan, Michael R., Michael W., Pedro, Taylor, Terry, Vadim, Wardell.

Drawings are in various combinations of aquarelle crayon, gouache and watercolor, pencil, ballpoint pen, and brush marker, ranging from 14″ x 17″ (36 x 43 cm) to 38″ x 50″ (97 x 127 cm).

2013/12/30

A Self Portrait for the New Year

Filed under: Drawing,New work,Video — Tags: , , , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 21:24
Self Portrait, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Self Portrait, 2012, by Fred Hatt

Why wish my readers Happy New Year with a scowling picture of your humble blogger? This portrait was my good start to the year just ending. Randall Harris of Figureworks Gallery had invited me to submit a work for an exhibition of self portraits, the gallery’s first show of 2013. It was an opportunity to show alongside a wide variety of really good artists, some of them well-known.

In December 2012 I drew this portrait, with a camera set up to capture stages in the development of the picture. I pointed a video camera at myself and drew from the image on a monitor, to avoid the reversed face you get in a mirror and the frozen effect you can get from working from a photograph. The bluish colors you see under my eyebrows represent the cool glow of the computer monitor I could see on my face.

In the Figureworks exhibition, I showed the portrait as a multimedia piece, with the original 18″ x 24″ drawing hung alongside a digital screen playing an animation of the drawing as it built up, layer by layer. Here’s the video (email subscribers will need to click the link to see the video on Vimeo.

Self Portrait from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

I really didn’t expect this work to sell. Who – besides maybe my mother – would want a giant picture of me? But a collector bought the piece (drawing and digital animation together), kicking off my 2013 with a red dot.

To all my readers, friends, and fans, best wishes for curiosity, creativity and joy in the coming year!

fredhatt-happy-2014

2013/12/20

Invitation to an Exhibition

solstice-gradientThe winter solstice is the longest night of the year. Now, in the Northern hemisphere, the days will start to get longer. To all my readers, a Blessed Solstice, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

My dear friend Claudia, the art model and Museworthy blogger, has posted the 2013 Museworthy Art Show. Claudia invited her readers to submit artwork based on their choice among four of my photographs of her. Click the link and check it out. I’m a big part of this wonderful and diverse gathering of artwork, since I took the source photos and also submitted a drawing for the show. I think this show is a brilliant idea. A blog brings together a great diversity of people around some shared interests, people scattered across the globe, people with different sensibilities and different abilities. Normally it’s all sort of vague, anonymous lurkers and commenters you know little about. Claudia’s show creatively manifests the community she’s growing.

2013/12/09

Vowels

Barefoot, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Barefoot, 2013, by Fred Hatt

This post is an experiment. Some of my recent abstract watercolors, landscape sketches, and doodles have been randomly interspersed between the lines of Arthur Rimbaud’s synesthetic 1872 sonnet “Voyelles”. The original French poem and English translation by Oliver Bernard were copied from this site (where the fourteen-line sonnet is followed by a four-line “envoi” which is not included here below or in most versions of this poem I could find online). Oliver Bernard’s version is a prose translation, striving for the clearest expression of the sense of the original while sacrificing meter and musicality. If this version is too flat for you, check out Canadian poet Christian Bök’s fascinating version of “Voyelles”, translated five different ways.

These paintings were not inspired by this poem, and they have been sequenced randomly to avoid any specific reference to the colors or images mentioned in Rimbaud’s verses. When I draw or paint abstractly, I disengage my mind as much as possible from discursive thought and allow subconscious impulses to express themselves in the movement of the brush and the liquid medium. Imagery never drives the painting – any images are projections of the imagination, like the forms seen in Rorschach blots. I am trying to allow impulses of movement to arise from below the surface of awareness, as in my practice of Authentic Movement, described in this post. Perhaps this way of going fishing in the unconscious has something in common with the methods of a proto-surrealist poet like Rimbaud. Perhaps some accidental resonances may arise from the interleaving of sketches and lines of verse.  If not, please enjoy my humble doodles and Rimbaud’s delirious words separately!

Extinct Animals, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Extinct Animals, 2013, by Fred Hatt

A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,

A Black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,

Pastries, 201e, by Fred Hatt

Pastries, 201e, by Fred Hatt

Je dirai quelque jour vos naissances latentes:

I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:

Ego,m 2013, by Fred Hatt

Ego,m 2013, by Fred Hatt

A, noir corset velu des mouches éclatantes

A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies

fredhatt-2013-autumn-wind

Autumn Wind, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Qui bombinent autour des puanteurs cruelles,

Which buzz around cruel smells,

Plant Spirit, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Plant Spirit, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Golfes d’ombre ; E, candeur des vapeurs et des tentes,

Gulfs of shadow; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,

Path of Light, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Path of Light, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Lances des glaciers fiers, rois blancs, frissons d’ombelles;

Lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of cow-parsley;

Pink Flowering Tree, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Pink Flowering Tree, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I, pourpres, sang craché, rire des lèvres belles

I, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lips

Electrical Storm, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Electrical Storm, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Dans la colère ou les ivresses pénitentes;

In anger or in the raptures of penitence;

Land Forms, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Land Forms, 2013, by Fred Hatt

U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,

U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,

Aromatic Tree, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Aromatic Tree, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Paix des pâtis semés d’animaux, paix des rides

The peace of pastures dotted with animals, the peace of the furrows

Mane, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Mane, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Que l’alchimie imprime aux grands fronts studieux;

Which alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads;

Green and Blue, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Green and Blue, 2013, by Fred Hatt

O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,

O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,

Coral, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Coral, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Silence traversés des Mondes et des Anges:

Silences crossed by Worlds and by Angels:

Bosom, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Bosom, 2013, by Fred Hatt

— O l’Oméga, rayon violet de Ses Yeux!

O the Omega, the violet ray of Her Eyes!

Tracks, 2013, by Fred Hatt

Tracks, 2013, by Fred Hatt

I recently discovered the work of the comics artist Julian Peters. One of his specialites is illustrating poetry, including work by Poe, Keats and Eliot. He has a really beautiful comic of Rimbaud’s “Le Bateau Ivre”/”The Drunken Boat” – click on the appropriate title to see it in either English or French.

Color pieces in my post are watercolor paintings except “Green and Blue”, which is drawn with aquarelle crayons and blended with water. Black and white pieces are drawn with Tombow brush markers. “Mane” and “Tracks” are 11″ x 14″ (28 x 35.6 cm), “Ego” is 8.5″ x 11″ (21.6 x 28 cm), and all others are 5.5″ x 8.5″ (14 x 21.6 cm).

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